Jeff Williams’ resignation as CEO of America’s Car-Mart Inc. of Rogers had been in the works for at least two years.
Williams, 60, announced Sept. 5 that he would step down as CEO of the publicly traded buy-here, pay-here automotive retailer at the end of the month. Williams had been with America’s Car-Mart since 2005 and became CEO in 2018.
But Williams said he isn’t totally leaving the company. Now CEO emeritus, he will remain a member of the board of directors to help new CEO Doug Campbell during the leadership transition.
“We’ve been talking about succession for quite some time,” Williams said. “Doug and I have been talking for close to two years now. This was all part of the plan.
“He was brought in here to be groomed to take my spot whenever he was ready. He is ready. It’s perfect timing for me, for Doug, for the company.”
Campbell, a longtime executive with multiple automotive companies, joined America’s Car-Mart a year ago as president. He takes over leadership during a trying time in the industry, with costs up across the board and affordable used cars harder and more expensive to find for resale.
But Williams is optimistic about Campbell’s leadership abilities and America’s Car-Mart’s future. Williams said that while the company has seen six consecutive quarters of declining profits, it is set up well for the future when inflationary pressures and the used-car environment improve.
“This is a tough business; it’s a tough job,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of work to do. Doug is perfect for our company. He is a rare talent, and we are very lucky to have him. He’s going to have some great years ahead.”
Williams steered America’s Car-Mart through the COVID-19 pandemic and some operational changes, as the company morphed from what he called a collection agency that sold cars to a company that sold used cars but was good at collections. America’s Car-Mart invested more than $22 million to upgrade its online platform and internal systems in 2023.
Williams said those investments are paying off. He said America’s Car-Mart’s income may have decreased but the company is growing its market share, expanding to new markets and has more than 104,000 customers, 29,000 more than it had when Williams took over five years ago.
“In the used-car market, we are the only one showing any volume increases,” Williams said. “[Those] foundational investments were very much needed. If we hadn’t made those investments, I don’t know where we would be. Thank goodness we made those decisions two, three, four years ago.
“It was painful. It has been messy, but we wouldn’t be in the spot where we are more enthusiastic about our future than we have ever been.”
Williams said the decision to step down was his and he is looking forward to helping Campbell take over as CEO. Williams has been active in the community, serving as a board member for Mercy Health Northwest Arkansas Communities and the Jones Center and Jones Trust.
“I’ll be around on the board quite a bit,” Williams said. “I have a lot of energy and there is a lot of life left in me. I’ll be active with something in addition to the company. I don’t have any plans beyond Car-Mart right now.”
While he knew it was time to step down, Williams said, it was still hard to put his signature on the resignation papers. Asked for his favorite memories of the company, he spoke of the people and what the company has been able to accomplish during his 18 years. “I’m really proud of the team and the culture and what we have been able to do in a really difficult business,” Williams said. “We have set this thing up to really zoom when things normalize.”