As the starting quarterback for North Texas in the fall of 1978, Jordan Case (’81) knew he was “an expected leader,” and he looked forward to leading the Eagles to victories.
During a game against New Mexico State, however, he became frustrated when he threw an interception toward the end of the first half. Coach Hayden Fry took him aside.
“He said, ‘You’re playing out of character,’” Case recalls. “He had the ability to get into your head and express what you were feeling, and he knew how to take the talent he had and build a structure around it. He taught me the value of teamwork and self-motivation.”
Case remembered those lessons. Two years later, he had become one of the most accurate passers in the university’s history.
Later, as “quarterback” of his business — Park Place Lexus auto dealership with locations in Plano and Grapevine — Case put together a winning staff that led to Park Place receiving the 2005 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in the small business category.
Sales and satisfaction
Named for the secretary of commerce who served from 1981 to 1987, the Baldrige Award is the nation’s highest presidential honor for performance and organizational excellence. It is given to businesses for outstanding leadership, planning and results.
The Baldrige Award’s panel of judges selected Park Place Lexus — the only automobile dealership ever to win the award — for ranking sixth in sales and fifth in profitability nationally and for having a satisfaction rating of 98 percent among its customers, who are called “clients.”
The business was also cited for reducing turnover among its 420 employees, all known as “members.” Since 1994, the annual turnover rate has decreased from 67 percent to less than 25 percent.
The company was one of the first dealerships to have its own human resources department. Each member receives classroom and on-the-job training, coaching and mentoring.
Seeking to understand the members’ jobs, Case can often be found driving vehicles into the car wash, talking with the repair shop technicians, standing at the front door with the valets and having lunch with new hires.
“The best thing about my job is the people, but the worst thing is bad attitudes,” he says. “I never want any member to dread coming to work.”
The best members receive awards at an annual dinner, which is attended by 90 percent of the members. The awards are far more than appreciation plaques. One couple was sent on the honeymoon they’d never had, and a single mother and her children were given a trip to Arizona to visit her parents, whom they hadn’t seen in two years.
Case hardly thought he would become president of a car dealership when he was growing up in Seagoville. A football player since third grade, he dreamed of playing for the Dallas Cowboys.
He received an athletic scholarship to Sul Ross State University in Alpine, but he left after one year when the university cut scholarships. Case transferred to North Texas in 1976 to major in radio, television and film.
“I had to try out for the football team and try to win an athletic scholarship, since my parents didn’t have the money to send me to college,” he says. “I’m always thankful that Coach Fry gave me a chance. He was the best coach I had.”
Case finished his career with the Eagles with 2,608 passing yards, ranking as one of the university’s top 10 all-time quarterbacks. He was chosen for the Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001.
Case became one of the NFL’s top 150 draft prospects in 1980 but wasn’t selected by any team after NFL doctors discovered a birth defect in his spine during a pre-draft examination.
However, the Ottawa Rough Riders in the Canadian Football League drafted him, and he was named Rookie of the Year his first season.
A new plan
In 1982, a spinal injury ended his football career. Case moved to Dallas and tried to find a job in sports broadcasting until a friend suggested he work with him at a car dealership.
“I said, ‘Are you crazy?’ Then I said, ‘OK, but if I’m going to sell cars, I will sell luxury cars,’” Case says. “I never considered myself as a salesman, but as a consultant. I had a perception of car salesmen, and I knew I could do the job differently.”
He was hired by Sewell Village Cadillac in Dallas and stayed there for nine years before moving to Park Place Lexus in 1991. He became the business’s general manager in 1994 and president in 1998.
Receiving the Baldrige Award is a goal fulfilled from several years of work, but Case is still planning bigger things, including adding a café, putting green, children’s playroom and members’ exercise room to the Plano location. It will be the 10th expansion since 1994.
“For me, each year is a new strategic plan,” Case says. “A football team is only as good as its last game, while a car dealership is only as good as its last month.”