Sean Lawley definitely doesn't believe in wasting time. In April 1995, he moved from Denver to Sierra Vista, Ariz., near the Mexican border.
He started with two dealerships and saw $20 million in sales the first year. In 2000, annual sales more than tripled, reaching $65 million, and Lawley's holdings had grown to six stores: four that sell new vehicles and two used-car lots.
Lawley, 32, credits his brother, Tom Lawley, 30, as one of the keys to his recent growth.
'He's in training as sales manager under my general manager, Paul Leetmae, for the Chevy-Isuzu store I bought last year,' Lawley says. 'I'm very comfortable trusting my brother to help run a dealership I'm not at every day. He's learning all the facets of the business, so when we buy another dealership, he can run that.'
Lawley Chevrolet-Isuzu 'represents about 30 percent of our total volume for the four stores we now have in Sierra Vista,' Lawley says. His other dealership is 160 miles north in Coolidge, Ariz., and the second used-car lot is in Florence, about 12 miles from Coolidge.
Lawley says a big advantage in working with a brother is 'we grew up together, so we know how the other reacts in a given situation. We have a high level of trust for each other. Frankly, I can't think of a single disadvantage of having a brother in management. We both believe in working hard every day and in taking care of the customer the best we can.'
The Lawley brothers spend a good deal of off time together. But for the day-to-day work, the brothers are at different stores.
'That helps keep the work and social time separate,' Lawley says. A clear division of responsibilities helps the brothers enjoy working together.
'I am the owner of all of our corporations,' Lawley says. 'My brother is a sales manager. He knows what his job is. He also knows that if he needs my help, he can ask for it.'
When a problem arises, Sean Lawley concedes, it is hard to reprimand a brother. 'Feelings get in the way.'
Any problems are handled through Leetmae, the general manager. 'When there's a business problem, I don't bypass the general manager because it involves a family member,' the elder brother says. 'In that case, Tom knows the general manager is his direct boss, not me. If there's any need for reprimanding, the general manager does it.'
Lawley says his brother, who joined him in August 1999, is not the only other family member in dealership management. Cousin Duane Lawley is finance manager at Cactus Country Auto Sales in Sierra Vista. The Cactus Country operations sell older used cars; both offer subprime financing.
'You can trust family members to be looking out for your best interest,' Lawley says.
Another advantage of working with family is they won't 'be wooed away by another dealership.'
Sean Lawley's plan for the future: 'In the next couple years, I want to buy another store and have (Tom) be a partner in that other store.'
His only wish in the meantime?
'I wish I had more brothers!'