We are continuing our CBI Team Fort Smith-River Valley blog series on local Community Influencers.
Meet Renee Durham, General Manager of Harry Robinson Buick GMC.
Renee has been in the automotive industry since 1996. She has a bachelors degree from UALR and is a graduate of the NADA Management Academy. She's worked in Finance, Sales, Service, Human Resource, and in 2012 she began taking on General Manager responsibilities at her family's business Harry Robinson Buick GMC. As a Service Director for 10 years, she learned a lot about the value of training, the importance of employee retention and customer satisfaction.
She's been a member of the Junior League of Fort Smith since 2002 and was privileged to serve as the 2010-2011 President. The training she received through JLFS inspired her to involve the dealership in philanthropic training and work.
We asked Renee about working in a long-term family business, her thoughts on the local economy, and her favorite things about the holiday season:
WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF WORKING IN A FAMILY BUSINESS?
Authenticity, relationships, camaraderie, and flexibility! Being a family business, we have the opportunity to implement ideas quickly, because we don't have to go through the process of corporate approval. We laugh more, celebrate more and provide an incredible amount of support professionally as well as personally. There is a sense of commitment from our team because most of them see themselves as an extension of the Robinson family. I think of everyone that joins our team as part of the family. The way we welcome new employees kicks off the experience here by communicating the history, mission and focus of Harry Robinson Buick GMC at a welcome lunch with our managers and new employees. We know relationships are established around a table, volunteering and working together. I'm lucky to come to work every day where the people I work with care about each other. As for me, I've worked for Mr. Robinson (aka Dad) for 21 years so I can't give personal examples of a corporate dealership. It's very rewarding to have an owner in the business everyday who lets employees do their jobs and mentors them along the way. Family businesses have to function well, family members have to function independently, contribute to the business and all conflict has to be resolved quickly to make work a rewarding experience for everyone. If you ask our team members, I believe they too would say it's rewarding working for this family business because we make them feel like they are at home and part of our family. #HarrysHere
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE OTHERS WORKING IN A FAMILY BUSINESS ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF HISTORY, TRADITION, AND STRATEGY GOING FORWARD?
I love the history and tradition of a family business, and it's essential to preserve those while allowing the next generation to implement innovative ideas. It is imperative to not let your business become stagnant. In a family business, it's up to each member to contribute their talent to innovate strategies that will keep the company ahead of their industry. History, tradition, time-honored and innovative strategies are all significant and should be valued. We build upon all of those to remain relevant and continue to grow.
WHAT ECONOMIC TRENDS HAVE YOU NOTICED IN THE FORT SMITH-RIVER VALLEY AREA SINCE YOU BEGAN WORKING IN THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY?
The economic trends over the past several years have been inspiring. Our city has been buzzing with exciting things. More businesses are opening, and established businesses are growing. It's a real sign of the times - that now when I ask a young person if they want to stay in the River Valley or move away, they're answering stay a lot. I love that! I also think there's been an increasing number of residents choosing to shop local, and as a local, family-owned business I'm a fan of this trend. There are so many benefits to the community when people chose to shop locally. We love shopping local and we appreciate our customers for doing the same. #ShopLocal
HOW CAN THE MEMBERS OF OUR COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTE TO THE ECONOMIC GROWTH OF THE FORT SMITH-RIVER VALLEY AREA?
My short answer is, participate; be part of the solution! I love the momentum, and I pray it doesn't stop! Our citizens need to shop local as often as possible and get involved positively as much as possible. We have seen significant interest in revamping our city. So many people have an opinion, and participation is imperative.
FINALLY, THE HOLIDAY SEASON IS UPON US. WHAT DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO MOST ABOUT THIS TIME OF YEAR?
I'm a numbers person and I love wrapping up the year and sharing our accomplishments with our team, but there are other things I look forward to even more. I'm always amazed at the generosity of our team, customers and vendors towards Sierra Full of Joy. We host a Christmas time donation drive benefitting local foster children and we fill the back of a GMC Sierra with gifts. Hence the name, Sierra Full of Joy. We have several employees who grew up in foster care, so this annual event is really special. I also always look forward to hosting several employee events during the holiday season to ensure our team knows how much we appreciate them. And, I look forward to quality time with our team members and my family.
If you have questions about family business succession, are interested in owning your own business, or are ready to sell your current business to move on to the next chapter of your life, contact the CBI Team Fort Smith River Valley (below) to schedule a free, confidential exploratory meeting.