CEO Profile: William "Hank" Henderson of America's Car-Mart Inc.

Growing up on a farm just outside of England (Lonoke County), William “Hank” Henderson didn’t want a career as a farmer.

“I wanted to try my hand in business,” said the 48-year-old CEO of America’s Car-Mart Inc. of Bentonville.

After attending the University of Central Arkansas  in the 1980s, Henderson went to work for a car rental and leasing company in Fort Worth, Texas.

“I didn’t like it out there, and came back [to Arkansas] and went to work at Car-Mart,” he said.

That was in 1987. And he’s been there ever since. He’s held positions of district manger, regional manager, general manager and chief operating officer. Henderson became Car-Mart’s CEO in October 2007, just in time for the Great Recession struck.

“Really for our customers, … our company hasn’t been affected by the recession,” he said. “What we sell is basic transportation. And that is a need, … and something that people [will] continue to buy.”

America’s Car-Mart not only sells used vehicles, but also provides the financing for their customers too. With 112 dealerships in nine states, America’s Car-Mart has about 1,100 employees, making it the largest publicly held automotive retailer in the United States.

Henderson said his management philosophy is to have the right people in the right places and then let “them do their job.”

The strategy seems to be working. For the fiscal year that ended April 30, 2009, the first full year under Henderson, Car-Mart had $299 million in revenue. A year later, its revenue jumped 13.4 percent. And for the fiscal year that ended in April 2011, revenue was $379.25 million.

And through the first three quarters of its current fiscal year, revenue was $316.7 million, up 14.8 percent from the same period a year ago.

“Our strong performance is the direct result of taking great care of our customers, one at a time,” Henderson said in a Feb. 15 news release about the third quarter results.

Henderson received a raise for the fiscal year that ended April 30, 2011, to $350,000, up from $300,000 the previous year. His total compensation was $450,000 for the fiscal year that ended April 30, but the previous year it was $3.55 million, thanks to $2.8 million in stock compensation.

He owns about 92,000 shares of the company, which was worth about $4.2 million as of March 13. The stock’s price has soared more than 300 percent since Henderson was promoted to CEO. It closed at $45.78 on March 13.

Henderson also started serving on the company’s board of directors in 2002. In 2004, he was named vice chairman of the board.

Away from the office, Henderson plays guitar in a band that performs a few shows a year. And in the winter, he can be found duck hunting.