Sometimes, families just need a little room to grow.
That's certainly been the case for the Jones automotive family of Arizona. The Joneses started with one store in Wickenburg, Ariz. Now they have four dealerships in three central Arizona locations, with Ron Jones, 49, and his brother Tom Jones, 55, sharing ownership.
The Jones Auto Centers include a store in Buckeye, 40 miles west of Phoenix; the original location in Wickenburg, 55 miles northwest of Phoenix; and two dealerships in Casa Grande, 50 miles south of Phoenix.
Each location includes a Ford dealership. Wickenburg also handles Mercury, Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep. Casa Grande has Lincoln Mercury, plus a separate dealership that handles Oldsmobile, Buick and GMC.
'My brother manages policy; I manage attitude,' Ron Jones says teasingly.
Too many family businesses are hurt by sibling rivalry, but the Jones brothers have found that having some space between them has helped each of them develop his own talents.
'We're a father and two sons in business together, but with the luxury of being geographically separated,' Ron Jones says. 'On a day-to-day basis, we're not in each other's way, but we can rely on each other for any help we need.'
Adds Tom Jones: 'If all three of us were in one dealership, it probably would have been more difficult than with each of us having our own area and responsibility. Obviously, we don't always agree, but if you have a disagreement, you deal with it; you don't let it become divisive.'
Cantaloupes to carburetors
And despite their geographic separation, there's a real sense of family pride and closeness. Ron Jones is eager to share the family's success story and the family's unusual route into the automotive business.
'My father grew up in what now is Mesa,' Ron Jones says. 'His family had nothing; they were absolutely, totally poor. From the age of 14, he followed the cantaloupes (harvest), and he made crates for a penny a piece.'
The brothers' father, Glenn Jones, was married at 19, and went to work at Arizona Hardware Co., a wholesale distributor.
'He started sweeping floors,' Ron Jones says and adds proudly, 'He ended up as vice president and general manager.'
Tom Jones was in his mid-20s and was selling carpeting wholesale when he 'expressed an interest to get into a business with my father.'
They looked at several possibilities, mainly hardware or carpet stores, but then a friend of the family wondered if they might be interested in his Ford-Mercury-Jeep-Scout dealership in Wickenburg. The Scout was a small pickup truck built by International Harvester.
'My brother was 26 when he started running the car dealership,' Ron Jones says.
Before too long, Glenn Jones retired from the hardware company and joined the dealership, which expanded with the addition of a nearby Chrysler store.
The Buckeye Ford outlet joined the family a few years later, and Ron Jones, who had been a manufacturer's rep for a lawn and garden tool company, joined his father there full time in 1984.
Three years later, they acquired the Ford store in Casa Grande, and Glenn Jones went to that location, which has added three General Motors brands.
All in the family
'As a family, we're big on this philosophy: Fair is foremost; everything is based on the customer, and on honesty,' Ron Jones says.
'That has always been the common denominator. But we are three individuals with three personalities, and we've been able to develop our personalities in three separate stores.'
And while they are family, they are also competitors.
'The car business is competitive,' Ron Jones says, 'and if you're not competitive, you're going to be at a disadvantage. I have an advantage on sales tax (which varies in Arizona from place to place) and on having commercial accounts in Phoenix.
'Sometimes, Dad will call and say, `What are you doing selling trucks to so-and-so? He's my customer!' ' Ron reminds his father that what's really important is that it's all in the family - the Jones family, that is.
'We own an equal stake and have an equal interest in all of the success,' Tom Jones says. 'There's no reason to polarize.'
Coming up: Pizza
Even at 89, Glenn Jones continues to work daily at the Casa Grande location, although the family has added Mike Underwood as general manager and a minority stockholder. Meanwhile, Tom Jones has assigned day-to-day operation of the Wickenburg store to his son, Brian Jones, while he explores a new enterprise in pizza franchising.
Each of the Jones brothers has other children who might someday join the dealerships - though the family might have to add more stores if it continues its policy of geographic sibling separation.
'Everyone's always looking for good, trustworthy people,' Tom Jones says, 'and I don't know where you get them better than the ones that you grew.
'Everyone comes with baggage, but with family, you've known their baggage all their lives.'