By Coty Dolores Miranda
Tim Hovik has been an Arizona State University Sun Devil fan since he was a youngster growing up in Washington State and came to campus to visit his two older brothers.
Now the owner/general manager of San Tan Ford in Gilbert, the Ahwatukee man was in eighth grade when he caught Sun Devil fever, and determined at that first visit that he, too, would follow his brothers’ footsteps and enroll in ASU.
Even after leaving ASU, Hovik remained an avid fan, and as he’s advanced in his career, he worked to ensure his alma mater was a recipient of his support.
As a chair for the Arizona Ford Dealer’s Association, he advocated for the university, ensuring the group was on board for providing partnerships with Sun Devil Athletics that, according to ASU, were “worth north of seven figures” in dollars.
In acknowledgment of his support, Hovik was presented with the Alumni Appreciation Award at ASU’s 2017 Homecoming several months ago.
Making the honor even more amazing, Hovik said, is that he hasn’t yet graduated from Arizona State.
“I changed majors (from business to political science), and actually have more credits than I need to graduate,” he said. “I’ve lectured at their business school, and I think of myself as an alum. The homecoming kinda spurred me to knock off those remaining credits, and get my degree.”
As an upperclassman, Hovik had planned to take a gap year while earning money as a car salesman working with Tex Earnhardt.
“I knew people who’d made money at it and I thought I’d do it for a little while, and pop back to school and finish. The very first month, I led in sales. I came out of the gate hot,” said Hovik.
He stayed with Earnhardt for 13 years, rising to general manager.
In 2007, he was offered a partnership at a Las Vegas Ford franchise.
“I went to Vegas right when the recession hit, and it was a hard time for a lot of businesses,” said Hovik who stayed the course three years. “I’d kept my home in Ahwatukee, and San Tan Ford had just opened, and after a couple months, they asked me to come over and I finally agreed.”
In the ensuing years, Hovik and the firm’s parent company, The Richardson Group, continue to grow. The parent firm owns five Ford franchises in California, New Mexico and Texas.
San Tan Ford, the group’s only dealership in Arizona, is now among the top 40 largest Ford dealerships in the world.
“I’d like to move into the top 20,” said Hovik, who follows former Ford CEO Alan Mulally’s example of referring to the franchises as “stores” rather than “dealerships” because Mulally thought the latter word carried a negative connotation.
His San Tan Ford store at 1429 E. Motorplex Loop in Gilbert has grown from 70 employees eight years ago when he arrived to more than 230.
One of them is his oldest brother, Steve, who is sales manager. Sales at San Tan Ford have skyrocketed from approximately $49 million in 2009 to more than $200 million in 2017.
Even with demands of owning a major business entity and his ASU Alumni Association and Sun Devil Athletics involvement, Hovik is an active member of several area chambers of commerce.
In the Gilbert Chamber, he’s a board member; for the Chandler Chamber, he was the presenting sponsor of this year’s Charity Golf Tournament; he’s also on the board of his hometown’s Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce.
Hovik says he’s strongly driven to give back to the communities in which he works and lives, as well as ASU, which he said was “great to me, and taught him so many lessons.”
“I don’t give back to the community or ASU either of my time or resources to get a lot of ‘atta boy’s,’” he said. “But when they recognize you like the Alumni Association did with this award, they make you feel like you’ve achieved something.”
And those achievements are why ASU Alumni Association president and CEO Christine K. Wilkinson said Hovik was honored.
“With the Alumni Appreciation Award, the ASU Alumni Association has the opportunity to recognize an individual who positively impacts Arizona State University, and Tim Hovik generously supports the Sun Devil community,” said Wilkinson, who is also senior vice president and secretary of the university.
In addition to owning and operating San Tan Ford, Hovik has also chaired the Arizona Ford Dealers Association, and currently sits on Ford’s National Dealer Council as the Southwestern United Sates representative to Ford Motor company.
What keeps this 51-year-old involved in a multitude of activities? What drives him to continually accomplish more?
“I think by nature, I’m pretty competitive, and competitive with myself. You strive to succeed, but you always want to balance that drive. At San Tan we take care of each other. If there’s a little league game an employee’s kid is playing in, we try and arrange schedules so they can go,” he said. “We want to be supportive, and help the next generation.”