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Values of late auto king Larry H. Miller remains driving force at his financing firm

Published November 18, 2016 5:36 pm

Top large company • Prestige Financial Services aims to do good for the community and its employees.
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Prestige Financial Services remains part of the empire Larry H. Miller built — in more ways than one.

From a business perspective, the Salt Lake City automotive-financing company meshes tightly with the rest of the late Utah magnate and former Utah Jazz owner's multimillion-dollar network of more than 80 car dealerships, movie theaters and other enterprises.

On a human level, the work culture at privately held Prestige Financial mirrors Miller's values of doing good in the world and treating others with compassion, a new poll suggests.



That approach has landed Prestige atop a 2016 list of large Utah companies ranked highly by employees as happy, satisfying and rewarding places to work, according to an in-depth study conducted by WorkplaceDynamics, a Pennsylvania-based research firm.

Prestige workers have, in fact, rated it among the region's best workplaces three years running.

"They treat you like family and really care about you and your personal growth," one employee told WorkplaceDynamics pollsters. "I have been with this company for 15 years, and I could not imagine working anywhere else."

Others at Prestige Financial offices, nestled among vast car lots and offices along 500 West near 1400 South, praised its caring, flexibility, sense of purpose and emphasis on learning — in a hard-driving atmosphere focused on results.

"The job is stressful, however, the atmosphere makes it easier to deal with the stress," another worker said in the anonymous survey. "Managers care. You are treated like a human being, not just another employee."

Many spoke gratefully of an ability to work their way up in the company and of special personal gestures by Prestige Financial and its president, Bryant Henrie, a top executive with the Larry H. Miller Group of Cos., who says he has long considered Miller a role model.

On a recent weekday, the 58-year-old Henrie dug into his desk drawers and scooped out scores of thank-you cards quietly left for him through the years.

"I get out of this so much more than I give," he said. "It just turns out that way when you stay in tune with the way the owners want things to happen."

The president said he, too, emphasizes respect and showing colleagues that they are valued. Henrie commonly closes work conversations by saying, "You're the best." Much like athletes with the Jazz, he said, his employees are all on the same team.

"Everybody is equal," Henrie said. "They just play different positions."

For his part, the son of a Richfield car dealer started in sales at the Owen Wright Oldsmobile Cadillac dealership in Midvale in 1982. Miller bought the business five years later. Henrie advanced at the dealership from finance manager to general manager before getting promoted to Larry H. Miller Group of Cos.' Automotive Management Group in 1995.

He worked three doors down from Miller for 10 of his 14 years there, a period that saw the company's dealership portfolio swell from 19 to 42. The bighearted Jazz owner was more than a mentor, the CEO remembered, and heavily influenced colleagues with his persona and style.

Miller, Henrie said, "just went to work every day" and usually kept his generosity behind the scenes. He lived by mission statements and thrived on teaching company values — hard work, stewardship, service to others and enriching lives.

Henrie said he took one of Miller's many mottoes in particular to heart: "I don't mind getting big. I just don't want to act big."

Eight months after Miller died in 2009 of complications from diabetes, his eldest son, Greg Miller, asked Henrie to take over at Prestige. He agreed on the spot, he recalled, "because I always knew they'd be fair."

"I don't have to go anywhere else," Henrie said, "because all these values and principles parallel my own values and principles."

The company has grown to nearly 575 employees, up from 249 when Henrie took over. Just as crucially, turnover has dropped since 2009 from 60 percent yearly to about 20 percent.

This spring, Prestige will move to a newly built 130,000-square-foot office in Draper, with plenty of amenities, including a fully equipped cafeteria and rooms devoted to wellness, games and quiet time.

"Our thought was, 'How can we create a community with that facility?' " Henrie said. "My devotion is to the employees. If they don't do their jobs, I fail."

The employees do their jobs — and do their best. Why not? After all, many survey respondents say it's the "best place" they've ever worked.

Though the Larry H. Miller Group of Cos. has evolved since Miller died, his family members still fill top positions, with his widow, Gail, as owner and chairwoman and sons Greg, Steve and Bryan on the board of directors.

The family's caring legacy, Henrie said, has not changed.

"They are about so much more than just an honest day's work for an honest day's pay," he said. "It's been much, much deeper than that for 30 years now."

tsemerad@sltrib.com

Twitter: @TonySemerad —

Larry H. Miller Group of Cos. key values

Protect the legal, financial and moral well-being of the company.

Be a student. Be a teacher. Be a leader.

Have a little fun. Make a little money. Take care of the customer.

Remember, our business is a means to an end.

Go about doing good until there's too much good in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

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