At Warren Henry Automotive, Dave Zinn, 79, has assumed the role of advisor to both his son and grandson, spending four days a week at the corporate office. Dave established his family in the car business when he opened the first Toyota dealership in Florida. Years later, when his son, Warren Henry, 57, showed interest he bought him a Volvo dealership, which led to more. Today, Warren Henry Auto Group has seven dealerships — Infiniti, Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo, Lamborghini and Fisker in the Miami area and Subaru/Volvo in Ocala. In an industry where long-time family dealerships have been folded into big operating companies, Larry’s arrival cemented Warren Henry Auto as one of the independents.
From a young age, Larry set a goal of learning the business from the ground up, trying to earn respect, and to be mindful of the traditions and legacy of his father and grandfather. But, he understands that for the business to endure, it must stay ahead of competitors by embracing new strategies. Larry has created a social media presence for the company, building an online community for its customers to share information and write online reviews. Warren Henry says Larry arrived at the right time in the company’s evolution: “I don’t know how to sell to generations that are much younger than I am. I don’t know what turns them on. He brings young ideas. He understands technology and the manner in which people in his age group communicate and buy cars.”
Larry says he walks the line, trying to assert authority in some areas while backing down in others. “If I feel something is affecting the business, I jump in. But if it is a little thing, I just think, ‘I’ll have my time.’ In the end, I still work with family and some things I’ve just got to let be.”
Warren Henry says he has taken the same approach with Larry that his dad adopted with him: “My dad has always been a sounding board to go to for advice. I have learned so much from him and now I am able to take what I’ve learned from him and work with my son. I know what it was like to be the boss’s son.”
Like most longtime auto moguls, Warren Henry Auto has endured several business cycles, expanding and pulling back, opening dealerships and selling them off. Larry joined during the thick of the recession and watched how his dad made tough decisions to keep afloat. Dave Zinn says he enjoys seeing his grandson applying lessons and asserting his authority. Larry’s mandate will be different from prior generations. He’s charged with growing an existing business, rather than starting new dealerships. “I get opinions from the different generations, I respect those opinions, and pick my own version of what to do.”
Respect has been the key ingredient in successful third-generation businesses, particularly when differences arise. “You can’t take away emotions or sibling rivalry so you have to acknowledge and work through those issues and that takes a level of respect,” says Martin Luytjes, a professor of management and international business at Florida International University. Hispanic-owned family businesses have seen particular endurance. “In the Latin culture, family comes first and the family bond is valued, which is why those family businesses tend to be successful,” Luytjes says.