America’s Car-Mart means the world to Lori Spencer, who recently celebrated 25 years with the company. “I wouldn’t be who I am without Car-Mart,” she says. “Car-Mart has done so much for me personally and professionally. And I wouldn’t have a nice home, security and so much more.”
“I’ve traveled so many miles at Car-Mart, and every mile is a different experience,” continues Lori, who claims a few noteworthy Car-Mart firsts to her name – first administrative assistant and first internal auditor.
When Lori joined Car-Mart in 1996, she knew she wanted to be an office manager. She is known as one of the most successful office managers in Car-Mart history, and she trains office managers on how to run the business office. As Senior Compliance and Audit Manager, Corporate Office, she is one of Car-Mart’s five auditors. She travels to dealerships for onsite audits, and in 2021, she audited 30 dealerships.
“I’ve had so many best days at Car-Mart,” says Lori. “I loved being an office manager. And now I love being a compliance manager.”
In this insightful Q&A, Lori shares her passion for the company and reflects on her 25-year journey.
What’s your Car-Mart story?
After moving from California and a high-stress job to Oklahoma in March 1996, I went with my sister to make her payment at Car-Mart of Sapulpa, Okla. When I walked into the building, I just knew I was going to work there. It was just a feeling. It felt like home. I felt comfortable.
I then introduced myself to the office manager. Instead of saying hello, I said, ‘I’m going to have your job.’ She gave me an application. I interviewed with the district manager for two and a half hours, and he hired me on the spot. I was the office manager replacing the lady who left the company.
Four years later, I was offered the assistant manager position at Tulsa North, Okla. But that wasn’t for me, so I returned to Sapulpa as an assistant manager. That wasn’t a fit either.
The company was in the planning stages for creating an administrative assistant position, so I became the company’s first administrative assistant. I had to figure it out. And in November 2001, I was offered the company’s first auditor position.
What’s been your best Car-Mart memory?
I remember a customer’s daughter. Her mom and dad had a car with Car-Mart, making weekly payments. I first met the daughter when she was a high school freshman and I got to know her. When she was a senior, we sent her a graduation card. One day she came in crying and told us that Car-Mart was the only one, other than her parents, who acknowledged her graduation. So, when I think of Car-Mart, I think of that situation. We made a difference. That describes Car-Mart.
In what way are you a different person because of working at Car-Mart?
Oh my gosh, growing up, I was an extremely shy person. When I got to Car-Mart it was the way they treated me. They gave me the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them. They gave me independence. So, it changed me from being shy to a more confident person.
Car-Mart celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2021. You’re celebrating 25 years with Car-Mart. How does it feel to be one of the most tenured associates at Car-Mart?
I feel honored to be at Car-Mart for 25 years. It’s been fun watching the company grow and develop into what it is today.
Although, I wish I had known about Car-Mart when I was younger. I’ve worked for three organizations and been at Car-Mart the longest. I am so blessed I was able to see Car-Mart when it was small. It’s an honor to have that experience.
Also, being able to spend time with Nan Smith [former Car-Mart Chief Operating Officer]. She routinely called and checked on me. She really cared. That helped me to be the person I am because I wanted to be just like her, and today I try to emulate her qualities.
What is the best thing about working at Car-Mart?
Car-Mart supports you. They have good leadership and good people who respect associates. It’s a great company. There’s nothing like it, not in the car business. And Car-Mart works hard to support its customers and associates. It’s the people that make Car-Mart special.
What words of advice do you have for those who may want to start a career at Car-Mart?
Work hard. Nan’s advice was ‘work hard, learn your job, do it right, make a decision, and if you don’t feel like you can complete a task, then assist someone who can.’
If anyone is looking for a career instead of a job, Car-Mart is the place. With hard work and dedication, you can make something of yourself.
What do you tell your friends and family about working at Car-Mart?
I have a small family, and they have watched me grow at Car-Mart. They know what Car-Mart has done for me personally and professionally.
I work for the best company in America. It’s more than a car business. We help people who can’t get cars anywhere else – you don’t find that in the car business.
What do you want your legacy to be at Car-Mart?
That I was a mini-Nan Smith. I traveled with her so many times and I saw her compassion. She was tough at times, but her heart was in the right place to help people. I hope to be the same – to make a difference in people’s lives and help others move up in Car-Mart.
I still have work to do.
Join our team!
If you’re looking for a career, check out Car-Mart. Come work with awesome people like Lori. Go to Car-Mart.com/careers to learn about job opportunities at Car-Mart in our 12-state area.