Executive Insider: Pete Carey

The Toyota Financial Services group vice president talks leadership, Special Olympics and his very close encounter with a rock star
by Kristen Osborn
July/August 2018

Pete Carey is a busy guy.

As Toyota Financial Services group vice president of sales, marketing and product, he oversees more than 800 team members in 30 field offices and three regional offices.

Luckily for us, he found time to chat with Driver’s Seat about the evolution of his leadership style and why, after reaching his own personal career goals, he’s committed to helping other team members start their impossible.

You can watch some of the highlights above or, if you want a more detailed view of Carey, keep reading. 

So, let’s get to it.

Driver’s Seat: So, what do you do here?

Pete Carey: I say head cheerleader. We run the largest finance company of its kind in the United States. Our mission is to create loyalty with our dealer partners. And specifically, to create an experience so our customers want to come back and do business specifically with Toyota and Toyota Financial Services. We have millions of customers. And we provide finance and insurance solutions for them.

How would you describe your leadership style?

The style I aspire to is called servant leadership. It’s a very different style than I had 10 or 15 years ago. You work for the people in your organization versus them working for you. It sounds very altruistic. But it’s also somewhat self-serving. If you can connect with people and get them to understand that they are important, that you value them and that you serve them -- they’ll do more for you than you could possibly do by tasking them or being directive to them. And I think it resonates even more with the younger team members we’re bringing into the organization. They’ve experienced the downfall of the economy, terrorism, possibly mom or dad not having a job and the divorce rate rising steadily. They’ve seen a lot of bad things. I think they’re going to be the generation that changes things. They want to be activists. They want to be involved. And so, I think this style has proven to be successful for me. I’m a big fan of talking to anybody who wants to hear what that can be, because I think it’s relevant. And I think it’s much more relevant than the style my generation has worked with previously. 

What’s something you do in your professional life that people might find surprising?

I’m a marathoner. I run long distances. And I actually pay for the privilege to do that, much to my wife’s chagrin. She doesn’t understand that. But it helps me focus on discipline, goal-setting and the like. And I think over the years, it’s helped me manage some stress as well. It’s a little odd for some.

How have you found that training for marathons has impacted you on the business side?

It’s about goal-setting, sacrifice and discipline. We’re a very forward-looking organization. We’re looking well into the future as to what our business is going to look like and how we can stay competitive.

But do you actually enjoy running?

No! Especially not as I get older. I’ve got a lot of miles on my legs. I enjoy the half marathons more than the full marathons these days.

I know the Special Olympics is really important to you. How do you think Special Olympics fits in with our Start Your Impossible mission?

Special Olympics is a holistic group of activities. Some people associate Special Olympics with an annual event. But Special Olympics activities happen every day around this country. They take place in schools and communities. And really what they do is give these athletes a competitive spirit. They bring some of these athletes outside of their homes -- some of them for the first time -- to commune with people that have abilities -- I won’t say disabilities -- that are hard to imagine. It ties nicely with our respect for all people, regardless of their disposition. And it ties in very nicely with our concept of always being better, never being best.

There’s a creed that athletes pronounce before every game. It’s an oath of sorts. It says ‘Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in my attempt.’ If you think about those words -- these are people who face significant challenges, as we see the world. They don’t see that they have significant challenges. But they want to be brave in what they do. They want to be successful. And they want to feel a sense of accomplishment just like everyone does. It’s more in keeping with what Toyota professes to be than many of the things we associate with, from my perspective. Go to a Special Olympics event and you’ll see what I mean.

What motivates you?

For me it’s about developing other people and watching them achieve things that they couldn’t have imagined for themselves. My ascension through this company is far beyond where I anticipated. I’ve done that through the selflessness of a lot of people who helped me. So, I try to focus most of my attention in the daily activities I have now on people. Thankfully they don’t let me do too much work anymore, so I can’t screw things up too bad. But I can influence people, and I can help them achieve what they’re trying to achieve. And that’s what excites me at this point.

What are you driving?

I’m driving a Tacoma. Primarily because I bought a boat when I came to Texas, and I needed something to pull it with. When I was in California I drove a Prius, because I was one of the guys that drove 57 miles one way to work. I drive 13 miles now and I need to pull a boat, so I’m driving a Tacoma.

What’s your favorite book?

The most universally read book in the world: The Bible.
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