Matt Laughridge was going to be an investment banker.
Laughridge, the owner and managing partner of the Terry Reid Automotive Group in Cartersville, Ga., left for Birmingham-Southern College in 2006 on a golf scholarship with "an understanding" that he wasn't going to get into the family business.
Working at the dealership was "a little bit more of a chore" than it would become as an adult, he said.
When he returned to the business in 2010, he was struck by how much flexibility it afforded him. It's the ability to be really creative" that draws him in, Laughridge said. "You can always change things up and disrupt your own little world and still accomplish something."
Laughridge has enjoyed success while overseeing the two-dealership company. The group's Hyundai dealership has been among the top four stores in sales efficiency for the last three years, he said.
In addition, he has held several roles with the National Automobile Dealers Association. Since January, he has been finance chairman of its political action committee, which contributes to congressional candidates. Before that, he was on NADA's government relations committee. He also owns a hotel, which he describes as a personal project, almost a hobby.
Beyond dealership business growth, Laughridge said his main goal is working with his employees to help them grow, hopefully to the point where they are managing their own stores one day.
"I really try to empower the guys, and my goal is for them to actually be the teachers," Laughridge said. "I want them to teach me. I say if they teach, they're going to learn something."
He said he encourages his employees to take pride in their work and in their store, pointing to the "brag board" he created that allows employees to post something they did that they are proud of. If three of their coworkers sign their name next to their post, the employee's accomplishment will be shared on social media.
"It brings it back to the store, helps them to see the common goal," Laughridge said.