Steve Landers was born in Benton on September 23, 1953 and began selling (newspapers) at 5 years old. He got his first car sales job in 1970 and married in 1972. He went in with his father and began his own car dealership later that year. By the early 90’s, Landers Auto Group included three separate dealerships. In 1995, Landers sold to United Auto Group for 40 million dollars.
In 1998, the United Auto Group hired Steve Landers to be president of the south-central US region. He stepped down in 2003. In 2005, Landers partnered with McLarty and purchased another 20 dealerships.
Presently, Landers is CEO of the Steve Landers Auto Group, which includes all dealerships under the Landers name in Arkansas. He also has a partial interest in McClarty Automotive. In addition to his automotive dealerships, he is involved in the horse-racing community.
In 2016, he was appointed to the Arkansas Racing Commission. Once a week during football season each year, KATV’s sports staff selects a student athlete to receive the Landers Award and scholarship, which is given to a high school athlete for exemplifying “the spirit of courage and dedication that all student athletes must master to be the best in the State.” The Steve Landers Family Foundation also funds various charitable works throughout Arkansas.
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Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
EPISODE 105 TRANSCRIPT
[0:00:08.8] CC: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Through storytelling and conversational interviews, this weekly radio show offers listeners first-hand insight into starting and running a business, the ups and downs of risk-taking and the commonalities of successful people. Connect with Kerry through her candid, often funny and informative weekly blog where you'll read and may comment on life as a wife, mother, daughter and entrepreneur.
Now, it's time for Kerry McCoy to get all up in your business.
[0:00:43.0] KM: Thank you Chris. Like Chris said, I’m Kerry McCoy and it’s time for me to get up in your business. Before we start, I want to introduce the people at the table. We have, who you just heard from, Chris Cannon, my co-host who will be managing the board and taking your calls. Say hello, Chris.
[0:00:56.8] CC: Hello.
[0:00:58.4] KM: Recording our show to make a podcast available next week is our technician, Jason Malik from Arise studios in Conway, Arkansas. If right now you're sitting at your computer, you might want to watch us live on flagandbanner.com’s Facebook page. It's fun to see what goes on behind the scenes and at the breaks. It's real-time reality radio. If for some reason you miss any part of today’s show, or want to hear it again, there's a way and Chris is going to tell you how.
[0:01:28.7] CC: Listen to all UIYB past and present interviews by going to flagandbanner.com and then click on radio show. Also, by joining our e-mail list or liking us on Facebook, you'll get a reminder notification the day of the show with a sneak peek of that day's guests. Back to you Kerry.
[0:01:47.7] KM: Thank you. This show Up In your Business with Kerry McCoy began as a platform for me, a small business owner and a guest, to pay forward our experiential knowledge in a conversational way. Originally, my team and I thought it would appeal to entrepreneurs and want to be entrepreneurs, but it seems to have a wider audience appeal, because after all, who isn't inspired by everyday people's American-made stories.
To see people in their totality is humanizing. We all thirst to connect and make sense of an over complicated world and on this show, we have the luxury of time to go deeper than a soundbite, or a headline. It's no secret that successful people work hard, but other common traits found in many of my guests are the heart of a teacher, belief in a higher power and creativity, because business is creative.
My guest today is the well-known and easily recognized Mr. Steve Landers, who founded Arkansas's largest chain of automotive dealerships called Landers Auto Group. Steve is a born salesman, obvious, by this told story about him. At the tender age of just five-years-old, Steve walked to the newspaper office, the Benton Courier, and with his allowance of 3 cents, bought newspapers and then standing on the street corner, he resold them for five cents.
At the age of 12, he landed a job pumping gas in his hometown of Benton, Arkansas. By 14, he was washing cars at the local Oldsmobile dealership and by 17 while still in high school, he was selling cars at a dealership in Little Rock, Arkansas. Just a year later in 1972, Steve and his father Bob Landers decided to start their own business and founded what would become Landers Auto Group. For the next three years, it was just Steve and Bob. Steve out front selling and father Bob in the back office handling operations.
Five years later, cousin John Landers joined the group and brought his experience of being president of Colonial Bakery to the family business. Now it was cousin John running operations and Steve and father Bob selling cars. Over the next 10 years, their success and reputation grew so that in 1989 Chrysler sent a representative to Landers and Benton, which resulted in their first franchise. As they say, the rest is history. I can't wait to learn more as we talk to the well-known and charismatic CEO of Steve Landers Auto Group, Mr. Steve Landers. Welcome Steve.
[0:04:18.9] CC: Yes.
[0:04:19.6] SL: Thank you, Kerry.
[0:04:21.7] KM: I just want to tell everybody that you and I have been visiting for 45 minutes before the show and that we love each other.
[0:04:28.4] SL: Right.
[0:04:30.7] KM: We are lot alike.
[0:04:31.7] SL: Lot alike. Yes.
[0:04:32.2] KM: Yeah, we are. I am fascinated by you and really everybody is fascinated by you. Every time I told somebody you were coming on, they're like, “Really? Really?” You’re like a movie star in town.
[0:04:41.9] SL: Well, I don't know if I'm a movie star. I just know I'm an old country boy from Saline County, that's worked awful hard in my life.
[0:04:47.8] KM: You really, really have – like me, you in school did not get along.
[0:04:51.8] SL: No.
[0:04:52.5] KM: Couldn't wait to get out and start earning money. Is that story true about the 5 cents selling newspapers?
[0:04:57.5] SL: It is true. You missed the part about my allowance my 3 cents. I think I didn't have any allowance. I just mustered up a couple of dollars and I'd go up there by papers for 3 cents apiece, and then that sell them for 5 cents apiece. A lot of times, they would give me a dime, but it was five – I grew up there, it's like 3:30 or 4:00 in the afternoon and I'd stay out on the corner right by our house about two blocks over. I'd stay out there till about 7:30.
When my mother knew where I was at, nobody would throw you in the car and steal you back then. I mean, nobody would run off with you, so I would just stand on the corner and holler courier and I’d sell those papers and I’d make 3 or 4 cents apiece and sometimes 7 cents if they give me a dime. I'd make a couple of dollars a week. I’d take that couple of dollars, you buy Cokes and ice cream and stuff that I wanted, I would buy with my own money. Back then, you could buy a Baby Ruth about a foot long for a nickel and a 16-ounce Pepsi for a nickel.
[0:05:57.0] KM: You were rich.
[0:05:58.0] SL: I had a lot of money with $3 or $4 in my pocket.
[0:06:00.4] KM: That’s exactly right. Your mother, does she work? No?
[0:06:04.2] SL: My mother worked at a radio station.
[0:06:06.3] KM: No way.
[0:06:07.1] SL: She did. My mother worked at a radio station. She did what you're doing.
[0:06:11.7] KM: No way.
[0:06:12.1] SL: Yes.
[0:06:13.2] KM: I can’t believe we didn’t learn that in
[0:06:15.2] SL: Right, right. She did what you're doing in a radio station for years and years.
[0:06:19.6] KM: Your dad was a car salesman.
[0:06:21.4] SL: My dad was a cars salesman when I grew up and I got – I actually didn't go to work with my dad till after I've been in in about a year. I got married when I was 17-years-old.
[0:06:31.2] KM: Still married today.
[0:06:32.0] SL: Still married today, the same girl and we were high school sweethearts. I was so bad in school that I was a grade ahead of her and she would be – I would be repeating and I would sit behind her, because her name was McMahan, mine was Landers, we sit close together and I would try to cheat by copying off of her and she'd cover her work up every time I would move a little closer, she would cover it up. I tapped on her shoulder I said, “Look, if I'm going to get out of school, you're going to have to let me cheat.” She wasn't big on that, but she finally let me get a few answers off of her. We started dating each other and at 15 and then –
[0:07:11.6] KM: 15.
[0:07:12.2] SL: 15-years-old. As soon as she got old enough to get married, we got married and that was –
[0:07:17.2] KM: 64. You’re 64 now and you started dating when you were 15?
[0:07:21.0] SL: 15. Yes.
[0:07:22.5] KM: That's just a great story.
[0:07:24.4] SL: I've been with her ever since.
[0:07:26.1] KM: She’s a saint.
[0:07:26.9] SL: She’s a saint. She certainly is that.
[0:07:29.9] KM: Would you have brothers, or sisters?
[0:07:31.7] SL: I've got a couple of brothers. One is in the car business and he's in the works up. He's partners with Mark Martin, the race car driver.
[0:07:39.8] KM: Really?
[0:07:40.4] SL: Yeah, and they're partners up in Batesville. Then I've got a brother that's a pharmacist.
[0:07:46.2] KM: He likes school, because you got to go to a lot of school.
[0:07:47.7] SL: He liked school. I followed behind him five years and all those teachers thought well, I was going to be like him. Well, I wasn't like him. I was nothing like him. I didn't like school, didn't want anything to do with school. If it hadn't been for a couple of really good teachers knowing that I was not a going to be an honor student, that I wasn't going to be a – they taught me the basics, math, basics of math. Basic just everything, it was basic.
[0:08:16.0] KM: English. Basic English. Just so you get through.
[0:08:18.7] SL: Just something to get me through, because they knew that I was not going to be a scholar student. Scholar student is not for everybody.
[0:08:25.1] KM: No.
[0:08:26.2] SL: I got a blank high school diploma. I got a blank high school diploma.
[0:08:32.3] KM: Now you got to go back and say what to the school? Didn’t they just asked you to come back?
[0:08:35.9] SL: No. About 10 years ago, they honored me for outstanding – got into school Hall of Fame for outstanding whatever.
[0:08:43.5] KM: Accomplishments. Accomplishments.
[0:08:45.0] SL: Yeah, whatever.
[0:08:46.1] KM: Citizenship.
[0:08:47.1] SL: For getting out and making it happen. They did honor me for that.
[0:08:51.3] KM: I think people need to recognize that there are all kinds of intelligence and levels and I was exactly the same way. Steve and I were talking about how we didn't know that we were probably dyslexic and ADD back then, because they didn't have a name on it.
[0:09:03.4] SL: That's right. I knew that – teachers and when my youngest son was in the seventh, eighth grade, they came to me and they said, “Steve,” said, “Your son is we think is ADHD.” I said, “No, no. I said my son is LAZY.” She said, “No, we think he's ADHD.” I got mad, because I didn't think he was ADHD, but then I didn't even know what ADHD was. We take him, get him tested, sure enough he's got ADHD and I had it. He got it and I had it, now my grandson’s got it. It’s easy to pass on and –
[0:09:38.9] KM: Boy, you can accomplish a lot with it. I don’t why people don’t want people to have that. I think it’s a pretty good thing personally.
[0:09:44.6] SL: ADHD, if you focus on things that you like is what it means. You don't focus on stuff that you don't like. Now I didn't like about that school stuff, so I didn't focus at all, but when I get into things that I liked, I over focus. I've got one gear that's wide open. If I'm going to sell cars, I'm going to sell more than anybody. When I eat, I eat more than – you know what I mean? Just I have one speed and that's wide open.
[0:10:12.2] KM: That’s right.
[0:10:13.1] SL: You have to learn to bottle it and contain it and it –
[0:10:18.5] KM: Which comes with maturity.
[0:10:19.3] SL: Which comes with maturity. Sure it does.
[0:10:20.7] KM: Absolutely. I mean, you rode a motorcycle down the hall of the Benton High School.
[0:10:24.2] SL: I did. I did.
[0:10:25.9] KM: You got kicked out and were so happy.
[0:10:26.6] SL: Got kicked out for a week, and then I took a cherry bomb. Back then, cherry bombs were pretty big and we didn't have all the bombings and things that we're happy now. A lot of cherry bomb and was going to throw it in front of the class. I was walking down the hall at school and I was wanting to throw it where it went off in front of the classroom, yeah, in the front of the classroom. I thought it hits those slick floors of the school and it goes right up under a teacher's desk and it goes off. I got kicked out a week for that too. I didn't know if I was going to be able to get back in after that one.
[0:10:59.1] KM: Well, you aren't attention getter.
[0:11:01.1] SL: I put a greased pig, I squeezed a greased pig through the school through the doors of the school one time and it took them a day or two to catch that pig. I mean, he was – nobody can hold him and the principal's owner saying, “If somebody catches this pig,” you’ll try to catch him and hand him up, but they thought they could catch him, but he couldn’t.
[0:11:19.5] KM: He’s greasy.
[0:11:19.9] SL: He’s greasy and he’d run off from.
[0:11:21.5] KM: That’s only in Arkansas.
[0:11:22.3] SL: That’s only in Arkansas.
[0:11:23.7] KM: I mean, you know that don’t happen anywhere else does it?
[0:11:24.1] SL: That’s only in Arkansas. I had my wife who was totally the opposite got connected with me, I'll never know.
[0:11:31.3] KM: Opposite attracts.
[0:11:32.2] SL: Opposite attracts.
[0:11:33.4] KM: All right, this is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with the super successful, well-known, funny, awesome philanthropist, Mr. Steve Landers, Founder and CEO of Steve Landers Auto Group and partner of McLarty Automotive. We’ll sort through all his business names and owner changes, because I had to do a lot of research to figure it out, and we'll talk about what it's like to sell a business, the baby that you birthed, Landers Auto Group for 40 million dollars.
At the end of the show, we'll talk Mr. Landers’ newest passion, horse racing, and the honor bestowed on him with his appointment to the Arkansas Racing Commission. We'll be back after the break.
[0:12:12.8] KM: Want to create excitement for your business, or event? Do it with affordable advertisement from arkansasflagandbanner.com. We have tear drop banners, retractable banners and table drapes, we have street pole banners, museum and exhibit banners, we have custom flags, event tents, tailgating poles, auto graphics and window scrim. Don't forget, welcome home and sale banners. Consult the experts at arkansasflagandbanner.com. Go online for a free quote, or drop by our historic showroom at 800 West 9th Street in Little Rock.
[0:12:45.0] CC: You're listening to Up In Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago with only $400, Kerry McCoy founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed, starting with door-to-door sales, then telemarketing, to mail order and catalog sales, and now a third of their sales come through the internet. This past year, Flag and Banner added another internet feature, live chatting.
Over time, Kerry’s business and leadership knowledge grew. As early as 2004, she began sharing this knowledge in her weekly blog. In 2009, she founded the nonprofit Friends of Dreamland Ballroom, and in 2014, Brave Magazine was launched, who’s next publication is slated for October 2018. Today, she has branched out into radio with this very production, podcast and live stream on Facebook.
Each week on this show, you'll hear candid conversations between her and her guests about real-world experiences on a variety of businesses and topics that we hope you'll find interesting and inspiring. If you'd like to ask Kerry a question, or share your story, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. That's email@example.com. Or send her a message on flagandbanner.com’s Facebook page.
[0:14:09.0] KM: You’re listening to Up In your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with Mr. Steve Landers, CEO of Steve Landers Auto Group. Before the break, we talked about Steve's life in Benton and how he was a born businessman, how he and I both are not really academics and how he and I both like a gag – like to be the center of attention, I guess you could say. It's all fun-loving.
Now let's talk about your business. You're in high school, you get your first job in Little Rock selling cars and you only do it for a year before you know that you and your dad decide to go out on your own. Is there something that happened that made you decide you want to – you and your dad wanted to take that leap of faith?
[0:14:52.4] SL: Yeah, I'm sorry Kerry. I guess, I went to get a job because I was getting married. I've been watching cars at the automobile dealership for a couple of years as a kid and I was going to get married and I was making $39 a week at the hardware store before I got married and I left the washing cars and went the hardware store worked. Anyway, I got a job there and I'm selling cars because I went every day and asked this guy if he would hire me. I was 17-years-old. Those guys, there was 50 salesmen there. Those said were my age and younger or young. There was no 17-year-olds.
It took about a week for him to hire me. The guy knew – I mean, he knew my dad and I just kept going in and he'd say, “I don't need you,” and I keep going back and I kept going back and I kept going back and finally –
[0:15:45.9] KM: Persistence.
[0:15:46.7] SL: Finally he said, “I'll hire you. Get a haircut and come in.” I got a haircut and went in. The first morning I went to work, I sold a car that morning. Now I'll never forget that guy, walked up to me and he said, “How much is this car?” He said, “Could I speak to salesman?” I looked left and I looked right and there was nobody there. I said, “I guess I'm a salesman,” because I was going to work as a salesman. He was the first one I've ever done.
[0:16:12.2] KM: First day.
[0:16:12.9] SL: Yeah, I guess I'm a sale. Then he said, “How much is this car?” I just read the window price, I think was about $1,490 for a new car then. He said, “I'll take it.” I've been there 30 minutes, that's it. I made $75. I'll never forget that particular deal made me – paid me $75. I've been working all week for $39 after school and stuff at a hardware store.
I said, “I found the thing I need to do,” because I said, “I can make a living doing this.” I started working there and I was not the best salesman, because there was 50 experience guys there, but I was the best worker. Always, always prided myself being the best worker. I would get there early and stay late. I couldn't sell. I wasn't the best car salesman. The guy that was the best car salesman there got punished for doing something and they stuck me in as his roommate, because I was a 17-year-old kid and just been in the business a couple of weeks.
[0:17:19.2] KM: His officemate really.
[0:17:20.1] SL: His officemate. Yes. Really, they were doing that to irritate him, because he had done something wrong. I'm his officemate when 40 days go by. He never said, “Good morning, good afternoon, how you doing?” Not a word. Never said a word to me. I walked up to him one day and I said, “Oh man, listen. I'm going to be here.” I said, “You're not going to run me off.” I said, “I'm going to be here and we're partnered. We're in the same office.” I said, “We need to learn to speak to each other.”
He was the best salesman there, so he said – we mended the fence and he started speaking to me. He said, “You catch the customers. Bring them in to me. I'll sell them and you listen.” I learned how to sell cars from that guy. Then all of a sudden, I laid the board six months in a row. I was at top seven out of 50 for six months in a row as a 17-year-old kid. It couldn't be that I was the best salesman, because I was not the best settlement, but I was the best worker.
I worked everybody there. They would take breaks and take off in the mid-afternoon and I would work through that, because I knew that the only way I could make it is by outworking them, because I was not the best salesman. I led the board six months in a row during that first year.
[0:18:35.1] KM: How many cars is that a month?
[0:18:36.4] SL: It's about 40 to 50 cars a month.
[0:18:38.7] KM: Dead gone. That’s a car a day. Over a car a day.
[0:18:42.0] SL: Over a car a day. I did it. Back then, in it was a lot easier, a lot less paperwork, but I would sell over a car a day; two, three cars a day. I found that this was my niche, but I'll never forget my – the first year I made $21,000 for the year. I was the best salesman there, so you know what the other guys were making, because I make $21,000. It wasn’t that – but it was a lot of money back then.
[0:19:08.3] KM: That’s pretty a lot of money. Yeah.
[0:19:09.6] SL: Yeah, it was a lot of money back then. Then I decided that I will – they wanted me to come down where my dad was at. The job was $300 a week and my wife thought I was crazy.
[0:19:27.3] KM: Yeah, because that's going to be a cut in pay.
[0:19:29.0] SL: Yes. My dad said, “You'll learn more down here than you're learning there. They're not going to teach you the car business, but you come down here with us and we'll teach you the car business. You're not going to make as much money, but you're going to learn the business.”
[0:19:40.5] KM: Your dad was working for somebody else. He wasn’t working for his own.
[0:19:42.6] SL: Yes. He’s working for somebody else. I went down and we worked – I worked with him down there for about a year and I went out selling all the guys there, because they didn't work as hard as I did. After about a year, I told – I told the owner of the store, I said, “Look, I'm going to make $400 a week next year, here, or somewhere else.” I’d love to make it a year if you’ll just pay me for and I don’t pay you that much he said. He said, “I don’t pay myself 350 a week and I’m not paying 400 a week.” I said, “Well, just put me on commission. If I don’t sell anything, you don’t owe me a dime.”
[0:20:15.3] KM: There you go.
[0:20:14.9] SL: When he put me on commission, I made $1,800 the first week, and he didn't want me to – so he didn't want to pay me, because it's way too much in his mind. My dad got mad, because he didn't want to pay me what he owed me, and I was mad because he didn’t want to pay me. My dad and I said, “We're leaving.” We left it started our own used-car lot. Had 30 cars in stock, 30 totaled cars in stock and we had a little trailer, 40 by 60.
[0:20:45.8] KM: You and I are the same age. I remember that I was trying to get a job around that age and I was – it seems to me if I'm remembering correctly, $8,000 a year was a good pay.
[0:20:55.8] SL: Yes.
[0:20:56.5] KM: You're making $21,000.
[0:20:58.2] SL: Yes. Then I take a job for $300 a week to learn the business, because I –
[0:21:04.6] KM: You’re investing in yourself.
[0:21:06.7] SL: Because I knew this was the business I was going to stay in. I've never not one day since I hired in, wanted to be in another business. Everybody have jobs. They don't like this job, they don't like that job and they're waiting for another job and they're hunting another job. The grass is greener over there. I've done one thing my whole life and that's to sell cars. I made it to where instead of just selling cars, I wanted to do a – I wanted my kids to say, “My dad can get you any kind of car you want.”
[0:21:33.8] KM: Oh, interesting.
[0:21:34.7] SL: Instead of, “My dad's a car dealer.” I want him to say, “Hey, you need a car? Call my dad. He'll take care of it.”
[0:21:38.9] KM: Did you already have kids by then?
[0:21:40.5] SL: No. I had kids a couple of years after that. I wanted them to grow up in school saying to their teachers and stuff, “It's okay. My dad will help you. If you need some help on a car, call him. If you pay me too, I’ll call my dad.”
[0:21:52.4] KM: Where'd you get the money to start – to buy the first car, or were they used cars?
[0:21:56.1] SL: Well, I bought the first car, Sandy and I had a checking account and I – so I wrote a check for $800 on our checking account and she's getting me checks. I didn't have the book. She just gave me a couple of checks.
[0:22:12.2] KM: She’s smart.
[0:22:12.9] SL: I wrote a check for $800 and bought a car. Well, I didn't tell her about it, then she got everything all out of whack. Well, she took the checkbook away from me that day. That was 1972.
[0:22:24.6] KM: You hadn’t had it back since?
[0:22:25.9] SL: I had it back too, but I’ve never written a check to see it. She took the checkbook away from me. Write, write, probably write it. It was up, probably wouldn’t write everything in there I’m supposed to anyway. She took it away from me. She's managed all that. I didn't make it. She manages it.
[0:22:39.1] KM: I love it. I love it. I want to tell everybody also that when I called you up and asked you to be on the radio and I said, “Well, I'll send you an e-mail.” You said, “I don't do e-mail.” I said, “How can you not do e-mail?” What'd you say?
[0:22:50.0] SL: I said, “Well Kerry, I don't do an e-mail. I'm sorry.” I said, “I've never done an e-mail in my life. I've never turned a computer on in my life. I don't know how to turn a computer on. I've never been on Facebook, Twitter, I've never been on anything.”
[0:23:02.4] KM: You’re on Facebook now, because we’re doing – we’re Facebook Living.
[0:23:05.4] SL: Okay. Well, this is the first day. This is a first for me to be on the – be on Facebook. I've never done any of that, because I didn't grow up in that age. I grew up – where all we had to play with was a baseball all summer and a football all winter. That was it. We didn't have a bunch of stuff. We didn't have games. I grew up with my dad had taken – on Friday night, he’d get paid, he’d take us to the to the Dairy Queen out there and get us a hotdog and a milkshake. We thought that was a big outing. That’s the big outing for us. My grandkids are not like that. My kids are not like that.
[0:23:40.4] KM: Right. When did you k now had made a success? When did you know that you and your dad were onto something? You're selling cars out front, he's in the back making sure that operations run good, and then your cousin John joins you after a couple of years. When did you start saying, “Oh, this is – we're on to something here.” Or was there something?
[0:23:58.7] SL: Yeah, there was something. It was special. It was special that I was able to work with my dad for 25 years day-by-day. He was my old and my dad and he'd chew me out, but it was just – it was like a dad chewing you out. He'd say, “Come on, son. You did this wrong and that wrong.” It was a dad relationship. You know what I mean? I loved him and if I didn't like what he said, I'd go and do whatever I thought what I wanted to do, and he never would say anything.
[0:24:26.3] KM: He couldn’t argue with your numbers, that’s for sure.
[0:24:27.7] SL: No, he couldn’t argue with numbers. I would do things that would sometimes would shake him up a little bit, as far as ordering and buying cards. It was great to be able to work with your dad.
[0:24:39.1] KM: I asked you if you loved cards before we went on and you said, “Nope.”
[0:24:43.4] SL: Do not love them. There's people that love cars. They're a means for getting back and forth places and a means for me to make a living with, and that's the way I've always looked at it.
[0:24:54.2] KM: You can't fall in love with a car, because you'll sell it out from under.
[0:24:57.2] SL: I do that.
[0:24:58.5] KM: You said your wife –
[0:25:00.2] SL: My wife wanted it. She had a little Volkswagen with 15, 16
[inaudible 0:25:04.7]. I would sell it out for an amount to her. I told her, I said, “No, don't get used to having cars that would be with you a long time,” because I said, “We're going to selling it if somebody wants them.”
[0:25:17.9] KM: You sold them when she’s been in the grocery store.
[0:25:19.6] SL: Yes.
[0:25:20.8] CC: Wow.
[0:25:22.9] KM: Oh, you came out. Oh, your car's gone.
[0:25:25.1] SL: I picked them up places where she's shopping and put another car there and leave her a note that keys are in the gas tank, or whatever.
[0:25:34.6] KM: That’s pretty bad. He can sell anything. Your commercials are so successful and you work with your sons for a little while.
[0:25:42.6] SL: Work for my sons in a while and I still work with them. I'm retired now and I work about 45 hours a week. I work about 25, or 120 with the other. They don't pay me.
[0:25:54.4] KM: They don't.
[0:25:55.1] SL: No. It's a non-paying job. If he might need a car I said, “Call me,” because my sons are not paying me. Now I pay them all these years that they work for me. Funny story, they both went to – I want to play college baseball, I want to play college football. Both of them, as soon as they got to college, one of them was A student, did honors and all that. He gets to college, he got a –
[inaudible 0:26:21.8] one point. I mean, it's terrible. I told him, I said son – he was just turned 18 and I said, “I’ll tell you what to do. Go thank the coach for giving you a scholarship. Tell him that you're going to turn your scholarship back in and give it to somebody that wants it and that needs it and wants to study to get an education.”
I said, “Turn it in today. Thank you for it and apologize for letting them down. You'll be on the car lot Monday morning and I said, “The bells not going to ring Monday afternoon at 4 or 5:00. You stay there and we're going to go.” My wife almost – I almost got a divorce over that, because I pulled them both out of college.
[0:27:00.6] KM: Both of them?
[0:27:01.4] SL: Both of them did the same thing. I pulled them out of college, put them on the car lot and I said, “You all work for me now,” as it is now going to be –
[0:27:06.4] KM: Did they ever go back to school?
[0:27:07.1] SL: Nope.
[0:27:08.7] KM: Interesting.
[0:27:09.5] SL: They weren’t back to – one runs – he runs about 15 stores, owns part of 15 stores across the US. Another one’s got stores in
[inaudible 0:27:18.2]. They never did go back to school.
[0:27:21.5] KM: Well, I think it was a good decision.
[0:27:23.2] SL: Sometimes, school is not for everyone.
[0:27:26.9] KM: For they’re parting too much problem.
[0:27:28.6] SL: Well, and they could do that if they want to do that here at home, but school is not for everyone. Sometimes, people put too much emphasis on school. Being able to – learning how to work and how to take care of yourself and all that is things that I learned as early child. I used to go to car auctions and horse auctions and stuff. My grandpa would give me $10 dollars to buy a bridle with that bite and he wouldn't give me more money, until I sold it. I put it back and sell the next week.
[0:28:04.7] KM: The horse?
[0:28:05.2] SL: No, the bridle. Just to go grab this foot, go throughout his head. I put a bridle for what five hours and he wouldn't – I’d take that 10 and that try to turn into 20. Then I tried to turn 20 into 40.
[0:28:19.5] KM: It’s just the work ethic that we are missing I think when we're teaching our kids today. There's a lot of rules out there where you can't even get a job until you're 16-years-old, I think, which is a disservice for some of these kids, because I started working when I was 14.
[0:28:30.9] SL: Well, these kids now need to – they need to think about other than a professional doctor, lawyer, dentist, all that stuff. They need to think about being a decent mechanic, or if they're good with their hands, go out to – this boat tech class, boat tech, it’s really a great – got a great program out there and they teach these kids how to get plate jobs that they could make a lot of money and support their families.
[0:28:59.3] KM: Learn a trade.
[0:29:00.1] SL: Learn a trade and own your own business and the whole nine yards by going to that trade.
[0:29:04.9] KM: Yeah. I think so too. I think that’s a great idea. You do a lot of commercials. They’re so successful. You're like a rock star in Arkansas, because of all the commercials you do. They're funny, with your sons. You're not doing them with your sons anymore.
[0:29:17.0] SL: No. They've gone their separate ways as they got older. You know what I mean? One wanted to be in the cattle business. He’s up in Clinton and he's got a dealerships up there at Clinton and Heber Springs and Bryant, so I got one son has got dealerships up there. Then I got one that just took over all of our stuff out here and he runs it. I mean, they've gone –
[0:29:37.8] KM: In Little Rock?
[0:29:38.5] SL: Little Rock. He’s got stores in Oklahoma, he got stores up in Minneapolis, he's got stores in Missouri and Arkansas.
[0:29:52.3] KM: Wow. Lots of them. He’s got a lot of – he's traveling a lot.
[0:29:55.2] SL: He's traveling a lot.
[0:29:56.6] KM: That's a lot. All those commercials, I always wonder if you're a stickler for some particular thing that you do that you like always want to have something in them, in my advertisement, do you?
[0:30:09.7] SL: I always wanted to have that – we don't ever really talk about price. We just talk about – we just build the brand. We've just been able to build a brand –
[0:30:25.3] KM: That’s true. You don’t ever talk about price.
[0:30:27.0] SL: We talk about, “Hey, we're going to take care of you. Come in and see us. If you need to sell your car, come in and see us. If you need to buy a car, come see us.” we just talk about brand. Then comical stuff came along seven or eight years ago. It was stuff that we would do on a daily basis. My sons and I, I'd be riding in a car with maybe five and I'd be driving that road for and I slap one of them while I was driving.
We've done that through our whole lives. I mean, it felt like from the time they were little boys, they'd fight, just get in a car, they’d start fighting. I'd be trying to drive it and hit at them. Sandy would be screaming and hollering, “Don't, don’t, don’t.” I’d be crying, I hit them. It was easy for –
[0:31:09.3] KM: You’re such a down to earth guy, ain’t he?
[inaudible 0:31:11.2] to do commercials. Come on guys, I mean, I could say, “You know, come on man. What are you doing?” It was just normal –
[0:31:20.7] KM: Everyday.
[0:31:21.0] SL: Everyday, just the way it really was.
[0:31:22.7] KM: Well, because of your commercials, I have become a stickler. Your face has become such an important part of your branding that you were talking about that I've asked my marketing staff to put my face on everything, because I think – I really like that about your commercials. You’ve influenced Arkansas Flag and Banner in that way.
[0:31:41.0] SL: Well, good. Branding is instead of price gets so mixed up and people would get so confused on pricing of cars, they don't know what to do.
[0:31:54.7] KM: You're not selling a product. You're selling –
[0:31:56.7] SL: We’re selling a brand.
[0:31:58.0] KM: You absolutely selling a brand.
[0:31:59.3] SL: We’re selling a brand.
[0:32:00.4] KM: That's really – I don't think people realize that, but I saw it, I noticed it, I came into my marketing team before I ever met you and said, “I want to do what Steve Landers is doing.”
[0:32:08.9] SL: We know. I bought about 70 over the years, 70 car dealerships in different states and different countries. I've been in China, I’ve been in –
[0:32:20.4] KM: Puerto Rico.
[0:32:21.5] SL: Been in Brazil. I've been in Mexico with car dealerships and all across the US. Our business has grown and that brand is if you're driving in Tennessee, if you're driving in Louisiana, if you’re driving in Texas, you'll see Landers on car dealerships. Those are dealerships that I owned at one time. Bill didn't got them going and then sold.
[0:32:43.2] KM: Then sold for 40 million dollars. We’re going to talk about that in a minute. That’s a great place to take a break. I want to know how 40 million dollars changes you. When you come back, we'll continue our conversation with the super successful, well-known, extremely likeable, down-to-earth philanthropist, Mr. Steve Landers, Founder and CEO of Steve Landers Auto Group and partner of McLarty Automotive.
In this next segment, we'll talk about what it's like to sell a business, the baby you birthed, I don't know if I can ever sell it, Landers Automotive Group for 40 million dollars to the United Auto Group and how it changes you. Don't think it's changed you a bit. At the end of the show, Mr. Landers can tell us about his newest passion, horse racing and the honor bestowed upon him with his appointment to the Arkansas Racing Commission.
First, I want to remind everyone we're broadcasting live every Friday afternoon at 2:00 PM, central time on KABF 88.3 FM, the voice of the people and flagandbanner.com’s Facebook page. That after one week of every show’s airing, a podcast is made available on all popular listening sites and YouTube.
[0:33:46.7] KM: Boost morale and patriotism with a new flag or flagpole from Arkansas’ flagandbanner.com. We have poles, hardware, accessories, maintenance support, installation and custom flags. We have flags of all kind; for the sports enthusiast, the world traveler, or history buff, we have them all. Bring in your own flag and get $5 off a new one. Consult the experts at Arkansas’ flagandbanner.com. Come shop at our historic location at 800 West 9th Street in Little Rock, or visit us online at flagandbanner.com.
[0:34:18.6] CC: Flagandbanner.com is proud to underwrite Up In your Business with Kerry McCoy. This weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners firsthand insight into starting and running a business, the ups and downs of risk-taking and the commonalities of successful people shared in a conversational interview with Kerry.
Along with this radio show, flagandbanner.com publishes a free bi-annual magazine called Brave. First published in October in 2014, this magazine features every day people’s real-life stories of bravery. It’s goal, to inspire you to celebrate your own bravery and challenge you to recognize it in others.
The Department of Arkansas Heritage recognized Brave magazine’s documentation of American life and micro-fishes all additions for the Arkansas state archives. Brave Magazine will be in your mailbox and hitting newsstands October 2018. Free subscriptions and advertising opportunities are available at flagandbanner.com by selecting Magazine, where you can read previous stories and learn about advertising opportunities.
[0:35:22.8] KM: You're listening to Up In your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with Mr. Steve Landers, CEO of Steve Landers Auto Group. If you've got a question, make a comment on flagandbanner.com’s Facebook page, or write this number down and call.
[0:35:35.6] CC: That would be 501-433-0088.
[0:35:39.4] KM: Again Chris.
[0:35:40.2] CC: 501-433-0088.
[0:35:43.2] KM: If you're shy, you can just creep on my weekly blog about life as a small business owner at flagandbanner.com, or as I said earlier, you can listen to all of our podcasts. Before the break – oh, I want to take this opportunity actually before we jump into the next segment, to give a big shout out and thank you to Centennial Bank for partnering with the Friends of Dreamland Ballroom and sponsoring this year's Dancing Into dreamland, which is Friday, November the 2nd and it's turning out to maybe be our first sold-out event.
If you're watching on Facebook, you know, well you don't know this Steve is, but you can see my crutch over here, because I sprained my ankle two days ago and Steve's having knee surgery in a couple of weeks. That's why we had to get him on and Centennial Bank is helping us raise money for an elevator for the Dreamland Ballroom. Now I know why people need an elevator, because we're on the second floor, and Steve and I we’re
[inaudible 0:36:32.9] up here.
Before the break, we talked about Steve’s life growing up in Benton and how he was born salesman from day one. He hardly got out of high school before he was off selling flags and was hugely successful, making more than any other person I know at 18-years-old. Got married early and is still married to the same wife. How he and his father decided to go out on their own and start their business. We talked about the branding of Landers and how it's just – when you think of buying a car, you think of Landers. I mean, that's just what you do and how his branding has done a great job.
The big changes, now we're going to hit 1989 to 2005, a 25-year span with big changes. In 1989, your dad and you and your cousin had a car lot that were hugely successful, so successful that Chrysler Corporation came to your car lot and made you an offer. Tell us how that changed everything.
[0:37:36.5] SL: Well, they made us an offer Kerry to – they want us to become a standalone Jeep dealer. At that time, I really didn't want to be one, because we were doing really good in selling used cars. We'd sell 200 and something used cars a month by then. I didn't really want to be a jeep leader, but this guy from Chrysler came in he said, “Look, I'm fixed to retire. We're going to put an open point here. Open means that the factory will give it to you. You don't have to buy it.” He said, “Look, there's going to be four or five guys tried to get it, but I want you to apply.”
I said, “I don't know if I want to.” He came back in a couple of weeks and said, “Would you please apply?” Excuse me. I said, “Yeah, we'll apply.” We applied for the dealership and three, or four, five weeks later, they guy comes back and said, “It's down between you and two other guys.” He said, “These two other guys have got college educations.” He said, “They really want a guy with a college education.” I said, “Well, that's not me.”
He goes back to Tennessee where the headquarters were and said, “Look, this is the guy you want. He's doesn’t have any college, but I'm telling you this is the guy you want.” They said, “He'll sell cars.” They gave it to us and the rest was history. Within four years, we led the world.
[0:38:59.3] KM: The world?
[0:38:59.3] SL: The world.
[0:39:00.5] CC: Wow.
[0:39:01.0] SL: In Chrysler Dodge Jeep sales, the world. In the mid-90s, early 90s, we led the world – we were selling a 1, 050 a month in a population of 12,000 people.
[0:39:15.1] KM: We didn't have the internet.
[0:39:16.4] SL: No, we didn't have the internet.
[0:39:17.5] KM: How did you do that? People drove from all around?
[0:39:21.1] SL: From all around. We created the fact that we were the best place to buy a car.
[0:39:25.0] KM: Do you advertise in newspapers?
[0:39:26.8] SL: Newspapers and we advertised – back then, we did newspapers and we did radio and we did a little TV, but –
[0:39:34.3] KM: What states have you advertised?
[0:39:35.6] SL: All of them.
[0:39:36.6] KM: Every one of them?
[0:39:37.3] SL: Every one of them. We do it all.
[0:39:38.8] KM: They all drove to Benton, Arkansas?
[0:39:40.5] SL: They all drove to Benton, Arkansas. When you sell –
[0:39:43.1] KM: Well, now we know why Benton’s big, because of you. You brought all that money.
[0:39:46.0] SL: When you sell a thousand cars a month without any internet, the closest thing to that right now that's happened in the last 25 years, it's been my son last month sold 900 cars.
[0:40:00.9] KM: In Clinton, or the other one?
[0:40:02.0] SL: No, here in Little Rock, just at our Dodge store.
[0:40:06.7] KM: 900 cars in one month.
[0:40:08.2] SL: 900. That’s new in news.
[0:40:10.9] KM: A lot of cars.
[0:40:13.3] SL: The fact is that we’re – is the word synonymous?
[0:40:18.2] KM: That's what I was trying to think of too. That's the word I was trying to think of. Synonymous. You did synonymous. Thank you for us on educating high school graduates. It’s synonymous.
[0:40:25.9] SL: Volume and taking care of the customers in volume. Chrysler thinks it’s a phenomenon, because it was a population of 10 or 12,000 people back then when we led the world. I've got three globes that are made out of crushed crystal that they give you for leading that with the top in the world.
[0:40:45.1] KM: You got three.
[0:40:46.4] SL: I got three. I gave one son one and one the other and I kept one. It's pretty good now, these boys are coming along and doing the same thing. They're coming along right behind us and doing it, because they were raised in this and they understand it like we – they understand it. It's been pretty good and –
[0:41:03.0] KM: It’s changed a lot though.
[0:41:03.7] SL: Changed a lot. Yeah.
[0:41:04.9] KM: I mean, a lot. In 1995, so you're selling a thousand jeeps, you're selling more than anyone else in the world.
[0:41:13.1] SL: Yes.
[0:41:14.6] KM: In 1995, you saw the – it's called the Landers Auto Group now and you sold it for 40 million dollars to the United Auto Group. How many partners did you have at that time?
[0:41:24.8] SL: That time we had two. It was two partners then with us.
[0:41:29.2] KM: How did that change things?
[0:41:31.4] SL: It didn't.
[0:41:32.7] KM: You’re not change at all right now.
[0:41:33.8] SL: I'm not changed at all. My dad still drove an – my dad drove a two-door truck and didn't want anything fancy on it. I lived the same, dad lived the same, went to the – kids went to the same schools.
[0:41:48.2] KM: Still worked all the time, because –
[0:41:49.1] SL: Still worked all the time.
[0:41:50.9] KM: Let's see, Roger Penske bought it. After three years, Roger Penske bought it.
[0:41:58.1] SL: Yes.
[0:41:59.0] KM: Did you have to stay on with the auto group for a while?
[0:42:00.5] SL: I didn’t have to, but Roger asked me. He said, “Would you run the central part of the US for the new auto group that we're doing?” I said, “You know Roger, I just got that money. I've worked every day, so tell the kid,” I said, “I probably don't want to.” He said, “Well, I'll give you this if you'll do it.” I said, “I think 'll start.” I said, “When do you want me to start?” Roger and I had a great relationship. There's probably not a smarter businessman on the planet than Roger Penske.
[0:42:29.2] KM: Really?
[0:42:30.2] SL: More honest, he would do whatever Roger told you, that’s the way it was. I tell people, I said, “I didn't go to college, but I got an MBA from Roger Penske.”
[0:42:42.1] KM: Really?
[0:42:42.7] SL: I spent eight years with him and that's been eight years working with Roger only.
[0:42:48.0] KM: How did Roger originally get his money?
[0:42:51.0] SL: Just in auto business.
[0:42:52.8] KM: Always. Okay.
[0:42:53.5] SL: Always been auto business. He raced. He was into racing.
[0:42:56.2] KM: That’s where I know his name from.
[0:42:57.2] SL: He’s a terrible driver. He's the worst driver on the planet, but he loved to drive. When I used to be out with him, he'd always want to drive, but he would always get us in binds with his driving. He was a terrible driver. He used to race car drive.
[0:43:10.1] KM: He's a race car driver with a business bent.
[0:43:12.9] SL: Yes. Yes. Right now he's got more indies than anybody, I think. More Indianapolis 500 and –
[0:43:22.7] KM: Wait. He's not such a terrible driver.
[0:43:24.5] SL: Well, he
[inaudible 0:43:24.8]. It’s his driver –
[0:43:27.2] KM: Oh, I got you. Oh, look. Chris is like –
[0:43:29.2] SL: He plays for performance. It's just like he paid me when I sold out to him and then he hired me back, he said, “I'm going to pay this and perform.” As long as I perform, the pay was there. That was good. Then then after eight years with Penske, I went to work – I partnered up with Mack McLarty. Mack and I partnered and started an auto group.
[0:43:54.1] KM: Another auto group.
[0:43:55.1] SL: Another auto group.
[0:43:55.6] KM: It is called Landers Auto Group.
[0:43:56.9] SL: It’s called RML.
[0:43:58.3] KM: RML.
[0:44:00.1] SL: It was called McLarty Landers for a long time, and then Robert Johnson who started the BET network, Robert Johnson and I and Mack partnered in a big group. We were the number one minority-owned group in the nation, which Bob owned 60%, Mack owned 20 and I owned 20. Bob want to be the number one minority-owned group in the country.
[0:44:26.6] KM: Where’s he getting his money overall?
[0:44:28.8] SL: BET network. He sold it for about 2 or 3 billion to back on, back on. Yeah, that’s for Bob – Bob’s good. Bob’s a great business guy.
[0:44:39.4] KM: I think honesty is so important to be a successful business person. I bet you’re the guy that people just do a handshake and –
[0:44:45.4] SL: I’d rather do a handshake than a contract.
[0:44:46.9] KM: I agree. I don’t want to read the contract. After you went in with McLarty into your new group, because you – I thought it was nice when I read this that Penske sold you a Toyota dealership.
[0:45:05.1] SL: Oh, Penske gave me –
[0:45:06.7] KM: Gave you.
[0:45:08.6] SL: Penske didn't sell us the Toyota dealership. We bought his dealership and started our own, started our own deal in Little Rock. Penske had a dealership. I mean, Penske got out of that dealership and we sold out.
[0:45:28.1] KM: Oh, I see. He was getting out of that one when you bought that.
[0:45:30.7] SL: Yes, right.
[0:45:31.2] KM: What is it? Was it with the old Jones Toyota dealership?
[0:45:33.4] SL: Was one of them. Yes.
[0:45:34.9] KM: Because we were talking about Mr. Jones in the old days. They're not around anymore.
[0:45:38.9] SL: No.
[0:45:40.0] KM: It seems all these car lots and dealerships have all been consolidated into how many auto groups are there left in America?
[0:45:49.4] SL: Probably a couple of hundred auto groups.
[0:45:50.5] KM: Yeah, seem like it.
[0:45:52.5] SL: The major ones are Penske Automotive and the major ones are Auto Nations, Group One. There's some big auto groups now. Eventually, they'll control all the auto business.
[0:46:10.7] KM: It’s like everything's going into monopolies these days.
[0:46:13.5] SL: It’s like banks and everything else.
[0:46:14.6] KM: It's all going into monopolies. When you partnered with McLarty on those 20 dealers that you first bought, one of them was in mobile homes.
[0:46:25.3] SL: Yes.
[0:46:26.5] KM: I read that right after, because of Katrina, you sold mobile homes, to all those –
[0:46:34.0] SL: Yes. No, that was a Ford store in Northwest Arkansas that Mack and I bought. It been up for sale for a little while, but nobody would buy the Ford store, because he had a motor home dealer that was adjacent to it that he wanted you to buy. That was back when –
[0:46:49.1] KM: Nobody thought that was good idea.
[0:46:49.9] SL: No.
[0:46:50.9] KM: You were like, “I’ll take it.”
[0:46:51.6] SL: Yeah. That’s it. I’ll take it.
[0:46:54.2] KM: You can’t learn that intelligence in school.
[0:46:56.6] SL: The way I figured that is I told Mack. I said Mack, I said, “If we buy these motor homes,” I said, “Most we could lose is probably a couple of hundred thousand.” What I'm saying is if it would mean that we just paid $200,000 more for his business.
[0:47:12.9] KM: That's a way to look at it. Yes.
[0:47:14.2] SL: I said, the other guys are afraid of it, but I said that's – I think we can lose $200,000. We then lost $80,000, but we got the business. We've had it for about 15 or 20 years now.
[0:47:23.0] KM: Well, I thought you made it back though when you got to sell all those mobile homes to the displaced Katrina?
[0:47:27.0] SL: Yeah, but we ended up losing $80,000.
[0:47:29.2] KM: Instead of the $200,000 you originally thought.
[0:47:31.5] SL: Yeah, instead of the $200,000.
[0:47:32.7] KM: I’m with you. I want to just – we’re not going to take a big break. I just want to tell everybody that you're listening to Up In your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and I'm speaking today with Mr. Steve Landers, CEO of Steve Landers Auto Group. You are still working.
[0:47:47.3] SL: I still work.
[0:47:48.4] KM: You don’t get paid by your sons.
[0:47:49.9] SL: My sons don’t pay me.
[0:47:50.7] KM: You don’t work for money anymore.
[0:47:52.1] SL: No. I just work to help them. Something I always live by success. Success is not owned, okay? Success is rented. That rent is due every day. People will look at it like that, success is not owned, it's rented and the rent is due every day.
[0:48:08.0] KM: That’s a great tweetable quote.
[0:48:10.3] SL: You got to pay that rent every day to be successful.
[0:48:12.3] KM: You could do a lot of tweeting if you would tweet.
[0:48:14.4] SL: I don’t do no tweeting.
[0:48:17.3] KM: All right. We’ve talked about your life when you were young, how you quickly grew up at 18, got married and became a great car salesman. Then how you worked hard and you and your father and then you sold your first. I call Arkansas Flag and Banner my firstborn. I don't know how you felt about selling your business, but I'm sure if someone offered me that money, I'd sell it.
[0:48:38.9] SL: I cried. I cried when I sold it.
[0:48:41.4] KM: Did you really?
[0:48:42.4] SL: Yeah.
[0:48:42.7] KM: I thought about that.
[0:48:44.2] SL: I cried when I first sold it. Like you said, we raised it and we’re not getting rid of a child.
[0:48:50.2] KM: I know. I mean, money's money. It's nice, but it is –
[0:48:53.8] SL: I told the guys when I was sad and that's I said, “Yeah, I've cried a little bit,” but I said, I'll get over in a minute. I got over it.
[0:49:03.7] KM: You're still working and now, you are a horse racer. You are into the horse racing, picked up. It’s a hobby, or are you making money at it?
[0:49:13.3] SL: Well. No, I made some money actually this year, but if you want to become a millionaire in the racehorse business, start with four and at the end of the year you'll have one, you'll be a millionaire, you know what I mean?
[0:49:25.5] KM: That’s what I’ve heard.
[0:49:27.1] SL: It’s a very expensive business, but it's a lot of fun if you work at it. I get up every morning about 4:30 and I start working on my racehorse business until about 6:30. Then I leave the house and I go work on the car business. I've got about 26 racehorses and –
[0:49:42.8] KM: That’s a lot.
[0:49:43.5] SL: We race all over the country. Last week in New York at Saratoga, we raced for the Woodward stakes, which was a big, big race. One of the top races in the country. We had the lead until the wire and got beaten right at the wire.
[0:50:01.5] KM: What happens when you come in second?
[0:50:03.0] SL: Well, you get a little less money.
[0:50:04.6] KM: You still get money.
[0:50:04.9] SL: They present a $150,000 if you win it. It a big race. You get a little less money, but you just want your horse to win. It’s like your kid playing football, you want your kid to score a touchdown. I do it, because I like for them to win.
[0:50:20.8] KM: You like the gamble.
[0:50:22.5] SL: I don’t gamble. I used to gamble, but I don’t gamble anymore. My gamble’s out there on the track, because I got a big investment in these horses and I'm raising babies up. You want to see them come up and you won't see them do good.
[0:50:33.7] KM: You like horses when you were a kid didn’t you?
[0:50:35.6] SL: No.
[0:50:37.0] KM: I thought you said you went and your dad to some horse shows?
[0:50:38.7] SL: I used to go the horse sales and stuff, but I didn't really like horses.
[0:50:41.7] KM: What you decide to get into horses now?
[0:50:44.1] SL: I've been on it on and off for about 20 years. I like the thoroughbred business. I like the business side of it.
[0:50:53.9] KM: It's funny. I say, “Oh, you love cars,” you go no. “Oh, you love horses.” No.
[0:50:59.7] SL: I really don’t.
[0:51:01.4] KM: You love the creativity of business.
[0:51:04.5] SL: I love doing business. I love doing business. I love making deals. Some guy wrote a book last year on me, Master Dealmaker and it's for sale in the Kroger’s and places like that.
[0:51:15.9] KM: Really?
[0:51:16.6] SL: Yeah. It’s Master Dealmaker, because I learned at an early age to buy, sell and swap, okay? That's a trade. There's guys that have got PhDs and they're brilliant people around the world. They can't buy sell and swap. They can do something I can’t do and I can do something they can’t do. I've learned to buy, sell and swap property, I buy, sell and swap horses, cars, just things, all that's what I do. I love doing it.
[0:51:52.9] KM: You’re very risk-taking and all these things around you. You seem to like the change. You don't hold on to things, except for in your personal life. You've probably lived in the same house for a long time.
[0:52:08.4] SL: A long time. Yeah.
[0:52:09.1] KM: Yeah, that same life since you’re 15 –
[0:52:10.6] SL: The same life. Yeah.
[0:52:12.0] KM: Got your kids and the same. Yet, all out around you, all this creativity's around you. That's always being changed and –
[0:52:18.7] SL: I learned a lot of it from Penske. Penske used to think outside the box. He’d say, “Think outside the box, Steve. I want you to think outside the box.” I would make a big decision. I bought over 50 dealerships with Penske and I'd do it on my own and buy them. I’d think outside the box and I wouldn't – I didn't have a degree in anything, you know what I mean? I learned. I had some wonderful teachers when I was a kid that taught me to read and write and to add, subtract. They taught me that and they knew that that's what I needed. That I wasn't going to be a scholar student, but they knew that's what I needed and they taught me that and I love those teachers.
[0:52:55.2] KM: You’re intuitive though about people, I think.
[0:52:57.0] SL: Well, I learned to read people. This is what we do in the car – you read people. This guy going buy today? You'd learn how to read people and that helps them by selling and swapping.
[0:53:09.2] KM: You've been appointed to the Racing Commission.
[0:53:10.6] SL: Got appointed the Racing Commission.
[0:53:11.8] KM: When did that happen?
[0:53:12.8] SL: Last year from the Governor Hudson. I'm enjoying it really. I really enjoy it.
[0:53:19.8] KM: What does a racing commissioner do?
[0:53:21.4] SL: Well, we oversee all the things that happen into tracks and the casinos and those things. I know there's a big casino issue coming up, but those casinos if they come in would be under the Racing Commission, as far as –
[0:53:39.0] KM: How many times you have to meet a year?
[0:53:40.9] SL: We meet once a month. 12 times a year. I got some great guys that are on there with us and very smart business guys and horsemen. You enjoy that and you try to make things good for the public when they come over to enjoy the day. Oakland, I did a deal last year where they put it – they put it extra kick on the show money, the third-place money, because so many people would play that, that they don't come in there to gamble, they come in there just to win and just to hit a little – Oakland raised that up and it's really nice for the betting public to go over there, win a little bit and –
[0:54:22.7] KM: The show is paying a little bit more than it used to pay, is that what you’re saying?
[0:54:25.1] SL: Yes, yes.
[0:54:26.0] KM: Oh, I always just do the three across.
[0:54:29.3] SL: Yeah, but you can do the show and do pretty good.
[0:54:32.3] KM: What’s the best bet you should bet over there?
[0:54:34.2] SL: Best bet is a win only.
[0:54:35.7] KM: Win only.
[0:54:36.5] SL: Yeah. Just bet in to win and don’t –
[0:54:38.6] KM: Don’t try and bet –
[0:54:40.1] SL: No. Exotic betting is really nice. People pick numbers and that's how they make a lot of money. We just throw a bunch of numbers together, bam it hits and you can win a lot of money by doing it. My dad always told me, he said, “They didn't build Las Vegas on winners. They build it on losers.” It took me a long time to understand that in my life, but I finally understood they didn't build those places on winners. They built it on losers.
[0:55:08.4] KM: You’ll lose a lot of money for you then, I don’t think.
[0:55:09.8] SL: Yeah. Until you got to lose a lot of money and figure that out.
[0:55:11.7] KM: Are you saying horse racing is not quite like sitting in the pool in the slot machines, because you can put some analytical thought into it.
[0:55:16.8] SL: I love it, because you could study the forum, you can study. It’s got the hats and the dresses and the festivities of the race made. It's just wonderful and I really do enjoy it. I've got some great guys on the commission with me and that we all work hard to give – give the public –
[0:55:39.1] KM: Do you travel all the time?
[0:55:40.6] SL: I travel quite a bit, but I've not done so much with my leg. My leg’s been a problem. I've had several knee surgeries, but I'm thick to get one more and I'm going to get this leg fixed, and so I can –
[0:55:52.3] KM: One more it's going to last a year. The surgery's going to last about a year though.
[0:55:55.6] SL: Well, I’m going to get it fixed so I could travel around a country and watch the horses I've got run.
[0:56:00.6] KM: You traveled all the time when you were –
[0:56:03.6] SL: All then.
[0:56:03.4] KM: When you were working for Penske?
[0:56:04.5] SL: Yes.
[0:56:04.7] KM: I mean, you had the dealership –
[0:56:05.5] SL: Every day.
[0:56:06.2] KM: - like you said everywhere. Every day.
[0:56:07.5] SL: Every day. I travel six days a week.
[0:56:10.2] KM: I hope you got a private plane.
[0:56:11.2] SL: I have a private plane and –
[0:56:12.2] KM: That’s the only way I’d do that.
[0:56:14.1] SL: I would keep it rolling. I'll tell you a funny story and I tell these kids now that I said, “You all take this social media. You've taken the social out of business with social media.” The social part. I mean, I used to stop on the road when I see one of my customers mowing his grass. I’d stopped my drink glass of tea with him and say, “Hey man, do you know anybody who want a car?” “Yeah, my brother want a new truck Steve.” That's how I did that.
These kids now, everything's on this little box that they've got in their hand and there's no social. You could walk by one of them and they wouldn't say, “Hi. How you doing today? Can I help you sir? Can I help you ma’am?” That they've got too much too far one way. I liked the social part of it, where I come visit with you, or I can go, “See you at dinner tonight.” “Hey Steve, I need a car.” “Yeah, sure. I'll take care of you. What do you want?” Boom, boom, boom and do that.
[0:57:05.7] KM: You could probably swing back the other way. I felt the pendulum is swinging all the way over here to isolation and I think they're going to probably figure it out and maybe swing back to the middle.
[0:57:15.1] SL: I've got a two-year-old grandson that can sit down in my lap, put your buttons onto my phone that he moves to read and he'll swap and do while he's two-years-old. He can't even speak good. He can use his phone, so what's he going to be doing when he's 18, 20? I mean, that’s unbelievable. He can speak a little bit, but he can’t speak a lot and he knew that phone.
[0:57:37.7] KM: I have enjoyed talking to you so much. I don’t think I grinned this much in a long time. You’re just a nice guy. Here is your gift.
[0:57:43.5] SL: Oh, great.
[0:57:44.5] KM: A US flag and Arkansas flag desk set. I bet you don’t even have one. You need one.
[0:57:48.7] SL: No, but we do a lot – we bought a lot of flags from you when –
[0:57:51.0] KM: You sure are. Landers is a great customer of Arkansas Flag and Banner. Thank you very much. Well look, you don’t tear it all up.
[0:57:56.7] SL: Speaking of flags, our flag got blown all to pieces the other day. Our big flag. We were the ones that started the big flags.
[0:58:06.2] KM: You were. That's exactly right.
[0:58:07.9] SL: Now like it’s dozens, but we had our big flag and a storm came through and it tore into 50 pieces. They just scattered in the old lot and we had to buy a new one for me.
[0:58:19.6] KM: Thank you. I’m glad. Thank you very much. You really were the first one. Whose idea was that to put up a big flag?
[0:58:27.6] SL: I don’t know. Maybe mine, maybe mine. I put it in Texas and Kentucky, everywhere we went, I would put a big flagpole.
[0:58:35.0] KM: That's a great idea. Thank you Steve. I really enjoyed talking to you.
[0:58:38.2] SL: Thank you, Kerry. Thank you, Chris.
[0:58:40.8] CC: You got it. Thank you.
[0:58:43.1] KM: Who’s our guest next week, Chris?
[0:58:44.7] SL: That’s going to be Josh Hill, five-time jeopardy winner from right here in Little Rock.
[0:58:49.7] KM: Oh, my gosh. This guy is so good. I actually go to church with this guy. He and I usher together. He's the quietest, nicest guy. All of a sudden the next thing I know, he's on Jeopardy, he wins five days in a row. He's the smartest guy I've ever met. He's so unassuming, you would never know. He's now going to get to go into some championship game. He's already won, let's say a $117,000 already. I know. He’s just a regular –
[0:59:19.0] SL: It does pay to go to school.
[0:59:20.1] KM: It does pay to go to school. Chris and Steve, thank you both of you.
[0:59:24.4] SL: Thank you.
[0:59:25.1] KM: You're welcome. I want to thank Centennial Bank one more time for partnering with the Friends of Dreamland Ballroom and sponsoring this year's Dancing into Dreamland, Friday November the 2nd. Tickets available online. If you have a great entrepreneurial story that you'd like to share, I'd love to hear from you. Send a brief bio and your contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finally to our listeners, thank you for spending time with me. If you think this program has been about you, you're right, but it's also been for me. Thank you for letting me fulfill my destiny. My hope today is that you've heard, or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening and if you haven't, you haven't been listening. That it, whatever it is will help you up your business, your independence, or your life. I’m Kerry McCoy and I'll see you next time on Up In your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[1:00:18.0] CC: You’ve been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. If you missed any part of the show, or want to learn more about UIYB, go to flagandbanner.com and click “Radio Show.” Or subscribe to her weekly podcast wherever you like to listen. All the interviews are recorded and posted the following week with links to resources you heard discussed on today’s show. Kerry’s goal is to help you live the American Dream.