Lisa began her career in the automotive business when there weren’t any women in the business outside of office personnel. “Women were sex objects and were considered non-persons. There are still very few women in the industry and it’s still a very hard industry for women to break into.”
She took over the dealership in 1988, and has been running it for over twenty years. “It’s my career. I’ve had a wonderful time with it. I’ve had a lot of success and I’ve done a lot of things differently than most other people.” Being a female gave her a lot more freedom than men in the business. “I’ve never been “one of the guys” which makes it very lonely in business, but not being “one of the guys” gave me the freedom to be different.” Schomp Automotive was the first one to offer “One Price” and that caused a lot of controversy in the business. “The other dealers never felt it would work and thought people really liked to negotiate. It was scary for the first eighteen months but in the next year and a half our business increased eighty percent.”
Lisa has a bag full of stories about being a woman in a predominately male business environment. “I was the number one dealer for GM Oldsmobile and I walked into a regional meeting where they were doing a roundtable discussion. The head GM guy took one look at me and said, “Is there something I can do for you, honey? Are you looking for your boss? Which agency are you with?” He asked me what I was doing there. I told him I was invited to be at the meeting because of what I do. He said, “Just what is it that you do?” I told him I owned Ralph Schomp Oldsmobile. It was hysterical. You could have heard ice cracking. His only response, “Oh.” They can’t ignore me anymore. I’ve been here too long.”
Another of Lisa’s stories took place in Flint, Michigan. “I was the second girl to graduate from General Motors Institute (GMI) Dealer’s Son School. and spent six weeks in Flint. I made a bundle carrying Coors beer in my suitcase and selling it to all the guys.”
The youngest middle child in a family of six children, Lisa says she was in trouble all of the time. “My sister, the other middle child, was “little miss perfect” and got straight A’s, while I was in trouble all the time, grounded twenty-four hours a day, I couldn’t do anything right. My grades were terrible.”
Lisa tells a delightful story about the way she began her career. “When I left high school I went immediately to work, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do.” She went down to the City and County of Denver and took the Civil Service test and got a job as a clerk for Denver Health and Hospitals where she went to work at Denver General Hospital. She did that for a year and found that civil service was not her forte so she went to work in the restaurant industry. “I realized that I didn’t want to take orders from anybody, I wanted to work for myself and I also wanted to make a lot of money. My next question was how to accomplish my goal.” She knew her brothers and sisters had never shown any interest in the automobile business and her father had this great business and was doing quite well. Her grandfather had always talked about business to her so she put what her father did together with the stories that her grandfather had told her and said, “Well, why can’t I do that?” Her father was always concerned about her and was continually asked her what she was going to do with her life. Lisa called him one day and said, “Why don’t I come to work for you.” She laughs as she remembers, “ You never saw such a look of pain on his face. After he thought about it, he said, “Yeah, I guess you could come to work in the office.” I replied, ‘No, I don’t want to work in your office and marry your sales manager. I want to work for you and become a car dealer.’ He said he would have to think about it. I reminded him that he had told me that I could do and become whatever I wanted to, if I wanted to work hard to get there. What could he say? He told me we could try it; that I would have to start at the bottom. I started me out as a coffee greeter girl, what GM called a “mini wait server.” I walked up and down Broadway. It was my job to get donuts and coffee for the customers that were waiting in their car for service. I worked through the different departments and became a salesperson and learned what it was like to be in “no man’s land.” When you were the boss’s daughter, no one talked to you and on top of that I was a girl.”
Lisa’s twenty-one year old son, Aaron, has wanted to be a car dealer since he was four years old. He recently graduated from Northwood University in Automotive Management and will soon be the fourth generation running the Schomp dealerships.
Do you have a favorite childhood story? What is it? The story I enjoy the most is about the first time I ever ditched school. I was sitting in a fast food place across from East High School and someone said, “Your dad’s in the parking lot, run!” Being the person I was, I said to myself, ‘Oh no, I’m not going to let him see that he’s got me afraid.’ I got up and walked over to the car and said, ‘What do you want?’ And he said, “Now, nothing. You didn’t run; you didn’t try to lie to me; you came out here, and I didn’t like your attitude, but you faced me.” After that he looked at me in a completely different way. For the first time, I think he actually trusted me, at least half way. It was a good bonding moment in our lives.
What’s important in your life? My family and my reputation
What’s in your future? A happy retirement with my husband
What are your volunteer activities? We do a lot of charities, mostly for the schools and the school foundations. The best place to touch all children are the schools. The public school system is where you’ll find the most “at risk” kids. That’s where my interest lies. If I can help one kid, I’m happy. I do an event every year for Children’s Hospital. We have one sale a year and all the money goes to Children’s Hospital. Everything else is for the schools. We set up grants for teachers and we do a lot for practical life skills.
Which social event is your favorite? Douglas County Golf Tournament, which I sponsor. I’m out of town so much and when I’m in town, I’m at home with my family.
Favorite restaurant? Doug Arrangos in Beverly Hills formerly Elpaseo and Table 6 in Denver
Who is the most interesting celebrity you have ever met? My mother
If your life were a movie, whom would you want to play your part? Melanie Griffith. She’s so soft. She’s vulnerable but hard as nails.
Do you have any pets? Three dogs
When you move, what will your home tell its next owner about you? I care
What word describes you best? honest
How would you like others to describe you? Honest
What was your first job? Ward clerk for Denver Health & Hospitals
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Trouble following through if something gets boring
What trait do you most deplore in others? Game playing
What is your greatest indulgence? Going to bed on time and getting sleep
What type of clothes do you like? Earth mother dresses, the big floppy dresses
What is the best gift you have ever given? No clue
What is the best gift you’ve received? My husband
What or who is the greatest love in your life? My husband
What is your current state of mind? Tired but energized
What do you consider your greatest achievement? My children
What is your most treasured possession? My family
What is the quality you most like in a man? A team-mate
What is the quality you most like in a woman? Understanding
Favorite books/writers? I love to read and read almost anything. Airport novels are great, anything with intrigue and Tom Clancy
What is the best advice you have ever received? To thy own self be true
Do you have a motto? The same
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you? It’s sick humor and shouldn’t be repeated
If you could come back in another lifetime, what/who would you like to be? And why? A dog in a park.
What are your hobbies? Other interests? Reading, golf, relaxing, building houses and travel
Who is your mentor? My husband
What would you most like to be remembered for? Being fair and honest
If you could go anywhere and do anything, what would it be? Travel around the world with no time table, eat anything I want and have someone to arrange everything
What do you like about the town you live in? It’s home and it’s familiar
Hope all is well with you and your family
My name is Dave Chandler. I just wanted to say thank you for all you do. Meeting someone with the same vision, drive and dedication to service in serving our communities and children is refreshing to say the least.
Thank you for your commitment. I have added you to my Round Table of Mentors.
I look forward to feeding as many children as possible each year through Feeding America and Project Feeding Kids.
I'd Love to be a part of your family. Feel free to call on me anytime. I am relocating back to the Denver area in the next week to find a vehicle for philanthropic endeavors.
Again, thank you and Aloha,
Met when we were young. Just visited with Rick Woryz when he visited Colorado. Revisited the Monte Carlo days.
Just saying HI.
You're fantastic. I had so much material to work with for this interview, I could have written a book. You definitely know how to put "fun" into everyday life!
Phyllis St. John