Posted: May 01, 2008
Athena Award finalist: Lisa Schomp
Owner of Ralph Schomp Automotive is modest about her success and charitable work — and comfortable in a pair of work bootsBy Jennie Dorris
Lisa Schomp has the spacious corner office of Ralph Schomp Automotive and is the leader of the perennially No. 1 ranked ColoradoBiz woman-owned business. But Schomp still sports casual shoes today — brown work boots covered with dust from the construction site of her new 70,000-square-foot BMW showroom in Douglas County.
Schomp’s attitude toward her successes remains as humble as her boots, which stems from her first job at the dealership, where she started at age 19.
"My dad hired me to push the coffee cart with doughnuts up and down Broadway. I wore a miniskirt and a halter top," says Schomp, who has been lauded as an Athena Award finalist this year by the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce. Her new dealership is tentatively set to open in September.
While she describes her first job as "humiliating," she says that experience and her subsequent work with the service, parts and sales departments gave her an appreciation for the inner working of a dealership.
Now that she sits in the corner office, she says the respect she earned working her way up the ranks helps her as a woman business owner.
"Women have to run faster and jump higher. I learned that we can never be a member of the boys’ club," she says.
Schomp also learned that the boys’ club included her father. Not until she had been working for him for 15 years and after he fell into bad health did he finally give her his blessing.
"He called me to his hospital room, and said he knew he had never told me, but that he thought I could really succeed at this business," she says.
Schomp grows teary as she remembers it. "He died just 20 minutes later."
Schomp has a different male relationship in the office now — her husband, who is the general manager.
"We didn’t set any ground rules when we decided to work together — which is a great testament to how well we’re matched," she says, calling him the "accountant" and herself the "visionary."
Schomp’s family grew at the dealership. After she had her first son, Aaron — now 24 and her employee — she didn't have time for a maternity leave.
"The day after he was born I brought him into the office, and set him in a box," says Schomp, who has three children. Schomp was nominated for the Athena Award by longtime friend Judy Taylor, editor of Denver Woman magazine.
"We met in the ‘80s, and even then we were talking about the growing women’s market — she has recognized the women’s market is powerful in both consumer and societal ways," Taylor says.
Schomp remembers their friendship starting differently.
"I felt like the little chick following around the momma," she remembers. "Judy was always giving me words of encouragement."
Taylor praises Schomp for initiating the "One Price, No Hassle" program, eliminating the negotiating process of buying a car.
"She knows who comes in, and what her customer base is. She’s got a lot of loyal customers, many of whom are women," Taylor says. "She makes sure you’re comfortable when you go in."
Schomp says the "One Price" idea took her two years to implement — and at the launch meeting, 80 percent of her sales staff resigned on the spot.
"I was scared to death," Schomp says. "But we hired people who weren’t necessarily sales people to fill their positions — real estate people and teachers were selling cars. And our business increased 80 percent."
Taylor also praises Schomp for her community involvement, citing the dealership’s involvement with Alive at 25, a teen education program about driving, as well as after-prom events and reading programs.
"If there’s anyone that deserves this, it’s Lisa because she’s always so quiet about what she does," Taylor says. "She’s never been out there tooting her own horn."