Matt Gade, Deseret News
SANDY — Becoming the leader of a highly successful family business empire can be a blessing and a curse.
It is difficult to meet expectations when you follow in the footsteps of a self-made, highly driven, larger than life personality known for exceptional business savvy as well as the occasional emotional outburst.
But there is opportunity in the challenge of developing your own leadership style while still staying true to the values established by the organization’s iconic founder, who also just happened to be your father.
Such is the life of Greg Miller, who for the past five-plus years has led the multibillion-dollar business enterprise started by family patriarch Larry H. Miller.
In July 2008, Greg Miller was named chief executive officer of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies, which included becoming CEO of the state's marquee sports franchise, the Utah Jazz.
Recently, Forbes magazine valued the Jazz at an estimated $535 million, generating approximately $131 million in revenue with an operating profit of about $17 million — making the Jazz the No. 17 most valuable franchise in the 30-team National Basketball Association.
Privately owned, the LHM Group comprises more than 80 businesses operating in 46 states with about 10,000 employees and total assets valued at $2.6 billion. The corporation includes 52 car dealerships, as well as finance, insurance, real estate, sports and retail properties generating annual overall revenues of approximately $4.3 billion, according to the company website.
In the years since Greg Miller became CEO, revenue and income for the LHM Group has more than doubled. Miller attributes the growth to a collaborative effort to streamline operational costs and increase efficiencies across all business entities.
“We’ve worked hard to make improvements wherever we can,” he said. As an example, he noted that in 2009 the automotive group was retaining about 73 percent of its bottom line.
“That means we were subsidizing (other businesses) with 27 percent of the net profit,” Miller said. “There were a lot of dollars going out of that big hole.”
To mitigate the problem, the company sold off unprofitable or marginally profitable stores to put its efforts into stores in which they could receive a better return.
“That is one way we have been able to maintain profitability,” he said. “In 2013, we retained 96 percent of our net profit.”
Playing to strengths
Miller said that overall growth has occurred within the various divisions of the LHM Group. The organizational chart includes Miller Automotive Operations, Total Care Auto, Prestige Financial Services, Miller Family Real Estate, Miller Sports Properties and Miller Retail Properties — all reporting to the LHM Management Corp.
Miller said since taking over, he has worked to help the corporation “play to its strengths” by building on the successes of its most profitable business segments.
“We’re going to make a concerted effort to identify what we do best and do more of it,” Miller said.
That's prompted the LHM Group to move away from businesses that were not long-term moneymakers despite numerous attempts to make them profitable.
Case in point: the Mayan Restaurant formerly located at Jordan Commons in Sandy. The establishment was a dream property of his late father, but, Greg Miller said, “It was a struggle from the time we opened it.”
“(My father) spent a lot of money in the theming and had a lot of fun bringing it to life, but when it came to operating it, we had a lot of difficulty making it work,” he said.
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