First Person Singular: Joyce Motors president Susan Myers

Susan Myers, owner of Joyce Motors in Arlington, Va.
Susan Myers, owner of Joyce Motors in Arlington, Va. (Benjamin C. Tankersley)
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Sunday, June 13, 2010

My dad retired in '98, and my brother and other three sisters weren't interested, so here I am. I have a degree in accounting, and I wanted to be an artist. I taught some pottery classes, did some substitute teaching. I was a Girl Scout leader for 10 years, even started a camp. But I'd lived most of my life among women and kids.

I remember when I first took over: a woman in a man's world, my father's world. It was scary. There were times I'd just drive home in tears. I don't blame the guys. They were thinking: You don't know anything. You can't tell a fuel pump from a brake pad. You can't tell me anything. And I'd tell them: I know, I know. But I'm going to learn it. I'm not just going to sit back and write checks. I'm going to get into the nuts and bolts. And I'm going to bring in cookies, lots of cookies.

That didn't stop me from being terrified, but I didn't have a choice. I wasn't going to be the one to pull the plug on Joyce Motors. My grandfather started Joyce Motors 70 years ago. My dad spent his whole life here. Mothers and wives tend to fade into the background sometimes, or at least I did. But it was time to pull on the cowgirl boots and stand up for myself.

When someone says something gruff, I don't immediately say "I'm sorry" and shrink away, like I used to. I don't just nod my head and go along or ask my dad about every little thing, like I did when I started. And I've learned to stand my ground with him.

Two years ago, my fiance died suddenly. [Work] was the best distraction. I was broken, and I'd spend the day caught up in solving other people's problems. Every so often, I'd have to go in the bathroom and lose it for a minute. That's when it really started to sink in. It's not like I could just quit; I own the place.

I think a lot of women like seeing me here because they know I won't rip them off. I have the ability to calm people down. Being a teacher, you learn to be patient. You need that when talking to people about their cars. I'm the one that has to give them the bad news about what is often a very, very personal possession. My daughter is a teacher, too, and loves working here in the summer. I can hear the pride in her voice when she says "we" to customers. It's times like that when I'd look up at this picture of my grandfather hanging in the office and say, "I bet you never imagined this."

-- Interview by Amanda Long

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