When it comes to Laura Biggins’ 30+ years with Garber, Dick Garber says it best:
“Laura has been in the middle of it all,” he said. “She’s been beneath the surface, where all the dots connect. What a contribution she has made. I often say, ‘Tall buildings are built on strong foundations.’ Laura has put a lot of bricks in our foundation.”
As Executive Assistant at Garber Management Group in Saginaw, Michigan, Laura has served as Dick Garber’s right-hand person for over 30 years.
Defining moments, memories, and projects at Garber often have Laura’s fingerprints, heart, and soul on them. A few examples:
- The Garber Values card that every employee receives when they get hired? Laura helped brainstorm our vision and mission statements, then put our values to paper and printed our first Values cards. “We were already living our values,” she said. “We just put them in print.”
- Our dealership websites? Laura led the charge in getting Garber’s websites on the map. “Dick came to my office one day and said, ‘Laura, we need to get on the World Wide Web.’ My eyes got really big. I knew nothing about the world wide web at the time.”
- The Garber newsletter? All Laura. “I first started doing it on a typewriter and it was called ‘Garber Headlights,’” she smiled.
- Our “You’ll Do Better at Garber” slogan and ad campaign: Laura was behind the ad concept and worked closely with the ad agency.
- The Saginaw Spirit hockey team? Laura helped plan an impressive publicity event that helped sell Saginaw to the OHL as the right location for a major junior league hockey team to call home. “Dick came into my office and said, ‘Laura, our lives are about to change. We are bringing a hockey team to Saginaw.’” Laura helped organize Spirit details and plan a ‘Name the Team’ contest.
Laura was even a point of inspiration for Dick Garber’s daughter’s name.
“When we had our middle daughter, we were trying to decide on names, and the name Laura came up,” Mr. Garber explained. “We said, ‘If our daughter can be as kind and considerate as Laura Biggins, that would be a great thing.’ Laura Biggins helped inspire the name Laura Garber.”
And the planning. Oh, the planning:
The annual Garber Christmas party.
Leadership and staff travel, booking hundreds of flights annually.
Garber’s participation in community causes.
Manufacturer relations and correspondence.
Regional group marketing and advertising.
…The list goes on and on.
Laura is a trusted go-to and reliable resource that doesn’t just get the job done…she gets the job done with kindness and thoroughness.
“Laura Biggins makes our company special,” Mr. Garber said. “Everything she touches, she does with love, care, and responsibility, and everyone knows it. I’m very grateful that everyone appreciates her because she has touched so many lives. She has made a significant contribution to our growth.”
The feeling is mutual.
“I have grown tremendously here,” she said. “I cannot imagine my life without the Garber organization or being anywhere else. Can you tell I love my job?”
We can, Laura. We can.
Like many others here at Garber, Laura did not see herself where she is now.
“I had no idea what I could do for a car dealership; I never once in my life thought I’d work for one,” she laughed. “As a young kid, I wanted to be a teacher or a secretary.”
Laura – a native of Two Rivers, Wisconsin – graduated from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin, with a degree in Business Administration and a minor in Communication. After graduation, she worked in resort sales before moving and taking a job at the Sheraton hotel in Saginaw, Michigan.
Between 1985 and 1990, Laura served as Sheraton’s Director of Sales. After six years in the role, she felt a tug to leave the industry.
“I was looking for a work home that reflected my values,” she explained. “In 1990, I went to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as the Director of Development. I did fundraising and helped host a golf outing. That’s when I met Dick, and that’s when my life changed.”
Par for the Course
In 1990, Dick Garber was chairing the golf outing and worked alongside Laura to help it run smoothly. To plan the event, they had meetings at Garber Buick’s former location on Genesee Avenue in Saginaw.
The Garber culture made an impression on Laura.
“I thought Garber was outstanding,” Laura explained. “Dick is a person that is so genuine and he cares and gives back to the community. It was so nice to walk into that building and be greeted in such a friendly manner by everyone. I wanted to work in an environment like that.”
Laura decided to ask for what she wanted. Mr. Garber remembers it well.
“She came to me and said, ‘Everyone is so nice here and they make me feel so welcome. If there is ever an opportunity that opens up, I’d be interested,’” Mr. Garber said. “Candidly, I was taken aback. I thought, ‘She is wonderful, but where does she fit in a car dealership?’ My mind started spinning.”
Mr. Garber decided to get another person’s opinion on where Laura could fit.
“I asked Tom Krzyzaniak, our GM at the time, and said, ‘I got this gal I’d like you to interview. Be open-minded. I don’t have a specific role in mind yet.’”
Laura came in and interviewed with Tom. She said she remembers Tom being enthusiastic. So was she.
Still, Tom and Mr. Garber couldn’t quite figure out where Laura fit.
“Tom came to me and said, ‘She’s great, but yeah, I don’t know where she’d fit. I don’t see Laura’s personality selling, and I don’t see her behind a desk because she is so good with people.’
Then Mr. Garber had an idea.
“I always struggled with the idea of not hearing from the customers about what they wanted from their car dealership experience,” he said. “I started thinking, ‘I want to do focus groups. We THINK we know what customers want, but we could hire Laura to play a role in customer relations.’’
It was official. In 1991, Laura joined Garber as the Director of Marketing and Public Relations. She took a seat on the bus – and she was ready to enjoy the ride.
Work and Play
As part of the Garber team, Laura worked closely with Mr. Garber from day one.
Her projects were varied and fun, she said.
“I did customer service and follow-up calls,” she said. “I wrote our newsletter. I learned to be a focus group moderator and would lead focus groups for women, seniors, service clubs and others, so we could hear about their car-buying experience. I would handle the advertising for print, radio and TV. That was back when used cars were listed line by line in the newspaper, so I’d proof all the liner ads.”
Handling the advertising helped Laura from a personal standpoint, too.
“I met my husband because of Garber,” she smiled. “He was working for WIOG radio station. We met at a used car off-site event we held at Sam’s Club parking lot in Saginaw in 1995, Jim was the radio personality doing the remote broadcast. Another life-changing moment.”
Laura spearheaded many projects, working alongside Mr. Garber to help push the company towards growth, support, and success. Her role became bigger than when she first started.
“The job evolved,” Mr. Garber explained. “She was so competent. She added so much to the business as far as knowledge; things would get thrown on her plate and she was so good at it all. The position became more of a support/administrative role.”
In 2001, Laura officially became Executive Assistant, and it’s the role she’s held ever since, although it continually evolves. She also has been a significant game changer in the community, serving on the PRSA Board (Public Relations Society of America) and as an Ambassador and currently as a Diplomat for the Saginaw County Chamber of Commerce. She also serves on the board of directors for Released to Reign, and the Saginaw Society for Crippled Children, which was founded by Guy S. Garber in 1923.
Laura said working at Garber is always exciting and new. She also has learned and grown.
“I’ve grown tremendously at Garber, as a person and professionally” she said. “I’ve had the privilege and honor of learning from the very best, as Dick definitely leads by example. I’ve learned so much from him in how he treats people, leads the organization, builds relationships and gives back to the community. It’s all about serving others. I’m so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to grow with the organization.”
‘I Will Retire from Here’
So what does Laura love the most about working at Garber?
“The people,” she said. “Our whole team of leaders are amazing. They are incredible people who care about their employees, customers and community; they live our values and that is how the culture is carried throughout the organization.”
With 30+ years at our organization, she said it’s been fun to look back and see how the world has changed, especially the technology advances and how that has changed the way we do business.
“When I started, we had four dealerships and now, we have 23. Just to be a part of our growth has been so exciting.”
The development of our people has contributed to Garber’s growth, Laura added.
“I’m so proud of this organization,” she said. “Dick always says tall buildings have strong foundations, and what we have today is only possible because of our team and all the people who came before us.”
As for Laura, her career is proudly cemented with this organization.
“From Day 1, I never had a thought of leaving Garber,” she said. “This is what I’ve been looking for. It’s been home from the start. I find everyday rewarding. It’s never boring. I will retire from here, and I’m not retiring anytime soon.”
We’re all grateful Laura is sticking around. Once again, Mr. Garber says it best:
“Laura Biggins has been my right-hand person for almost the entire ride, and what an honor it has been to work with her.”
Special Bonus Section: Advice from Laura Biggins
With an impressive career and admiration from many, we figured a “What Would Laura Do” section seemed fitting. Here’s three golden nuggets of advice from Laura Biggins herself in regards to having a fulfilling career with Garber:
- I treat everyone like they are my customer. My job is to take care of them and that is what I try to do for everyone. Treat everyone like they are your customer.
- Always be willing to help. I feel in some ways I am an assistant to our entire leadership team. When you do it, do it thoroughly. Be reliable. Raise your hand.
- This is an amazing organization. Dick is genuine, caring, a visionary, and inspires a family-oriented culture with a drive for excellence. Our leaders can help support you as you carve your own path. Don’t come here for a job; come here for a career. There are many wonderful opportunities for growth.
First concert? The Beach Boys
First car? 1976 Buick Skylark. Red with white bucket seats.
First job? Cashier at Red Owl Grocery
Three words to describe your personality? Kind, helpful, dedicated
Bucket list item? I’d love to travel all around Europe.