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Valery Voyles

Ed Voyles Automotive Group

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Chairman and CEO, Ed Voyles Automotive Group
Marietta, Ga.

Age: 58

What attracted you to the auto industry? I have always loved it. My father let me be a part of it. In my house, we talked about the car business, or we talked about golf. On many days, his assistant would pick me up from school, and I'd go to the dealership to do homework. I remember the smells of the shop. I was very much a daddy's girl, and I loved what he did.

First automotive job: I stayed home with my children until they started a full day in school. And my dad called me and said, "It's about time you start working in the dealership and learning what you'll be a part of." I started at the Acura store mainly because it was the farthest away from him.

Big break: Being exposed to business at an early age. Having the father I did. I have two older brothers, but he never made any differences with us. I had every opportunity they did. I always knew that if I applied myself, I would have a shot at running the stores. And that's exactly what happened.

What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? When my father passed away very suddenly. It was five weeks [after his diagnosis with cancer]. My mother had died six months before he died. I had [breast] cancer. I was just finishing chemotherapy myself. It was a challenging time, and there were days when I didn't feel strong enough to even get out of bed.

They say that which doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Realizing I know what I don't know was probably the best thing. I knew there were things that needed to be changed. I put a lot of time and effort and money into hiring the right people. That team is still with me. We've had extraordinary success since my dad's passing.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career? My dad. [During my dad's illness], we really talked more about personal things. He told me what he wanted my role to be. I was devastated and weak, and he reassured me that he had confidence in me. Those five weeks were the hardest weeks of my life, but they were the most blessed weeks in my life. We did get to talk and reminisce. He did impart not only things about the dealerships but also things about life. He said: "I know you're going to mourn, but get over it. Life goes on, and I've had a wonderful life." It's true. Life does go on, and you need to enjoy the journey. That's what I try to do.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? Recently my daughter graduated from the NADA dealer candidate school. [At the graduation program], they had a dealer panel. There were many young ladies in the class. I thought it was a travesty not to have a woman dealer principal on the panel, so I went up to be on the panel. I told them I wanted young girls to see a woman can be successful in the car business.

Tell us about your family. I was married when I was 17 to my first husband and the father of my children. We were married 25 years. Things happen, and we are now, after almost 20 years [apart], trying to work it out. We have two beautiful children: Jessica, who is 34; and Chase, who is 31. I'm proud of my children whatever they do. They seem to be leaning toward the car business, but whatever they do I just want them to be good citizens and improve the world we live in and apply themselves toward a worthy job and worthy causes.

What's your favorite weekend activity? Golfing. I'm the youngest in a golfing family. When I was younger I played competitively.

By Amy Wilson

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