Updated 1 decade ago
The future belongs to those who prepare for it.
— Jim Moran
The recent passing of automobile icon, Jim Moran, is a loss for all those who knew him as well as for so many who did not know him. Being the humble, giving man he was, he had a knack for making people who met him feel good about themselves. For those who did not get an opportunity to meet him, his philanthropy benefits them in so many ways.
In 1939, after saving every penny he could, he put together $360 to purchase a Sinclair gas station that soon became the largest volume outlet in Chicago. After serving his country in World War II, Jim Moran returned to Chicago and sold his first car - a used 1936 Ford Coupe - off the apron of the Sinclair station for $275. By 1946, he had established a Hudson dealership and Courtesy Motors became the largest in sales volume within one year. He was the first ever to use TV for advertising automobiles and became known as “Jim Moran the Courtesy Man.” People still come up to me and ask me if Jim Moran is the same man that they remember from Chicago.
In 1961, he was the first and only automobile dealer to be featured on the cover of TIME magazine. In 1966, he left Chicago for health reasons (he was diagnosed with terminal cancer) and moved to South Florida to retire. Jim luckily beat the 10% chance he was given to survive and returned to the car business and his relationship with Toyota eventually began. He formed Southeast Toyota (SET) which became the world’s largest independent distributor of Toyotas. Additionally, he expanded nationally into automotive services such as World Omni Financial Corp., which is now one of the largest automotive finance companies in the nation.
With more than 4,600 associates (he never called his staff employees), his company, JM Family Enterprises, Inc., is an $11.1 billion diversified automotive company ranked by Forbes as the 18th-largest privately held company in the U.S. For nine consecutive years, JM Family has been ranked by FORTUNE® as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.
Everyone in his organization referred to him as the “Boss.” However, he never saw himself in that way as he always tried to work with people rather than having associates work for him.
While he was an automobile icon (inducted in 2005 into the Automotive Hall of Fame, the highest place of honor in the international motor vehicle industry), he was also a charitable icon. He realized early on that if our State was to be great, people had to step forward and give back to the community. There are so many charitable causes that he assisted from Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale to his Youth Automotive Training Center (a school he started for kids that most people have given up on). In 1995, he funded the 3,000-seat auditorium at the Times-Union Center in Jacksonville for the Performing Arts. That same year, he founded the Jim Moran Institute (JMI) for Global Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at Florida State University.
He funded JMI knowing that entrepreneurs needed help and frequently just could not afford it. His dream was to have a program in place that entrepreneurs could go for great assistance to make their businesses better at no charge. Since 1995, JMI has directly assisted more than 4,000 entrepreneurs.
I have been lucky enough to work with Jim Moran for twelve years. A lot of wealthy donors give money to charitable causes and then just walk away. This was not the Jim Moran way. While he did give the money, he had high expectations of how these funds were to be spent in order to maximize their impact on people in need. Whenever JMI needed something, he was always there to help. I cannot remember a time requesting something of him and not receiving it.
Every year he has a large golf tournament called the Jim Moran Classic that benefits his Youth Automotive Training Center. After I had been in my job for two or three years, I went to this function and saw Jim Moran. I walked over and said, “How are you, Mr. Moran?” He leaned over to me and said, “Jerry, my friends call me Jim!” I then just said, ‘Yes, Mr. Moran.” He was a very special man and so many people felt privileged just to be in his presence.
Every year he took our Entrepreneurial Award winners on the Gallant Lady for an evening cruise. He was always the consummate host and made everyone feel that he was so grateful that they could just come and join him.
When I was at his “Celebration of Life” service everyone in attendance had their own “Jim” stories. However, what was common through them all was his genuine care and concern for each person he interacted with.
Like so many others, I will miss this icon of a man.
Jerry Osteryoung is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at Florida State University. He is also the Director of the Entrepreneurship Program at FSU and Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute of Global Entrepreneurship. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 850-644-3372.