'Dad likes to tell people that his kids are making him a millionaire,' Jill Green says of her father, former NADA president Ray Green. 'Of course, he adds that he used to be a multimillionaire.'
She's joking about the implication that she and her brothers, Jeff and Todd, are squandering the family fortune. Instead, they, along with their brother-in-law, Tim Dresing, who is married to the Greens' sister, Gail, have enhanced the family's automotive operations, Green Enterprises.
'My father went to work after college for GMAC in Iowa City, Iowa,' Jill Green says. 'A dealer there hired him as a salesman, then moved him into management.
'A Buick dealer in Burlington, Iowa, hired him as general manager. Then a dealer in Monmouth, Ill., told him that he would give him the general manager's position with a buy-in. We ended up in Monmouth for 18 years.'
Ray Green bought the Monmouth dealership, then bought a store in Jacksonville, Ill.
'When we finished college and realized no one outside the family would hire us for anything, we knew we'd need more dealerships,' says Jill Green, 46.
The Greens have six dealerships in Illinois, with Jill in East Moline, Jeff in Peoria, Todd in Springfield and Dresing in Jacksonville. Each owns a major interest in his or her location. Ray Green also has a share, and together they own the real estate and are partners in a holding company that has a stake in each store.
One for all ...
'We're a very close family,' Jill says. 'I talk on the phone to my brothers almost daily.'
Says brother Todd, 'I've talked to Jill twice today and to Jeff once, and I'll call Ray later.'
But the separation has helped avoid sibling rivalry.
'With 80 miles between each of us, and with nice dealerships, it's not a problem,' says Jeff Green, 43.
Adds Todd Green: 'We are very fortunate that we all are running separate businesses. It's an ideal situation. But if I ever have trouble; say, my finance manager is going to be out for several days, and I need help, I know I can call one of the other stores and get immediate help. That helps, knowing I have a cushion. That's big.'
Chimes in Jeff Green, 'I do not feel I could work shoulder-to-shoulder with my brother and sister unless I was manager.'
There it is, that sense of humor the Green children inherited from their mother. 'We always go for the joke,' Jill Green says.
'I call Dad and tell on them if I don't get my way,' she says. And how do her brothers deal with disagreements?
'Jeff sulks. Todd ignores the problem,' their sister says with a laugh.
'If we really disagree - and we have had some disagreements over the years -my father mediates. But we haven't had any real major disagreements for probably seven to eight years. And all of us have similar-sized businesses. We enjoy ribbing each other and teasing - and tormenting - but we all have real profitable stores right now, so it's all good-natured,' she says.
All the Greens have their own management styles.
'Todd likes to hand the ball and let his guys run. Jeff likes to micromanage,' says their sister. 'And, of course, I'm perfect.
'But we all have my father's business mind, so we all pretty much think along the same track.'
Todd Green adds, 'We all run our stores differently, but we all have the same ethics and morals.'
Says Jeff: 'I'm probably the most sentimental. Money is not my big issue. The important thing is carrying on what my father started.
'Four of our stores are real cherries, the kind people would die for. I never thought I'd have the opportunity to get dealerships of this size, and we want them to stay in the family. I want to make sure the next generation has an opportunity to go to the next step.
'In any financial crisis, we're in there as a team,' he continues. 'If my brother or sister ran into trouble, I'd give them not only my dealership, but I'd refinance my house if I needed to. '
While the Greens make sure their family carries on its automotive tradition, Jeff worries about the families of other dealers, especially those with small dealerships, where the future may not be so bright.
'Some wonderful kids are coming through those ranks and will never have an opportunity,' he says. 'The small-store guy knows how to work on the car and how to do the paperwork. They learn the whole business. But the sons and daughters of small-store dealers won't have the opportunity.'