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Kathy Martin Harrison Goes Full Throttle in the Auto Industry

Writer / Lynda Hedberg Thies
Photography Provided

Ed MartinWomen entrepreneurs like Kathy Martin Harrison are gaining power and influence, especially in traditionally male-dominated industries. As the owner and CEO of Ed Martin Automotive Group, Harrison succeeded her father, Ed Martin, and has established herself as an innovative thought leader. 

According to a 2019 article in Forbes magazine, the momentum is growing for women-owned family businesses, having increased by 58% since 2007, and nearly 25% of family businesses are led by a woman CEO or president.” While the success rate is typically at 30% for second-generation business owners, Harrison is thriving. 

Harrison has helped build the company into the largest woman-owned business in the Indianapolis area, with 10 dealerships representing 12 manufacturers in Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville and Anderson. 

Ed Martin Automotive Group was her fathers life and Harrison spent the better part of her childhood at the dealership. Harrison had her own plans after college, and worked in other careers before her father asked her to come into the business and succeed him when he was gone. Harrison joined him and never looked back.

My father was my mentor and I knew he regarded his employees as family,” she says. “I made my father a promise in his final years that I would keep his legacy going. We had 500 employees and I didnt want to let them down. We actually have 23 employees that have been with us for 35 years. We are really proud of that. What motivates and inspires me every day is my father and carrying on his legacy.”

Ed Martin

Harrison has been committed to finding and creating opportunities for people to work for her company and in the automotive industry. She realized that many technicians were beginning to age out, so she decided to be part of the solution. In addition to a partnership with the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township, she established the Ed Martin Automotive Group Careers Training Center, to bring career opportunities to students. She then went a step further and invited academic counselors to come learn about the program. 

Harrison recently created a new partnership with Ivy Tech that will allow her to use a fully customized trailer, called the Dream Trailer, to help spread the word about auto careers. It will involve a realistic view of a day in the life of an auto body technician, and is expected to be operational by January of 2023.

Thanks to her perseverance, ingenuity, and commitment made to her father to keep the business growing, the Ed Martin legacy is a vibrant and growing business that will be felt for generations. 

For women who are currently building a business or wanting to start their own business, Harrison offers the following advice: 

  1. Surround yourself with smart people who know more than you, because it is hard to run a business and you need a strong team.
  2. Let your employees do their job. Don’t micromanage them.
  3. Every single day, make customer satisfaction your number-one goal.
  4. Follow the golden rule, and be kind to your employees. It’s not that hard.
  5. Be passionate about what you do, and be all-in.
  6. Support and give back to your community.

2 Comments

Dave Maloney
September 24, 2022 at 3:53 pm

Your Dad asked me to stay on part time when I left to teach @ Roncalli high school. Considered that quite a compliment. To

September 24, 2022 at 4:13 pm

Be happy to appear online to your sales force to explain in detail what caused your Dad to ask me to stay on part time when I left after 8 years to teach @ Roncalli.

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