As a foreign youth, most people would see Benny Robles Sr.’s life as a challenge against all odds; he saw it as an opportunity to defy the odds. Benny’s beginnings gave him the strength, the optimism, and vision to achieve admirable aspirations and turned a small town dealership into an award winning, nationally recognized success.
Benjamin Jacinto Robles Sr. was born in Leon, Spain, migrated to Cuba at 7yrs old and defected to Miami, without his parents, at the early age of 14. The teenager experienced his first life changing obstacles when he arrived in the states. Without family, the youth was faced with the reality of being alone in a foreign country with a distinct language barrier.
Recognizing an educational opportunity, the Spaniard embraced his fate by learning the English language and excelling in American classrooms. Additional inspiration for success developed from the influences of young Benny’s foster family and new found friends at Brother Rice High School. Ambitious to continue his education, Benny chose the University of South Florida to earn a business management degree and was the first college graduate in his family.
After college Mr. Robles began his professional career with Ford Motor Credit, performing audits on Ford dealerships in the Tampa Bay region and frequented a small dealership in Bartow, FL. It was there, at Bartow Ford, that he and the owner Ernest Smith would became close friends. Eventually, and with a lot of convincing, Mr. Smith pulled the business major out of Ford Motor Credit and took him under his wing to work for Bartow Ford as finance manager in October 1977. From the first day Benny Sr. stepped into Bartow Ford, his business philosophies were in accordance with Mr. Smith’s distinctions, customer satisfaction is first and foremost.
Ernest Smith was known for saying he didn’t believe in having a General Manager for the dealership, that it was too much trust to put in just one individual. But with Benny’s proven integrity and natural ability to lead, Benny Robles Sr. became the first General Manager of Bartow Ford. As the new GM’s career thrived, he deliberately brought in confidants from Ford Motor Credit; they were his future partners, Bob Ambrose and Denny Mullis, respectively. During this time, Benny Robles Sr.’s personal life mirrored the dealership’s flourishing course, seeing his first child, Benjamin J Robles Jr., arrive in 1978. Within the next decade Benny saw a great achievement when he received his American citizenship in 1987.
Upon obtaining the seat of President/Chairman in February 2008, the automotive dealership cultivated business changing paradigms. Along with his team and steadfast philosophies, first set by Ernest Smith, Benny Robles Sr. had taken a small town dealership and transformed it into one of the largest on the east coast and most recognizable Ford Dealerships in the nation. Hazel Kendrick, Mr. Robles’ colleague of 35 years, describes him as a “visionary” for Bartow Ford. Mrs. Kendrick asserts Bartow Ford’s success relies on Benny’s ability to pull out his employees’ true potential and challenge them with new career opportunities.
Throughout the entrepreneur’s 35 years at Bartow Ford he continues to grow the business, has developed a supportive community reputation and accelerates various programs supporting youth. Utilizing his passion for education, Benny Sr. implemented The Drive for Excellence program in 1993, a program many other Ford dealers have adopted over the years for its success in recognizing students’ commitments to education.
An unrelenting drive for education and a willingness to overcome all odds, Benny Sr. has achieved the American Dream. As a young man leaving a volatile Cuba at the beginning of a revolution to arrive full of hope in the free world, Benjamin J Robles Sr. has employed all the skills he attained to achieve more than he could have ever once dreamed. Always thinking of others first, Mr. Robles devotedly treats every employee and customer as a part of his family.
As the river flows gaze at the glistening stream, reach out and allow the droplets to trickle through your hands, listen for the rush of the current, breathe in the freshwater air…for these meandering waters will never pass through here again. ~Benny Robles Sr