During the past 100 years, Sames Auto Group in Laredo, Texas, has survived the Great Depression, two world wars and today's deep recession.
So when Hank Sames -- the fourth-generation owner of Sames Motor Co. (now Ford-Lincoln-Mazda) and the group's head -- offered to share the secret of longevity with his daughter, Evelyn Sames Cain, she said she was eager to hear it.
"We thought he was going to go into a big business plan -- something deep," says the 30-year-old general manager of the group's Honda store. She is also the manager of most of the auto group's daily operations and a minority owner.
But his advice was simple.
Take care of employees, especially the sales staff and service technicians. Be a part of the community. Be flexible when times are tough.
Cain's summary: "He said the secret is to just hang in there."
That philosophy has allowed the group's holdings to grow from just Ford to include the Lincoln, Mazda and Honda brands in Laredo; a Ford-Lincoln store owned with a partner in Corpus Christi, Texas; and five stand-alone used car lots.
The Sames family celebrated 100 years in business in September with a party and concert that drew 7,000 people.
"We have enjoyed this business and profited from it and reinvested in it so that it was in good shape to pass on to the next generation," says Hank Sames, speaking of himself, his father, grandfather and great-grandfather.
In 1910, William Sames and his partner, J.R. Moore, founded Laredo Auto Sales Co. They also operated a wholesale produce business. Their first inventory amounted to three Ford Model T cars that were sold from a grain warehouse.
In 1925, the partnership dissolved -- with a coin toss. Moore took over the wholesale produce part of the business, and the dealership's name was changed to Sames Motor Co. Hank Sames joined the family business in 1975 and took it over from his father, Harry Sames Jr., in 1981. It was owned by Harry Sames Sr. before that.