Tasca Jr. offers 'keys' to good business at Hendricken
Members of the Bishop Hendricken Business Club got a firsthand glimpse into the workings of a successful, local and family-operated business as they hosted Carl Tasca Jr., grandson of the popular car dealership’s founder, Bob Tasca Sr., on Tuesday morning.
Tasca Jr., a graduate of the Hendricken class of 2000, humorously broke the ice by ensuring that the few dozen students in attendance understand that he didn’t consider himself an authority on any aspect of business.
“I’m not an expert on anything, you can ask my wife, but I have had exposure to entrepreneurship, marketing, management, staff and human resources and production management – all sorts of stuff,” he said. “The car business is a collection of unique personalities and unique skillsets.”
Still, Tasca Jr. indeed had a lot to say, zipping through a wide variety of topics and stories throughout a nearly 40-minute speech.
He started by relaying a little of the story of his grandfather, who overcame many obstacles to open the first Tasca Ford dealership in Bristol back in 1953. That hard-fought accomplishment, however, didn’t end well, as Hurricane Carol completely destroyed it just eight months after opening.
“It levels the dealership and actually almost kills him,” Tasca Jr. said. “There was a church across the street that he swam to, to not die. He was at the church watching his dream wash away.”
But neither that setback, nor the next – when his second dealership was taken by eminent domain as it sat on land that was to be turned into the new I-195 highway – could stop him, which Tasca Jr. reflected on.
“This was one of the pivotal moments of his life,” Tasca Jr. said. “He said, ‘I’m going to do it again, and I’m going to do it better. Because I’m smarter, and I’ve failed once, I’ve failed twice.”
Today, Tasca Automotive Group employs around 800 people and has dealerships in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut, including their flagship dealership in Cranston. Carl’s kids, though still young, make up part of the fourth generation of Tasca family members who may have a future in the business.
Although Tasca Jr. told the audience that running a dealership has never been more difficult, given the scale of operations required, the necessity of huge amounts of capital, the high level of competition and pressure – not to mention the approaching era of driverless cars and increasing use of ride sharing services – he also said that the core of the business has not changed.
“The key fundamental of my business is that it’s still a people business,” he said. “Fundamentally, my business is still I’m selling a human being iron, rubber and oil.”
That focus on people – whether they’re his co-owners, his father, his employees or his customers – Tasca Jr. said that focusing on building good relationships is an important pillar of any business.
“I can’t overstate how important it is for you as a business owner to have a personal connection with your people,” he said. “There’s something to be said for a personal relationship because the harsh fact of the matter is that, at any given time, they can go make more money elsewhere.”
Other business tips Tasca Jr. gave were to never be lazy, lean on mentors to help provide guidance and, perhaps most important, form a clear vision and source of professional inspiration that you can cultivate into a career.
“Find out what your passion is for a career, develop those skills and make it happen,” he said.
More important than money, Tasca Jr. said, was to find the work that makes you happy. Getting paid for the work is obviously necessary to maintain life and a family, he said, but only focusing on money was a path that he has observed leads only to unhappiness and a lack of true fulfillment.
“The people that chase the money, bounce around and move their families a couple times, they’re never happy. When your self-worth is defined by the size of the check you get, it’s never going to be enough and you’re never going to be happy,” he said. “I know a lot of guys – who make a lot more than I do – and they’re miserable because they don’t want to be doing it…I’d rather be the happy guy than the one who is miserable all the time. Because there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re in a dead-end job.”
Tasca Jr. urged all the students in the audience to really start to think about what they want to do, and begin to work on those talents earlier rather than later, because high school is a rare time in life where you have the freedom to do so without worrying about a heavy burden of too many other responsibilities.
“Because when you’re 45 or 50 and you’ve failed three or four times and you have three kids to feed, that’s not the time to start reinventing yourself. You guys are at a tremendous stage at your life,” he said. “You’re at that time where you can find out what your talents are and pursue it.”