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The Private 100: Don Chalmers Ford

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Don Chalmers keeps track of more than just sales figures at his Rio Rancho automotive dealership.

The auto industry veteran says he measures success not just by how many Ford F-150 pickups or Fusion hybrids drive off the lot but also by how much work his staff does in the community.

“We measure how many hours we give back to the community (through) our employees, and we’re very proud of that,” he says.

The staff at Don Chalmers Ford is divided into teams that are each encouraged – but not required – to work on a community project or cause of their choosing.


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Through the years, employees have read to kids at elementary schools, bought and delivered toys to hospitalized children and raised money to fight breast cancer. Staff members have worked on economic development issues and had leadership roles at area chambers of commerce.

Chalmers and his employees also make contributions to United Way.

“I want to be a great business in a great community,” says Chalmers, who opened the dealership in 1996. “I don’t want to be a good business in a crummy community, and it’s up to businesses to get involved and give back to make it a great community.”

Chalmers says each of his 160 employees spends about 40 hours every year on service projects.

Occasionally, dealership employees do their community service while on the clock, but most do it on their own time.

Chalmers says he looks for “the right heart” during the hiring process.

“You can’t train heart. I have had people that have worked for me that were talented in the ordinary things you would expect someone in our industry to be skilled at that did not have interest in (community service),” he says. “Generally, those people do not stay. The ones who do stay, stay for the right reasons.”

Chalmers – who previously owned dealerships in Washington and Oklahoma – says his employee retention rate is “extremely high” for the auto business.

“This ends up being more than a job,” he says.