Turning over most of the aspects of running the business to her two sons was as much a parenting decision as a personal one for dealer Sheilah Garcia. Garcia owns a Honda dealership in Albuquerque, N.M., and is a partner in a Mitsubishi dealership with her sons, Toby and Ed.
Her sons have been involved in the business since they were children; they started out washing cars, Garcia says.
As they matured, Garcia saw their personalities developing along different paths. Toby, now 33, was a natural-born salesman, while Ed, 31, showed more interest in the financial end of the business.
Eventually, Garcia gave her sons more and more responsibility in both areas. In spite of that, however, she found herself working more and more hours.
'There was a point where I said, 'Well, I'll have everything the way I want it in three years,'' Garcia said. 'Then it stretched to five, and then 10, and I knew it could stretch even farther.
'I started thinking that if you have to work more than 40 hours a week, you're doing something wrong, and I decided that if you have somebody who is a manager, you have to let them manage.'
There was another reason for wanting her two sons to have more hands-on experience. 'I've seen some awful things happen when people are suddenly given responsibility with no practice,' Garcia says.
A SLOW PROCESS
The transition wasn't always smooth, however. 'It has been a slow process,' she says. 'We've had disagreements to work out, and we've all had to compromise. But I know that at the age of 30, a person has a lot of energy and a lot of ideas. You have to let them use that.'
It appears now that the transition is working out well for everyone. While Garcia still maintains ownership of the Honda dealership, her sons do most of the managing. The two men and Garcia each own one-third of the Mitsubishi dealership, and her sons own an Infiniti dealership on their own. They are, in fact, putting their ideas and their energy to work.
Garcia, in the meantime, is finding time to pursue other interests.
'When I saw that this was working out, I started thinking that I could do something I'd been wanting to do for a while. I think a lot of people, when they reach their 50s, start thinking about other things they want to do.'
For Garcia, one of those things was spending more time with her two younger children, and the other was living for a year in England. Garcia's daughter had told her she wanted to do a year of high school in England, and Garcia now felt she had the opportunity to let her do that.
'I started realizing that it was possible for me to go. It is giving up a little of your ego in order to do some things you really want to do,' she says.
While she was in England, living in a row house and following what she called a 'normal day-to-day routine,' Garcia found time to nurture two of her other interests by taking courses in art history and music.
Meanwhile, back home, things ran smoothly, and Garcia communicated once a week by telephone and fax with her sons. She had to go the store down the street to borrow the fax, however, since she refused to have one in her house. 'It was too much like being at work,' she says.
Now that she has been back home in Albuquerque since September, Garcia goes into the office for about four hours each day. The thought of getting out of the business completely, however, is not yet something she's considering.
'I guess I've just never thought of getting out of it all together, because the arrangement I have now is working out so well,' she says. 'The boys are becoming very good businessmen, and I have time for myself. But I don't know, in a few years, we'll see.'
In the meantime, however, Garcia plans to take more time off to pursue her own interests.