The personal and professional complexities of four brothers running five dealerships could call for some supernatural help.
The Barber brothers say they use it every day.
Sam Barber, the dealer at Barber Bros. Mitsubishi-Suzuki in Woods Cross, Utah, is one of the four brothers who run dealerships in the area. He says they have remained close during decades of doing business together, making decisions on a consensus basis, even though they don't always see eye to eye.
But the real secret to their success, he says, is their faith.
'We are all evangelical Christians,' Barber says.
'Our relationship with Jesus Christ is primary in all our lives. That has been the glue that has kept us together. God is a very important part of our individual lives.'
A strong faith, however, doesn't guarantee that dealings among four brothers always are easy, Barber points out.
'In terms of getting along personally, yes,' he says, the brothers do mix together well.
'In terms of always agreeing on decisions, no. Frequently we disagree, but we always come to a consensus. In the end, we want everybody to at least be on board with the decision.'
All for one
There are advantages to being in business with siblings, Barber adds. Each operates his own dealership, and each has a keen interest in seeing the others achieve success, he says.
However, Barber acknowledges, it sometimes is more difficult to hold a partner who is a brother as accountable as one would a partner who is not a family member.
John Barber, who operates a Ford dealership in the group, says he is hard-pressed to find a disadvantage to working with his family members. 'We all get along extremely well,' he notes.
On a more secular level, he says one of the keys to the group's success is the availability of the dealers to employees and customers.
'There is one of us at each dealership, and the customers can talk to us at any time,' as can employees, John Barber explains. 'It's a hands-on operation.'
Located in the Salt Lake City and Provo area, the Barber Bros. dealerships draw from the surrounding rural areas. Group sales total about 165 new and 125 used vehicles per month.
Dealerships are not the only business the brothers operate. They also are partners in a real estate holding company and a reinsurance company.
Sam Barber says he doesn't believe it is possible to keep family and business matters completely separate, but when a brother calls or a board meeting is held, personal matters rarely are discussed.
'We've discovered, sometimes painfully,' he says, that it is best to 'leave family matters at the door when we go into the boardroom.'
The board meetings are a good example of how the brothers interact. Held monthly at the office of the partners' certified public accountant, the meetings review financial data, operations, strategic plans and other issues. The meetings last about eight hours.
'It gives us a chance to come to a consensus on major decisions,' Sam Barber notes. The meetings, he says, 'give each of us a comfort level of knowing we don't have to make a major decision on our own. We have the input of experienced auto dealers.'
John Barber agrees. 'We each operate our own facilities,' he says, and the nice thing about it is that, for example, his brother who operates a Chrysler store can pass along advice that will work in the Ford dealership.
Sam Barber and brother Chuck were the first to partner in the auto business, hooking up 30 years ago with a dealership that since has been sold. John and Fred followed their siblings into the business.
There is a considerable amount of day-to-day interaction among the brothers. Sam Barber says he is in contact with some or all of his brothers daily.
And they see each other socially. 'We come from a very strong Italian heritage,' Sam Barber says. 'We see each other probably six to eight times a year' as a family.
Sam Barber says that while growing up, he never expected to be in business with his brothers.
John Barber says he did not conceive of such a partnership, either. He says the brothers decided to become dealers after working at auto dealerships.
Sam Barber says he wouldn't hesitate to make the same choice about working with his brothers. 'I would. Not necessarily because it has made us stronger financially, but because the relationships are most important.'