Reporting: Businesswoman of the Year

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By Jessica Peterson

Published May 2011 in Guam Business Magazine

When Joyce Q. Crisostomo speaks of Guam’s matrilineal culture, one gets the sense that she’s a proud torchbearer of the kind of values communicated subtly from generation to generation. She has a motherly tenor without being imperious. She is profound without the stuffiness; light-hearted without being superficial. She’s an old soul who knows how to laugh. At the magazine photo shoot, Crisostomo joked and laughed with her fellow nominees, never taking herself too seriously.

That despite the fact that Crisostomo is co-owner and executive director of one of Guam’s biggest auto dealers, Cars Plus. The company’s showroom cost a cool $5.7 million and has announced plans to expand. The 30,000 square-foot Maite facility is clean and modern with business offices on the second-floor overlooking the showroom. Crisostomo’s office however, is decidedly modest. There’s no settee or chaise lounge or flat screen TV, just a large wood desk, a couple of plants, and family photos adorning the walls. A bubblegum pink GMH volunteer frock hangs over Crisostomo’s chair. File boxes are stacked neatly against the wall, all labeled with organizations for which Crisostomo volunteers. She laments that the cabinetry to house the files wasn’t built correctly, so cardboard boxes substitute for now. Doubtless, there will be more because Crisostomo just doesn’t stop giving.

“She is this very successful businesswoman on the one hand, but she is also this extremely generous community leader,” says Kimberlee S. Kihleng, executive director of the Guam Humanities Council. “She has a great deal of generosity not only in terms of providing financial sponsorship and support to many non-profit organizations, but also she’s very generous with her time. She makes things happen for many organizations on our island.”

During our interview, Crisostomo comes across as warm and genuine and later wonders if the grief from the sudden death in the family shows on her face. It doesn’t. She wears a black cardigan with a colorful flower pattern, a black pencil skirt, black kitten heels, and minimal jewelry. A wavy crop of black hair flows down her back. She has a petite and trim physique and counts finishing a Honolulu marathon as one of her personal accomplishments.

She was born in Umatac in 1958. As a child, Crisostomo longed to be a business owner. Her first job was a summer internship at American Red Cross, a telling detail in the story arc of Crisostomo’s life. She attended Notre Dame High School on Guam then studied for two years at the University of Guam and the Pacific Travel School in Santa Ana, Calif.

“I grew up fishing with my dad, tending to the roosters, and managing our mom and pop store in Umatac as a young girl.” She recounts the loving but firm way she handled overdue accounts at the store. Apparently, Crisostomo had no problem letting delinquent debtors know it was time to pay. Crisostomo says she plays “a mean billiards game” and is very competitive in table tennis. In fact, Crisostomo is an impassioned supporter of youth-building organizations and sports. She is sure to describe the “biggest ever” table tennis competition held on Guam on April 19. She is pleased to see the sport introduced to local schools.

As the executive director and co-owner of Cars Plus and president Payless Car Rental, Crisostomo promotes among the company’s management and staff the need to uphold the Cars Plus mission statement and core values. According to her, “these embody a commitment to teamwork, integrity, personal growth, urgency, attention to detail and positive behavior.”

The businesswoman founded the company with husband Joey Crisostomo in 1999. What began as a used car dealership has grown into a five-star sales, parts and service operation offering Hyundai, Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram, GEM electric vehicles, and pre-owned vehicles. It’s obvious that the whole business is a family affair and a labor of love. Crisostomo counts her husband Joey as her biggest mentor. They have been married for 29 years.

Joey Crisostomo spent his adolescent and adult life involved with motorcycles and cars, first working as sales manager of Island Imports, selling Suzuki cars and motorcycles, and Isuzu trucks. He later moved to a sales manager’s position with the Wolfe Automotive Group in Boise, Idaho. From Idaho, the Crisostomo family spent time in Tennessee then moved to Kona, Hawaii, where Joey Crisostomo became sales manager of Big Island Toyota. When the Guam Motorcycle Club invited him to return for a race, that sparked an offer from Triple J Motors in late 1991 and in 1992, and Joey Crisostomo became general manager of Triple J Motors Guam. Joey stayed with Triple J for five years before moving to Keico Motors, becoming general manager. Cars Plus LLC open in 1999 as a used-car dealership and the authorized Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge service center. A year later it acquired exclusive distributorship of the totally re-engineered Hyundai line, followed by the Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge franchise in 2001, followed by the addition of Payless Rental cars. Crisostomo’s sentimental goal to sell motorcycles became a reality in 2003 when he opened Cycles Plus. He was selected as an independent board member of the DaVinci group, which owns the Guam Hilton Resort & Spa. Guam Business magazine named him 2004 Executive of the Year.

“During these tough global economic times, our business continues to thrive due to hard work and commitment to our customers and employees,” Joyce Crisostomo says. “In terms of our expansion, we have not only introduced the electric GEM car to Guam, but we’ll be introducing a hybrid vehicle in addition to our all-new 40 MPG Hyundai Elantra. We’re also about to launch our new Express Lane service expansion which includes four brand new service bays to allow for speedy lube service.”

Cycles Plus introduced Honda Powersports to its line-up of brands. “Honda Powersports is number one in the industry so this was a huge accomplishment for us,” she says. And on the auto rental side, Payless also saw a fleet increase and renovation and expansion of the facility on Airport Road.

Crisostomo believes that she is living proof of “the potential women have to succeed in a traditionally male-centered industry through hard work, perseverance, know-how and the continual cultivation of important business and community relationships.”

“It is also my goal to mentor and groom the next generation of female business owners here at Cars Plus and throughout Guam. My daughters, Lenora and Jennifer, are already very active in the automotive, powersports and rental business, which is a beautiful thing for parents to see.”

Jennifer Crisostomo is the company’s business development manager, overseeing marketing, community service, customer care and the human resource department. Crisostomo sees her daughter’s youth as a decided strength, for Jennifer is the web-savvy one in the family.

Crisostomo’s words of inspiration for young women: “Have faith and confidence in yourself and your abilities. Remember where you come from and always give back to your community, your island.”

The energetic executive is a board member of the GMH Volunteers Association, Mount Carmel School Foundation and participates in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. On the business side, she is active as a member of the Guam Chamber of Commerce, Armed Forces Committee, Rotary Club of Guam, Guam Contractors Association, Guam Visitors Bureau, and Guam Hotel & Restaurant Association. Members of the Crisostomo family are avid sportsmen and women. Joyce supports the Guam Football Association and Guam Table Tennis Federation. At the time of interview she received word that her husband and 20-year-old son Joey Jr. successfully met up for a motorcycle rally down the California coast. Joey attends college in the mainland.

One of her numerous community achievements is being co-chair of the GMH Volunteers Association Charity Ball and raising over $100,000 to purchase the bariatric bed, used to administer care to morbidly obese patients. She also co-chaired the Inaugural Ball, raising over $90,000 for Kamalen Karidat. She is chairwoman of the Make-A-Wish-Foundation and vice-chairwoman of the Guam Humanities Council.

“Throughout my Catholic upbringing I have always been inspired by the words of Mother Teresa, ‘Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies… Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.'”

As a company, Cars Plus sponsors fundraising events for the American Red Cross, including the annual Red Ball and the Guam Business Magazine Executive of the Year Gala. You can bet these are causes close to Crisostomo’s heart. She doesn’t see charitable giving as a notch on her resume, but as an integral part of the philosophy that there is more happiness in giving. Below is a partial list of the organizations and fundraisers Cars Plus supports:

  • Cars Plus supports the Make-A-Wish Foundation through various events and fundraisers, including functions held at the dealership and is a supporter of the Guam Humanities Council through event sponsorships and fundraisers
  • Platinum sponsor for the annual GMHVA Charity Ball in 2010 and a Platinum sponsor for the Inaugural Ball in 2011
  • Partners with the Pacific Daily News to provide daily newspapers to public and private schools through the Newspapers in Education program.
  • Works closely with the Guam Community College Automotive Apprenticeship Program to provide on-site training for students so they can gain the skills and credits necessary to earn a degree
  • Sponsors the Guam Football Association (soccer) by donating vehicles for both the staff and professional FIFA coaches, and through supporting several youth and adult soccer leagues throughout the year
  • Sponsor of the Men’s Hyundai Family Soccer Team, Women’s Hyundai Soccer Team, Men’s Cars Plus Futbol Club, and the Cars Plus Robbie Webber Soccer League
  • Through the Superior Court of Guam’s Juvenile Drug Court, Cars Plus participates in the Life Skills Program by offering Workshops where young people are encouraged to be productive, drug-free members of the community
  • Active member of the Chamber of Commerce, in both the Armed Forces Committee and Guam Young Professionals
  • Participates in and raises funds for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life
  • Organizes the Run for Life 5K benefiting the American Cancer Society
  • Sponsors the annual Southern High School 5K, annual Airmen/ Army Reserve Tao’Tao’Mo’na 5K, and Guam Humanities Council’s I’Tano’ta 5K
  • Held the first ever Chamorro Artist’s Association Manamko’ Art Display, featuring artwork from Guam’s talented Manamko’ community.
  • Host of the War Survivors Exhibit in late 2010
  • Sponsors and supports the Miss Earth Pageant
  • Host of the Guam Women’s Club’s Wine Tasting & Silent Auction benefiting the Sugar Plum Tree and Women’s scholarships at UOG
  • Sponsors the Edward M. Calvo Cancer Foundation’s various events including the Guam is Good Wine Tasting event on March 24th.
  • Contributed $2,000 to MARC (Micronesia Area Research Center) at UOG
  • Sponsor of fundraising events for the American Red Cross, including the annual Red Ball
  • Sponsor of the Bank of Guam’s annual Run for Red 5K benefiting the American Red Cross
  • Sponsor of the Monster Energy Motocross Championship Series and the Monsoon Series
  • Sponsor of the annual Smokin’ Wheels event at the Yigo Racetrack