When Julie Holmes went on road trips with her parents as a little girl, she could remember listening over and over again to a recording of “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale, a leading motivational speaker at the time. “Change your thoughts and you change the world,” Julie remembers droning through the car’s speakers. Little did she know at the time that her dad, Myron Boncarosky, founder of Virginia Tire & Auto outside of Washington D.C., was setting her up with a successful mindset for a fulfilling life.
“I grew up thinking I could do anything I wanted to do in the world. There was no limit,” Julie remembers fondly.
A look at her career trajectory says as much. Julie graduated with business and accounting degrees from Washington & Lee University in 2001. Then, she went right to law school, graduating second in her class from Villanova University. Right after, she became a law clerk for a judge in the fourth circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Then, she joined Covington & Burling in 2005, the No. 1 law firm in D.C. and the 25th largest globally.
Julie credits her early career and her upbringing for leading her to develop some core values that she brought to the business when she joined the team full time in 2010.
“It all comes down to a hard work ethic,” she says. “I saw it with my own parents. Then, it was reinforced with my early career path. I’d never seen a group of people [lawyers] so dedicated to their work. You worked until the job was done. If that meant you were on site with a client until 5 a.m. and you came back at 9 a.m., that’s just what you did.”
That sense of professionalism and high expectations led Julie to codify a list of values for the team to live by at Virginia Tire & Auto. Those include being professional, attentive, genuine and forward thinking.
“Being so professional differentiates us,” she explains, adding that service advisors still wear ties at the front counter. “We hold ourselves differently than other retailers. People are paying a lot of money for our services. They’re expecting the best and you have to deliver the best.”
After entering the business, Julie also spearheaded the rebranding of Virgina Tire & Auto—instead of waving the flag of certain tire manufacturers, the company developed its own unique branding, utilizing bright green and white across its stores, signs and digital presence.
As Julie and her husband, Mike, now co-CEOs of Virginia Tire, have worked to build the business from 10 to 17 stores over the last 13 years, she has also championed other causes that align with her values and those of the business: bringing more women into the tire and auto industry and upskilling and training technicians.
For the last few years, Julie and her team have revamped the business’s marketing both digitally and in-store to include visuals of women working at Virginia Tire. She hopes in-store posters, photos and videos on their website and social media attract more women to consider a career in automotive, as they see female representation at Virginia Tire.
“We are doing everything to recruit women,” she says. “Our customers enjoy working with women for all the reasons that we want to hire them: they’re great communicators; they’re great multitaskers; they naturally show more empathy. I think it shows us as embracing all.”
Most recently, Julie and her team opened VTA University, the company’s own training center out of its Tyson, Virginia, location. At the “university,” technicians learn in both classroom and hands-on formats from an ASE Master Technician who is also a 40-year veteran at Virginia Tire & Auto. After several days of studying and mastering their skills, they have to demonstrate what they’ve learned before doing it in the shop. Virginia Tire pays for all certifications.
“This is us living our promise of being an employer of choice,” she says. “We want to give people a great job, a great career. It starts with giving them the skills they need to succeed… It truly is life changing to go from working as an hourly employee at an entry-level job to learning skills that can help you earn a fantastic living for your family.”
Although the training center is in its early stages, Julie is already seeing excitement from their staff and hopes it leads to more technician retention.
“Knowledge is power, and now
, we are more than adequately training people and preparing folks for their jobs,” she says “As long as they have interest, show up for work and are invested in doing better, they will get taught everything they need to know to grow their career and be a top technician.”
Although Julie admits hiring is tough in today’s work environment, she is excited for the disruption taking place in the car parc.
“It’s going to be very exciting to see what the next 30 years are going to bring us… We’re going to have to go through some serious evolution to still meet all of your car needs in 25 years., but that’s what we want,” she says. “I think it’s cool that we solve people’s problems, and we do it better than anyone else. Whatever the newest thing is, it’s going to need service, and it’s going to need someone to help figure that out. I think we’re setting up our business that we can do that for whatever comes to the future.”