Management Material

Career / September 15, 2016

An interview with Melissa Burrow
Interview conducted by Lindsey Wells


Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Melissa Burrow moved to Hot Springs two months ago to occupy the position as general manager of National Park Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram and National Park Ram Truck Center, making her the only female general manager within the 30 stores owned by Orr Auto Group. Having worked in the automotive business for almost 20 years, Burrow has held various titles throughout the length of her career.

Her drive, passion, heart and empathy for people and the business has contributed to her continuous success in both her professional and personal lives.

You’ve been doing this for almost 20 years. Where did it all begin?

Melissa Burrow: I was working during football season as a bartender while I was going to college. The owner of a store came in with his golf buddies and I up-sold him on what he ordered and he said ‘come talk to me, I think you’d be great in sales.’ He was willing to work around my school schedule, so I went to work for him and started out as a sales person at the dealership and worked my way up from a sales person to a finance manager to a finance director to a desk manager to an ASM, which is an assistant sales manager. I’ve been a GSM, which is a general sales manager, and now I’m a GM, which is the general manager. I’ve also worked on the corporate side and right before I came here I was working for Orr Auto Group as the corporate finance director over all 30 stores within the dealership.

What does a normal day look like for you?

MB: I get up and sit out on my patio and have a cup of coffee at about 5 a.m. Then my daughter wakes up — I have a 4-year-old daughter, Isabella — she wakes up at about 6 a.m. and I cook her breakfast, get her dressed and take her to school at First United Methodist. I’m at the office normally by 8 a.m. and every morning, when I first get here, I’ll give a sales meeting to the staff and try to get them ready for the day, I’ll contact customers, do phone calls, work on reports, go back to the service department, run service tickets. Time goes by every day so incredibly fast, not just because it’s busy but because I don’t feel like I’m at work. I have spent my entire career in the retail side of the automotive industry so, for me, coming to work doesn’t feel like I’m coming to a job; I really am coming to my other family. I have fantastic staff; we all get along and we’re a very family-oriented business. Since I have a daughter I’m very understanding with the staff. If they have something they need to go do for their children I encourage them to go, I encourage them to be there, I encourage them to go to the football games and not miss out on that time that they can spend with their families.

Typically, I get out of here when the last client leaves. I like to stay — not because I have to but because I want to. I like to shake everyone’s hand, I like to thank them for their business and I’ve fallen in love with the community. I’ve been very fortunate to have met so many nice people here, very genuine, nice people. I look at it as an opportunity, when I do stay here until 8-9 p.m., to meet someone new and to thank them for their business because without our clientele, we don’t have a business. Our clientele is the life blood of the entire dealership so we want to make sure our clients are taken care of.

What kind of personality must one have to do your job?

MB: You have to be extremely understanding and empathetic without being soft. I go back to the golden rule: I treat everyone the way I would like to be treated. I show everyone respect, but they also know that I mean business. We have a great time here — I’m all about having a great time at work, but when you’re at work, it’s time to work. I want (the staff) to feel like they’re a huge part of this store and I want them to continue in the success of the store. There is no dealership in business that can be successful without the success of their employees, so we really try to celebrate the success of the employees here.

What is the hardest part of your job?

MB: The hardest part of my job is forcing myself to go home. My daughter is my world and I love what I do and I’m passionate about what I do and I put so much energy into my career. The hardest part of my job is making sure that at a certain time or on a Saturday when my daughter has something going on, I turn it off. I am a single mother and being a single mother comes with learning how to multitask. When you have a position and you also need to play Barbies — I will get down on the floor and play Barbies. I don’t have much of a personal life just because I’m so busy but that’s OK, it’s really not a priority right now to me. My priority is making sure that my daughter is healthy and happy and has a relationship with Jesus and the other side is putting all my effort into making the store successful.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

MB: The most rewarding part of this position is a ‘thank you.’ It is incredibly rewarding, especially to have a client come in and say ‘I’ve been to 10 other stores and no one would give me the time of day.’ It gives me chills. It makes me so happy when I can help someone when maybe someone else wasn’t willing to help.

What do you do for fun in Hot Springs?

MB: Isabella and I, we have so much fun in Hot Springs. We’ve been to the putt-putt pirate ship several times and we live on Lake Hamilton so my daughter absolutely loves the lake. We are looking forward to purchasing our first pontoon boat so we can hopefully enjoy it by next spring. Being from Dallas and coming to this area, it is so incredibly nice to be able to enjoy the natural beauty. We’d only been here a few days from Dallas and my daughter said, ‘Mommy, there are so many trees here!’ If you’ve ever been to Dallas, it’s very metropolitan. Yes, we had trees, but there isn’t this type of natural landscape. It’s rewarding to me as a parent to see her blossom and start enjoying the things that she had never done in Dallas. We’ll sit on our patio and count the stars and things like that are just phenomenal.

What else do you want the readers to know about you and your business?

MB: We’re an incredibly family friendly business. We really want to strive to make sure everyone feels important when they walk through the door and that everyone has a pleasant experience. We are also all about football so we’re looking forward to the Arkansas games!
I’m very active in supporting military personnel, police, EMS, firefighters — of course, you’ve seen our ‘Back the Blue’ signs out front — that’s very dear to my heart. It’s very important to me that anyone that serves our country gets recognition for that. Anyone that basically puts others before their own, I have a huge amount of respect for. And we give every one of them — veterans, EMS, firefighters, police — they automatically get $500 off anything they want to buy because we appreciate their service. Anyone that’s willing to sacrifice their time, their energy, their life and put themselves on the line for anybody else deserves an extra discount. That’s the least we can do to say ‘thank you.’

Lindsey Wells

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September 15, 2016