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Profile of:“I’d accomplished everything I could at the store. I loved working with the people.”
– Step Jones
By John L. Seitz – Courier Managing Editor
Not everyone would walk away from a very high paying job to throw his own money into a startup venture designed to help other people build their businesses (not to mention make their lives better in the process). Even fewer would attempt such a transition in the middle of a term as the president of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce.
That’s exactly what Step Jones did this year, leaving Beverly Hills BMW, for which he served as general manager for seven years, building it from a failed money-losing store to one of the most successful franchises in the country.
At the same time, he also stepped away from its parent company, Sonic Automotive America’s second largest auto retailer, where he had served a stint as its regional VP.
“I’d accomplished everything I could at the store and certainly loved working with the people,” Jones said. “But my part in the success of that business can be attributed to the application of techniques for employee training, team building, and personal motivation I’d been developing during a number of years of research. It’s been my dream to start a company to not only share those techniques, but also expand on the core concepts to help individual people succeed, and businesses grow.”
Now Jones’ new company, Life Motivations, Inc. is busy creating its first round of products from offices at Wilshire Blvd. and Roxbury Dr., along with planning for a December 17 breakfast seminar at the Beverly Hilton that will kick off a slate of seminars in California, Nevada, and Arizona during the first half of 2005 before moving on to the rest of the country the second half of the year.
Life Motivations’ first DVD training project, entitled “Success Philosophy”, starts shipping next week. On this video project, Jones presents the processes for success in a multi-part format so these rather complex concepts are easily digestible.
“So much of the motivation business has become about quick fixes,” Jones says. “Everybody’s looking for $1 million in 30 days, or the instant pill to drop 25 lbs. overnight. What we teach is how to build a foundation for success in an individual’s life or in a corporate setting as a means of getting everyone on the same page so their businesses will grow as people work together for their mutual success.”
Jones’ philosophy is also detailed in his new book, I Am Just Like You, which goes to press in a few weeks. “The title sums up the basic message. If I can do it, anyone else can succeed in whatever they set their mind to do,” stated Jones. “And that doesn’t just mean making money. We define success as accomplishingsomething important to you.”
The book’s moinicker seems more apropos when you know a bit more about Jones background.
Growing up on a chicken hatchery in the tiny town of La Porte, Indiana, most people wouldn’t dream of becoming Beverly Hills’ “executive of the year”, and then starting his own new BH-based business.
For Jones, those were just a few pieces of an intriguing puzzle which encumbers a life of immense achievements combined with his share of failures, beforefinally figuring out just what makes people who triumph tick.
According to Jones, he was flat broke 12 years ago after owning and failing with a Volvo dealership in Orange County. “One thing I realized right away, however, was that nobody else was going to do it for me so I had better make it happen myself.”
But let’s start at the beginning. Jones spent his youth in that small farming town raising and caring for hundreds, if not thousands, of chickens. During this period, he strangely enough became enamored with the study of philosophy. When it came time to go to college, he headed 2,000 miles west to the La Jolla campus of the University of California San Diego which was nationally noted for that major.
“Naturally, when I was going to school back in the early 1970s and studying philosophy, my peers would ask me if I was playing with a full deck. What would I do with such a worthless degree? All of them said I should study business, or engineering, or something else with a practical use in the modern world.
Once out of college, it didn’t take Jones long to figure the path to monetary success would never be in chicken farming, so with his degree in philosophy in hand, he took a job in that most philosophical of professions - selling cars. “My grandfather had done okay in the automobile business so it seemed like a good place to start.”
For the next decade, he thoroughly learned the ropes of this up and down profession - selling on the floor, supervising mechanics at the back of the house, and learning the bank packages available for customers. All of these facets eventually led him to become general sales manager of Center BMW in Van Nuys.
“But always having an entrepreneurial streak, I felt ready to take the next big step and bought my own dealership, Williams Volvo in Buena Park,” he said. “What a mistake that was. Eight years later when the economy turned sour, everything seemed to go wrong. I was out the window and went back to selling cars for somebody else just to survive. Thank God my boss at the time knew it wasn’t the right thing for me and fired me.”
It was then Jones made the decision to completely turn his life around and depend upon himself. He put the philosophy training into practice and developed what has now become the detailed process of “Success Philosophy”, with its core concept of the four dynamics, a multi-layered process that shows people how to identify the actions needed to succeed, create achievable plans for their goals, and build a strong foundation for their life. In this way they can take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.
“I wanted to see what could be accomplished in the future by setting up a methodical goal plan. This involved choice - whether I was open to make dramatic changes; and attitude - what kind of risk would I be willing to take to get there.’
Jones continued: “I then made a mental model of my own self image or, at least what I hoped it would be. The final was the tricky one - namely, eliminating failure and thereby increasing success by developing character, values and goals.
“It sounds a lot more complicated than it is and sure worked for me,” said Jones. “In fact, after getting over the trauma of losing my dealership and my shirt, by applying these principle in the last few years of my automotive career, I actually became what Merrill Lynch describes as ‘wealthy’. I also had the great fortune to meet and marry my wife, Marina, a rocket scientist at Boeing.” (The Jones’ have a four year old son, Chance.)
His career path found him taking over as center operator and the general managership of Beverly Hills BMW. While at the helm, he turned this former failing dealership into a retail powerhouse with $120 million in annual sales revenues. Its turnabout led to that company’s purchase by Sonic Automotive, a Fortune 300 member, and he soon became regional VP of the latter’s Los Angeles region operations responsible for 450 employees and $450-plus million in sales.
“When I’m asked what was responsible for this new prosperity at Beverly Hills BMW, it was a combination of many factors. First of all we had people willing to become part of a success team, endure the training and motivational programs, and be dedicated to customer satisfaction from every facet of the operation,” stated Jones, whose dealership was regularly saluted as a “center of excellence,” BMW’s highest award.
During his stint with Sonic Automotive, he introduced additional employee training and motivational innovations for BMW and other makes, all of which influenced the BH Chamber of Commerce to name him to its presidency earlier this year. (He is also on the boards of Maple Counseling Center and the Blind Children’s Center.)
“The City has turned the post-9/11 corner and our tourism seems to have returned stronger than ever,” Jones said. “Our merchants are already experiencing robust retail sales this holiday season. I’m so pleased to be part of the Beverly Hills business community.”
On August 1, Jones stunned that same community by announcing his resignation from Sonic Automotive and a quarter century of selling cars to form Life Motivations with television producer and marketing expert Victor Currie.
“We’d been collaborating on Step’s book for the last two years,” said Currie. “He called and said ‘let’s do it,’ so we both left our companies and hit the ground running.”
Hit the ground running is exactly what they did. Currie brought in two of his longtime collaborators to head up media production and internet development and e-commerce. Scott Robinson, who along with Currie produced Jones’ Beverly Hills BMW TV campaign shot in Italy and other locales, is the company’s VP of production, and John McRae, former director of technology at realtor.com is chief technology officer.
In addition to the about-to-be-released book and DVD, the company already has five more video projects in preproduction for early next year, along with four more books to be released in 2005 by its new publishing imprint, Life Motivations Press.
“I finally decided to practice what I preached about the four dynamics of ‘Success Philosophy’ including taking the risk to see if my own experiences might not help thousands of other persons by allowing them to achieve their dreams and increase their happiness.”
Jones did not pick an easy new profession. It is estimated there are already some 200,000 self-help tomes of every variety in libraries, bookstores, or on the internet. Such names as W. Clement Stone, Zig Ziglar, Og Mandino, Earl Nightingale, John Wooden, Tony Robbins, Deepak Chopra and many more contribute to the subject of personal achievement via the means of written works, tapes, and DVDs.
He divides these famed authors and speakers into two sectors: the “do it” group and the “be it” group. Each tries to help people to improve some aspect of their life. What Jones and his team are attempting is to help people create a solid foundation they can build upon, rather than a quick fix or the latest fad.
“Transcending political, social, and religious boundaries, “Success Philosophy” gives us the strategies and tools to build a strong foundation for success throughout our lives,” Jones continues.
“As Life Motivations becomes a vibrant company, one of our objectives is to make people understand there are no quick, magic bullets to become wealthy, happy, and successful. These days everyone looks for instant satisfaction and gratification whether it be heavily advertised and diversified special products like CortiSlim for weight loss or Enzyte for certain other matters.”
Jones explained these radio and TV commercials are so powerful that people are motivated to run out and order bottle upon bottle. It reminds him of what his great-great-grandfather might have experienced when the medicine man pulled up in his covered wagon during the 1870s. Truly, the “fountain of youth” is still hidden.
“Our pathway doesn’t take minutes, hours or 30 days. It may involve months or even years of comprehensive planning, hard work and follow through to make financial and personal dreams come true. At Life Motivations we think there still is a place for the real stuff. It is not easy but doable, and America gives us the platform where any of us can make it happen.”
He credits Napoleon Hill as the father of the country’s pop success philosophy as a major role model in his own success story. Hill had been commissioned by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to write a 1928 book called The Law of Success as a salute to the individual achievement by many self-made Americans. Like Carnegie himself, the persons he interviewed made a lot of money that was not inherited and the same thing could be within the grasp of any individual American.
In the four months since the company’s founding, Jones has delivered a dozen motivational speeches to the executives and staffs of large corporations and smaller firms. “It is always interesting to see the reaction of the audience at the beginning and end,” he states. “Sometimes as you start speaking, there is an air of outright hostility - such as: ‘why am I being subjected to this torture’ or ‘I’m already successful so do I really need this’. Usually, when we finish the talk, the mood is entirely positive so our ideas seem to hit home.”
The topic of his December 17 Beverly Hilton breakfast seminar will be “Get Through the Holidays and Succeed in the New Year.” He will be joined by Erica Watson-Currie, Ph. D speaking on "Heuristics for the New Year: Setting Your Decision Making Principles for Self Expansion."
Jones and Currie plan to build Life Motivations not only with motivational lectures but through the production of DVDs, books, audio CDs, plus seminars and monthly news letters.
Another aspect some may find different as a business model is that all the basic information on how to apply “Success Philosophy” will be available for free access on the lifemotivations.com website.
“Step didn’t start this company just to make money,” Currie points out. “We’re really committed to helping people better their lives. Hopefully, we can get some useful information out to people who may be unable to afford all the products we’ll have now.
“We hope they will have enough success to have and then maybe come back for some of the products later. And if not, that’s okay too, because giving back is a key part of success.”
As Jones points out: “Our daily lives move so fast, as society expands with new and exciting discoveries. What we learn today may be different tomorrow so there is a constant need to continue growing, educating, and understanding the unique opportunities to make our lives special.
“Everybody is an individual and you can’t model yourself after anyone else,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important to help people develop themselves as complete, well rounded human beings.”
It would seem there are more than a few people who would like to model themselves after Step Jones and what he has accomplished for the community at large, other individuals and himself.
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