Sykora followed in the footsteps of her father, Steve Smith, and grandfather, Bill H. Smith, who founded the original dealership, Slaton Motor Company, in Slaton, Texas, in 1952. “Watching them work together in the store while I was growing up made it feel like a career in the automotive industry was exactly what I was supposed to do,” she said.
After high school, Sykora began her journey in F&I (Finance & Insurance) at the family dealership, and she graduated from the NADA Academy in 1989. By 1993, she was ready to chart her own path and she purchased the business from her father.
As the Slaton location continued to grow and prosper, Sykora and her husband, Patrick, expanded their operation and opened the Ford Lincoln store in Levelland in 1999. They also added a Ford dealership in Plainview, Texas, to their portfolio, as well as a Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center in Levelland.
And the business certainly lives up to its name, as the Smith Auto Family currently employs the couple’s son Holden, daughter Nicole Campbell and son-in-law Tell Campbell.
“I was blessed to be raised in a car family, but also a family that held tight to tenets of faith, service and treating people fairly,” Sykora said. “From the beginning, I’ve loved working with customers one-on-one and learning the impact dealers can have on their community simply by providing superior products and services.”
Sykora has become a role model in a male-dominated industry and her expertise and leadership is greatly valued by automakers and the NADA. She has served on numerous boards for Ford, representing Greater Texas, and has held executive positions at NADA, including chair of the group in 2008. She currently chairs the NADA Foundation.
“I was honored to serve as chair during the financial crisis,” she said, as she worked tirelessly to navigate the new economic landscape and advocate for the domestic auto industry and dealers before Congress. In her present role at the NADA Foundation, Sykora is charged with addressing the need for skilled workers in the automotive industry and promoting the foundation’s new Workforce Initiative, which is designed to spark interest in service technician careers.
Sykora also supports the automotive program at South Plains College in Levelland, where she is a foundation board member. “As a company, we have donated several vehicles to the college’s automotive program, significantly improving the age of their internal fleet of vehicles for students and the applicability of their hands-on instruction,” she said.
In addition, Sykora is proud to give back to the communities where her dealerships are located. She currently is a contributor to the Weekend Snack Sack program in Slaton; Bill’s Backpacks in Levelland; and Snack Pak 4 Kids in Plainview, all of which fight weekend hunger by supplying food for children when they are not in school.
“The most rewarding impact for me is the support we've been able to provide for the next generation,” she said. “When you take care of young people, they grow into adults who are capable of great things.”
Sykora was nominated for the TIME Dealer of the Year award by Darren Whitehurst, president of the Texas Automobile Dealers Association. She and her husband, Patrick, have five children.