President, Century Automotive Group
Century Automotive Group has always been in the “people business” and has a rich history of both family and employee bonds. Tracy Jones is a third-generation luxury auto dealer and president of Century, which has BMW, Volvo, Jaguar, Land Rover and Porsche. After becoming a CPA while working for Price Waterhouse in Houston, Texas, Tracy brought her financial expertise as the controller to Century in 1988.
Tracy has led the organization to win many prestigious awards in the industry, including the 2007 TIME Magazine Quality Dealer of the Year Award and was the first Alabamian and first female to win the most prestigious award in the retail vehicle industry. This award highlights Century’s business model of employee enthusiasm, customer advocates and community partnership.
Tracy has worked alongside her husband of 35 years, her father, and now her two sons. The Joneses have four children, two grandchildren and 180 employees.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a little girl, and the other girls were holding up posters saying they wanted to be teachers or nurses, my poster always said I wanted to be a car dealer. I wanted to be just like my dad. When I graduated college and told my dad that I wanted to be a car dealer, he said, “The car business is no place for a woman.”
So, I got my CPA and went to work for Price Waterhouse in Houston. A few years later, my dad needed a controller for the business. He asked me if we would consider moving back to Huntsville. By this time, George and I were married and were thinking of having children. I said, “I thought you’d never ask.” It turned out my dad was right about encouraging me to work elsewhere. When I came into the business, I already had credibility, and I had the accounting background that all businesses desperately need.
What circumstances or people helped shape you in your career?
My role model is my dad. He’s a great father and a great influence in our family, our business, with our employees and our community. When I say Century Automotive is a John Shields company, people get it. He and my mother just celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. I think they are both great role models, but he is who helped influence my career in business.
What awards, accolades or accomplishments are you proudest of?
Winning The Time Magazine Dealer of the Year in 2007 was a highlight of my career. This award was selected from over 20,000 candidates and was based on not only being a good business leader but also being an exemplary community partner. The fact that my peers selected me to represent the state of Alabama and that I went on to be #1 in the entire country was a proud accomplishment for our entire Century Team.
How do you achieve a work/life balance?
I read a book early on in motherhood called The Woman with Two Heads. I’ve quoted it many times over the years. It just says that when you’re good at business and you’re a good mom, then when you’re with your family, you feel like you should be working, and when you’re at work, you feel like you should be with your family. In other words, you’re never going to achieve that balance, so give yourself a break. It gave me a lot of peace.
What differentiates you from competition?
We truly are a family-owned business moving into our third generation. My father started Century, I joined in 1988, my husband, George, has served as General Manager since 1989 and now our sons, Parker and Conner are transitioning into a leadership roles. It’s not just a job for us, it’s our family legacy.
We focus strongly on our employee relations as the driving force behind our outstanding customer relations. The emphasis on employee enthusiasm translates into customer satisfaction and new customers soon become repeat customers. And we believe that if you do business in a community, you should be an active part of that community through philanthropic giving and being visible in corporate and community events.
What is your favorite thing about living in Huntsville/Madison County?
Huntsville and Madison County isn’t just where we do business, it’s our home. It’s been exciting to watch the growth and changes that have come to our community over the last 52 years. My father always said, “If you take care of your community, your community will take care of you.”