For Norm Hayes, the car business is all about family.
He started his first dealership, which handled Studebaker, in the 1930s with help from his father, Grant Hayes, a Studebaker dealer/distributor.
In 1953, when he decided to take over the Buick dealership across the street, he did so with advice from his father and in partnership with his brother, Jerry Hayes.
For four de-cades, the family tradition continued, with the Hayes brothers bringing in their sons - and a son's wife - to fill the growing dealership's top management spots. After he bought out his brother, Norm Hayes assumed his own son, Eric, would take over the business when he retired.
But things don't always work out as planned. Hayes Brothers Buick-Jeep of Salt Lake City is now John Mecham Chrysler-Plymouth-Jeep, and Eric Hayes has no stake in the business.
But Norm Hayes, 76, still works at the dealership and says he is proud of its strength and the directions in which new owner John Mecham has taken it.
'When I sold to Eric and John, I always figured I'd stick around here,' Hayes says. I 'didn't know what I'd be doing, but I just wanted to be a part of the automotive industry.'
Hayes never thought much about who would succeed him. He had offers to sell the dealership, but he never considered them because he wanted his son to take over.
That was before John Mecham came along. Mecham was one of Hayes Brothers' top salespeople before leaving to become general manager at another dealership. They kept in touch, so Hayes wasn't too surprised when Mecham called him in 1989 and offered to buy his dealership.
Hayes turned him down, but Mecham asked him to think about it and said they would talk again.
'In January 1990,' Hayes remembers, 'Mecham said, `How would it be if I came in, Eric and I ran the store, and we buy you out together?' That had a lot of appeal to me.'
There was one problem: Neither Mecham nor Eric Hayes had the money for a traditional buyout. Instead, the three men agreed that Mecham and Eric would manage the dealership, buy when they could, and pay Norm Hayes with profits from the business.
In 1994, Mecham and Eric Hayes became 50-50 partners.
'At the time, they said, `Norm, we want you to stay here with us,' ' the elder Hayes says. 'They didn't need my advice. John was a better operator than I was, frankly. They ran the store successfully and profitably. I'm from the old school, treating people nice and fair and giving them value. But in this hot market the last few years, you had to be a little sharper than that.'
But after about a year, Norm Hayes says, the working relationship between the partners was strained: 'John felt his direction and Eric's was not the same and made Eric (a buyout) offer.'
Norm Hayes had little time to wonder about his status after the deal was made.
'John told me, `Norm, I want you to stay and keep your office, if you want something to do, because I know you'd get very bored ... being retired,' ' says Hayes, who still receives a paycheck and benefits. 'I said, `That's fine with me. I just don't want to be sitting at a desk.' '
Now, Hayes laughingly calls himself 'a glorified errand boy.'
'I go to a lot of other dealerships and see people I've known a lot of years,' he says. 'I see banks and finance companies. I'm loving what I do because I'm still a part of it, but I can take off anytime.'
Hayes says his staying after the transition in ownership helped employees see that Mecham's values are in many ways the same as his own.
'It was no surprise to anyone when I sold,' Hayes says. 'There aren't a lot of (owners) my age still in the business because there's a lot of pressure in this industry from the factory and the customers. It's a lot of stress.'
The business is no longer in the family, and Buick is no longer in the showroom, but he feels the place is in good hands.
'I'm sure that with some dealerships, it's all money,' he says. 'But my philosophy was always to do the right thing, give people their money's worth and make sure they were satisfied customers. It's fulfilling to do that, and I know John is the same. ... I take a lot of pleasure in seeing that.'
Hayes says he plans to work as long as he can.
'My health is good, and as long as that's the case and I enjoy what I'm doing, I'll be here another eight or 10 years. I guess I had oil in my veins.'