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Marsha Shields

Red McCombs Automotive

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President, Red McCombs Automotive
San Antonio
Age: 61
Education: B.A., Spanish and religion, Duke University

What attracted you to the auto industry? I grew up in it. It was a family business.

Did you have another career? I taught Spanish in public high schools.

Why did you leave that job? I really wanted to be in the automotive industry.

First automotive job: Answering phones at Red McCombs Ford when I was probably 8, followed by cleaning the parts department.

Big break: I was born into a family that had the business. The big break was the day I asked my father if I could work for him and he said, "Yes, what have you been waiting for?"

What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? The economic downturn of 2008 was the most challenging time. My goal was to not lose a single employee, yet achieve measurable expense reduction. With the help of everyone on our automotive team, we streamlined processes, improved our operations, increased profits, reduced expenses and became an even better company.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career? My father, probably because he always expects to win. He's the first to give someone else credit for accomplishing something and he never stops pushing me to be better at what I do. I learn something new from him every day.

What has it been like growing up with a dad who's a legend? It makes for an interesting day every day. I tell him the scariest words in the English language are when he calls me at 6 in the morning and says: "Marsha, I've been thinking …" and I know my day and everyone else's will be different.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? We have to do a better job of explaining the opportunities in the industry. I don't think there are little kids falling asleep dreaming about working in the auto industry. That's my fault. It's the fault of the industry. We have to let people know what a great career it can be.

Tell us about your family. I have two adult children. Both are interested in the overall framework of our family business and the automotive business is the flagship. My son, Joseph, is involved on a daily basis. He has worked at the dealership all his life. He's attending NADA Dealer Academy. I have a daughter, Anna Turner, who is currently full-time parent to one child and taking some time away from the family business.

What's your favorite weekend activity? I enjoy going to church with my family at the First Baptist Church of San Antonio.

What keeps you up at night? Finding the best, most qualified people. I find I have to be selling the idea of a career in the automotive industry all the time. It's not something people think about doing. But I'm only as good as the best people who work here make me. So I'm always hunting for talent and integrity and a willingness to work.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? The Apostle Paul because he had a dramatic change in his life and then found himself in such difficult circumstances but kept his eye on the prize. There's a lot of life lessons to learn by not just reading what he wrote but looking at how he lived.

What's your guilty pleasure? Crossword puzzles, word games, brain teasers, even jigsaw puzzles. I like doing them — a lot.

Share a funny story about yourself. My first car was a 1967 pink Ford Mustang convertible. One night at dinner, my mother said, "I saw the most unusual thing today." I took that bait and said, "What?" She said: "At one o'clock, the middle of the school day, I saw a pink Mustang convertible parked outside the cinema. How could that be?" The point of the story is sometimes your first car can get you in trouble.

By Bradford Wernle

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