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Liberty Ford comes in as 2nd place winner, large-company category: Top Workplaces 2018

June 17, 2018 GMT

Liberty Ford comes in as 2nd place winner, large-company category: Top Workplaces 2018

VERMILION, Ohio -- Michael Herrick grew up in the family business, but he never saw himself running Liberty Ford.

He had chosen to be a lawyer. Then a few years ago, his father, Jim Herrick, approached him about running the company. The entrepreneur, who started the business in 1980 with one dealership, was ready to retire.

The younger Herrick has been chief executive officer of the family business since 2015. He has no regrets about taking over the company that not only includes the first store in Vermilion, but also those in Aurora, Brunswick, Canton, Maple Heights and Parma Heights.

“I had never thought that I was going to do this,” he said. “But, we kind of looked at the options on the table of who would buy us and we were actually concerned about our people.

“I made the decision to hang up my hat as a lawyer and come and work in the car business because Dad and I were uncomfortable with how our people would be treated should we sell it to one of the larger conglomerates,” Herrick said.

It is this Herrick family value and business practice that has helped make Liberty Ford – which takes its name from Liberty Avenue, on which the first store is located – one of Northeast Ohio’s Top Workplaces. Liberty Ford placed second in the large-business category.

Lorenzo Martino, who has worked in sales and leasing in the auto group for 2 ½ years, said Herrick is not exaggerating about how he values employees. He was working at a moving company when Herrick recruited him. Martino said he was initially apprehensive about taking the position because he had never worked at a car dealership. However, he couldn’t resist Herrick’s offer of a chance at a career over staying in a familiar, but dead-end job.

“They took me under their wings,” he said. “They teamed me up with one of their mentors. They trained me. It was almost like an apprenticeship.”

Today, Martino says he is among the top salespeople in the company. He said deciding to take the job at Liberty Ford “changed his life.”

“I have made more in 2 ½ years here than I made in the 10 years at the moving company,” he said. “That is a fact. I take care of my mom. I adopted my niece with my sister’s passing.”

Herrick said his father served as his role model for how to treat employees.

“He had had a perfectly restored 1968 Shelby GT500,” the son said of his father’s classic Ford Mustang. “He worked for years to get it exactly back to all original everything. When the recession hit, as opposed to lay anybody off, he sold that car.

“That left a big impression on me,” Herrick said. “It said that it is a big responsibility taking care of that many people. You’ve got to put them first.”