|photography by Doug Davis|
John Eagle, 54, has worked for just one company his entire career: the Dallas automobile-dealership group founded in 1962 by his father, Bob Eagle. Today, John Eagle Dealerships sells makes including Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Aston Martin at 12 stores in Dallas, Houston, and Florida. In 2006, Eagle says, the company employed about 1,100 and recorded sales of $850 million. Eagle, who’s been president and CEO since 1980, was interviewed by Executive Editor Glenn Hunter.
What was your first job?
My first job here was washing cars. I wasn’t tall enough at age eight to reach the hood, so I only did the sides and the hubcaps.
What’s your primary role as CEO?
Basically, what I do is find young guys and put them in business and help them realize their dreams. I have a partner in every store. Usually the ownership structure is 80 percent/20 percent, though some partners have a greater percentage than 20. They feel ownership, and they don’t leave you because someone’s offering another dollar.
What’s your greatest strength?
I’m good at reading people’s character and trying to motivate them to reach their goals.
What’s your biggest weakness?
I don’t like to do the details, because I’m a big-picture guy. So I surround myself with people who will do the details for me.
What’s the biggest challenge in your business these days?
There’s going to be a lot more manufacturing capacity than there’s going to be consumer need, so our biggest challenge is making sure our expenses are in line. We’re poised to do well, though, because of our manufacturers, Honda and Toyota. They tend to do well even in a bad market.
On weekends, where would people find you?
Most weekends I’m with my family. Usually it’s doing the honey-do’s. My daughter rides horses, so we go to the barn and watch her ride.
What book is currently on your nightstand?
The last book I finished was The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett. It’s historical fiction about two generations of building a medieval cathedral. I’m into architecture, and it’s a great book on architecture.
Why do you like architecture?
I enjoy designing and building things. I’m a frustrated designer, so I like to be involved with the layout of our new dealership buildings.
What’s your most recent major purchase?
I guess it would be our office at 1925 Cedar Springs, which we moved into last June. It’s in an old parts-supply warehouse that was converted for office use probably 11 years ago. We have 4,000 square feet.
What’s the best advice you ever got?
My dad said, “Find something you love to do every day, and you’ll be successful.” That’s the same advice I’ve given my kids.
What kind of car do you drive?
My daily driver is a Volkswagen Phaeton. I also have an Aston Martin DB9.
What’s next for John Eagle Dealerships?
We’re continuing to expand our business. We opened another Honda point in Houston in November, and we’ve got a couple of other new stores that we’re working on—in Houston and, hopefully, in Dallas.