By Roberto Hugo Gonzalez
Regardless! If you have seen the Payne Group TV commercials it is not hard to figure out that they have a sense of humor. Their TV commercials have a special branding that makes the Payne Group standout. They are entertaining and funny especially the one where they toss a turkey back and forth but in the middle of it all they slip in a message, the offer of their best product. “Hey, that turkey was as heavy as a bowling ball,” said Jimmy Payne.
From the start of our conversation it was clear that the interview was going to be different, quite different, so different that Bud Payne told Texas Border Business that their immediate plans were to be up tomorrow and their long-range plans are to be up the day after that.
Bud said, “We always said that we take our business very seriously, we just don’t take ourselves very seriously,” and Jimmy said, “That’s the way it is.”
Humor in their marketing plan and hard work has paid off; Bud and Jimmy Payne have grown their companies to nine dealerships all over the Rio Grande Valley. Now they are talking about a “Payne Auto Mall” in the Mid–Valley.
Bud, Jimmy, and Lynn, an older sister, were born and raised in Weslaco to E.J. Payne and Margery. Their dad started the Payne auto dealership in 1948. Even though E.J. and Margery are no longer living, their legacy is alive and vibrant in the hearts and minds of the brothers.
There is no doubt that the brothers know the ins and outs of the auto industry and how could they not know; as they were growing up, by the ages of 10 or 11 they started working in the business with their dad.
“We used to clean parts bins and we have worked our way from the very bottom to the top,” Bud said.
He continued, “By the time I came back from college I started in accounting and finance, and rapidly moved into sales.” He pointed out that during those days, they were a small auto business with about 15 employees. “Now, we are over 400 people,” Bud said. Bud graduated from the University of Texas in 1969.
The Payne Auto Group is now a major force and ranks among the largest tax contributors in the Counties where they conduct business. They sell over 10,000 new and pre-owned vehicles every year. For any municipality, the Payne Auto Group is a Blessing; they are an important source of employment for communities in South Texas. One thing that can be added to this paragraph is that the future looks even brighter as the fourth generation of the Payne family is now part of the management.
When asked what values did their parents instill in them, Bud replied, “I think that the values that they instilled in us were to always consider the other person too, to always be firm but honest, and that hard work will always payoff.”
When you went to college did you know what you wanted to be, we posed. “Well, we grew up working in the dealership all the time and when I went to college I didn’t know if I wanted to stay in the Valley or go to law school which would have been a possibility,” Bud said. Once he finished college, Bud returned to the Valley and got an offer by Antonio Noe “Tony” Rico, a former principal with the Weslaco Independent School District to teach and to coach for a year while he was just finishing graduate school.
“During that year my dad gave us the opportunity to become part of the organization and five years later in 1972, Jimmy and I bought my dad’s business,” he said. Anyone in business knows that this was a big responsibility; they were just in their late twenties but were ready to work hard.
Texas Border Business asked, How did your father feel about you both buying him out and he possibly being closer to retirement? “Well he wasn’t even close to retirement, he farmed, and ranched, and was always looking over his shoulder after Jimmy and I. We had the benefit to office next to him for the next 20 years using all his knowledge and guidance even though Jimmy and I owned the company.”
According to the Payne brothers, being in the automobile business every day is a challenge. Both agree that there are business cycles and when the cycle is good, the automobile business provides for a good living. “When times are tough like in ‘07, ’08 and ’09, it can be almost tragic and very hard to stay in business,” Bud said.
They both recognize that the automobile industry brings tremendous challenges everyday and they also agree that this is what makes this business very interesting and so much fun.
The Payne brothers are very excited because now they have the fourth generation of their family helping them run the dealerships. This addition to the business is what creates the possibility that the Payne family can own the dealership market in a near future. This fourth generation will have the power to make South Texas the capital of auto dealerships.
This is how the fourth and younger generation is participating; Mark Payne is the General Manager for the Ford dealership and the Payne Rio Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram dealership in Rio Grande City. Austin Payne is the General Manager for the Payne Volkswagen and the Payne Mitsubishi Store in Mission. In the mean time, the Payne brothers are always looking for additional opportunities in the automobile business.
Jimmy said that the most satisfaction derived from their business is running the dealerships with their employees.
“I consider our employees our most valuable asset.” The uniqueness about their business and what sets them apart from the competition is that they operate as a team. “For me and my stores, it operates better that way,” he said. “Instead of me dictating to my employees what to do, I want for them to come up with solutions and answers.”
For Bud there are no regrets on what he could have done other than the auto business, he said, “The chance we had to work with our dad and our family was best for us, it would have been hard to have done it any other way.”
For him it has been gratifying to have worked with so many people and seen them grow and prosper. “I think that the Lord has blessed us in many ways, a lot more that we will ever know on this earth.”
Both, Bud and Jimmy participate with their community and have served on different boards giving back as they believe this is also their duty.
As last comments Bud had this to say, “We spend time looking to the future and not the past other than just learning from our mistakes.” At that moment Jimmy interjected saying, “I think that we learn as we go.” Texas Border Business is proud to bring you closer to Bud and Jimmy Payne. The Payne brothers are an exceptional business team that sees the future from a humoresque point of view, and live by the principle they learned from their parents, “hard work will always pay off”.
About the Payne Brothers:
E.M. “Bud” Payne of Payne Weslaco Motors is a lifelong resident of Weslaco. He has been instrumental in Weslaco’s community development by helping bring a Texas College campus to Weslaco. Payne served as president of the Rio Grande Valley Partnership and was a founding member of the Valley Nature Center. He has also served on the board for Knapp Memorial Hospital, Palm Valley Animal Shelter, and the Lower Rio Grande Valley Economic Council.
Jimmy Payne serves on the Texas International Fishing Tournament (TIFT) board and is involved in several other organizations.
Dealerships owned by the Payne Brothers:
Bud Payne is the owner and Jimmy Payne is the partner with him of the Ed Payne Motors and Fiat stores
Payne Weslaco Ford
Payne Weslaco Chevrolet
Payne Weslaco GMC Buick
Ed Payne Motors in Weslaco – Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram
Payne Fiat of the Rio Grande Valley in Weslaco
Payne Brownsville Volkswagen & Mitsubishi
Payne Mission Volkswagen & Mitsubishi
Payne Rio Grande City Ford
Payne Rio Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram in Rio Grande City