Robert Morris, Park Place Motorcars Dallas general manager, is a humble guy. In fact, he’d rather talk about any of the other 345 team members at Motorcars Dallas rather than himself. He’s quick to point out that 52 have been with the company for more than 10 years; 40 have been there 15 - 20 years; 16 have 20 - 30 years tenure; nine have served 30 or more years, and two people have been with Park Place for more than 40 years.
“Clearly, we’re doing something right,” said Morris, who recently hit the 30-year mark. “Great people, great brand, great vision.”
Raised in Livermore, California, his family moved to Bedford, Texas, when he was in seventh grade.
“I was into sports and attended Trinity, which had, and still has, a great soccer team,” he says. “So, I engaged with the community right away and the transition was easy. Go, Trojans!”
As team captain, Morris led Trinity High School in Euless to numerous championships, which speaks to an early flair for his refreshingly humble leadership style. Around the same time, he and a buddy started a landscaping business and sweated out a few Texas summers. A client suggested he might enjoy a cooler job in the automotive wholesale industry.
“I started as a porter and general go-fer, then learned how to do appraisals and look critically at paintwork and mechanical conditions,” he says. “Then I hit the road driving high-line cars all over the country and attending auctions from New York to California. It was great fun to take side trips to visit national parks and watch the seasons change. Great experiences.”
One of his favorite customers was Park Place Motorcars Dallas.
“I’d buy used vehicles off the backlot and saw right away that Park Place was a really good company with great people,” he says. Friendships with team members led to a job offer as a pre-owned sales consultant at Motorcars Dallas on Oak Lawn Avenue in 1991.
His motivation was personal as well as professional, since he’d gotten married in 1989. “Being gone three weeks out of every month was a challenge, so the stability of Park Place was ideal,” he says.
He rose through the ranks, becoming pre-owned manager in 1994, and in October 1999 he transferred to the Park Place Motorcars Mid-Cities store in Bedford where he was named General Manager in 2000. Then, in 2005, he was named GM of Park Place Motorcars Dallas, the company’s flagship facility on Lemmon Avenue.
“Frankly, we all wondered how we were going to fill up this massive 11-acre area,” he laughs. “But it wasn’t too long before we were looking for more space, so I guess we were doing something right.”
Mercedes-Benz certainly thinks so. The manufacturer has given their coveted “Best of the Best” award to the Dallas store an astonishing 13 times. He’s confident of success because his business management philosophy is simplicity itself.
“It’s a cliché, but it really is all about the people,” he says. “I’ve always felt that I needed to surround myself with people who are smarter than me, people who inspire and make everyone better. I think we’ve done that.”
While Robert spends a great deal of time at the Dallas dealership, he and his wife Dana live near Grapevine Lake. “Dana definitely makes me a better person,” he cheerfully admits.
Which brings us to the “how did you meet” story.
“Back in 1985, I played on a league soccer team in Bedford sponsored by a local restaurant,” he recalls, “and we’d head there after games and practices. One night, this really pretty waitress came out the kitchen door with a loaded tray. Our eyes met and she took an involuntary step back. I was speechless and told the guys, ‘I think she’s the one.’ She told several other waitresses, ‘I think he’s the one.’ We talked, then talked some more and that was it for both of us. Kind of crazy, but true.”
Thirty-two years later, they’re still going strong. They share similar interests in anything outdoors. They’re avid hikers at Texas’ Big Bend National Park, and they went on what he calls “a dream trip” to southern Alaska’s Chugach Mountains. He loves to hunt and fish and just enjoys being outside.
Speaking of relationships, Morris reflects on a quote from John C. Maxwell about business leadership that he greatly admires: “Your ability as a leader will not be judged by what you have achieved personally, or even by what your team accomplished during your tenure. You will be judged by how well your people and your organization did after you were gone. Your lasting value will be measured by succession.”
“It’s about leaving a stronger set of people in your wake,” Morris says. “If I can help build that, then I’ll have done my job. Not that I’m going anywhere anytime soon,” he adds with a chuckle.
Park Place Dealerships was founded in 1987. For the past 34 years, the company has been engaged in the community through its support of the arts, medical research, children’s advocacy and education. Park Place employs more than 1,400 members and operates eight full-service dealerships representing luxury brands including Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche, Volvo, Jaguar, and Land Rover. For more info, visit parkplace.com.