Mike Martin was 18 when he started selling cars and trucks at his parents' dealership, Vision Ford-Lincoln-Mercury in Alamogordo, N.M. It was just a way to make some money.
But two years later, at a 20 group meeting with his parents, Martin realized that his job was a career opportunity.
"Ford Motor Co. was at the meeting aggressively soliciting African-American dealers," Martin recalls of the 1993 session.
"In this country you don't see very many minority-owned car dealerships. So you go to a meeting, and everybody there was African-American; they looked like me. It was like a light turned on. That's when the goal was set to: "Hey, I can do this.'"
In 2003, after following in the footsteps of his father, Wayne, through Ford's dealer development program, Martin became president of his own store, Lake Powell Ford in Page, Ariz.
Martin, now 39, has been general manager of what is now Vision Ford-Lincoln since 2001; his father semi-retired in 2007. Mike Martin also is president of the Ford Motor Minority Dealers Association, which is made up of mostly black dealers.
Martin grew up in El Paso, Texas, and as a teenager spent his summers washing vehicles at the Volkswagen-Mercedes-Benz-Acura dealership where his father was general sales manager.
His father and mother, Millie, bought Vision-Ford-Lincoln-Mercury in December 1989 and moved the family to Alamogordo. Six months later, after graduating from high school, Mike Martin started selling vehicles at his family's store.
Martin was a salesman for three years, then became an assistant manager in the sales department. He moved through the ranks to become the dealership's used-car manager, general sales manager and general manager. He is a graduate of the National Automobile Dealers Association academy.
Martin credits his parents with teaching him to work hard and to work smart. He recalls as a salesman interviewing with his father and the dealership management team for positions as finance manager and assistant sales manager.
His father blocked his promotion both times. He says it bothered him then but now he understands.
"He didn't want to just give me a position," Martin says. "He made sure that I earned it."