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Bennie Ryburn

Ryburn Motor Company
Monticello, AR

You could say Bennie Ryburn has a way of putting people in their place, but in a very inspiring way.

The 2006 TIME Magazine Dealer of the Year and long-time fixture in the Monticello, Arkansas, community has his hands in a lot of different activities around town, but he sounds the proudest when he talks about creating opportunities for low-income senior citizens, given them a newer, nicer place to call home.

Ryburn has worked in his community to convert an abandoned 1930s hotel into senior housing for those on fixed incomes. He sits on the airport board and has helped bring in high-tech innovative tenants. Whether he's overseeing community beautification projects or sponsoring the local university's athletic programs, he making life easier for his neighbors in Monticello.

The TIME Magazine award came as a surprise to Ryburn, who said he never expected to win.

"I was very surprised. It was pretty shocking," he said. "It was a humbling experience. I was sitting next to a Lexus dealer who sold 250 units a month, and that's about all of the new cars we sell sold in a year. We are from a small town of 9,000-something people, so it was pretty interesting."

Ryburn credits the accolade to his team's dedication to customer service, a practice in which he thoroughly believes.

"I've worked hard for 25 years to be good at what we do. You have to keep your employees focused on customer satisfaction, and then staying in tune with those customers."

"We sell a used car, if it has problems, we try the best we can to resolve the problem. Providing transportation when a customer's vehicle is down, even if they don't have a warranty, we do that a lot. Basically, you just have to take of the customer."

The customer. The homeless. The elderly. The list of those Bennie takes care of is a long one.