In 1996, a Phoenix woman and her husband purchased an automotive parts wholesaler by the name of Autohaus Phoenix, Inc. During the 10 years that followed, the couple transformed the company from a local distributor into an entirely internet-based retailer and wholesaler, distributing automotive parts to more than 115 countries under the name AutohausAZ.com.
But the real growth story began when Carolyn Lefebvre, president and CEO of AutohausAZ.com, purchased her husband’s 49 percent share of the business, claiming 100 percent ownership of the company.
“I bought him out when we got divorced in January of 2006,” Lefebvre says. “Since that time, we have grown by 317 percent (from $4.59 million in sales in 2006) to projected sales for 2012 of $17.0 million.”
Also, just two years after the buyout, the formerly highly-leveraged company had paid down every cent of debt on its books, internally financing all growth since that time.
And the company has experienced explosive growth. By 2011, AutohauAZ had outgrown its facilities and relocated to its current 51,000 square-foot home, nearly three times the size of the previous location.
In such a male-dominated industry, Lefebvre says that being a female-owned company has given AutohausAZ unique advantages that have aided its tremendous growth.
“I think more than anything, the woman ownership has helped build a corporate culture of people who care about one another and who want to help the company succeed — a close-knit group much like a family,” Lefebvre says. “It’s that close-knit team that’s really been the driving force behind our growth ever since we became 100 percent woman-owned.”
At AutohausAZ, there is a saying that “customer service is a company-wide commitment, not a department.” It is Lefebvre’s belief that while it is not easy to earn respect and trust from customers, it is much more difficult to get it back once you lose it. This commitment to the customer has helped the company far exceed industry standards for conversion and customer retention.
“We’re doing extremely well with our commitment,” Lefebvre says, “but we don’t rest on our laurels. We’re always striving to find areas in which we can improve.”
This caring attitude has also fostered incredible employee loyalty. The average tenure at the company is more than 12 years, a number which, Lefebvre notes, would be higher, were it not for the many positions added out of necessity during the past several years of growth. Lefebvre says she honestly does not remember the last time an employee left the company.
“In short, it’s our focus on quality and people at AutohausAZ that gives us our momentum,” Lefebvre says. “Truly caring about everyone on the AutohausAZ team builds employee loyalty which, in turn, helps us build customer loyalty and this is what ultimately fuels our success.”
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