Terrah Hanks is a household name. You’ve probably seen her on TV, heard her voice on the radio or even met her in person as the general manager of Sundance Buick GMC, Sundance Ranch & Farms, Sundance Riding Stables, and Executive Manager at Sundance Chevrolet. It’s almost like you know her and her family. The spirit you hear in her voice is just the beginning of the passion Hanks has for her community, family and business. She has found a way to bring all her passions together in her career and has set out to create her own path.
Hanks is no pushover; she means business. But that drive to succeed has played a significant role in not only her career, but also at the rodeo. Hanks is a Women’s Professional Rodeo Association three-time Great Lakes Circuit Qualifier in Women’s Barrel Racing, Mid-States Finals Rodeo Association Barrel Racing Average Winner and three-time Mid-States Finals Barrel Racing Qualifier. She also currently serves as the Mid-States Rodeo Association Barrel Racing Director.
“I am a very driven person and I don’t stop. I have always been high-energy and very determined. I like to be involved,” said Hanks. “If you want it bad enough, you find a way to make it happen.”
And make things happen she did. Hanks graduated from Grand Ledge High School, received her bachelor’s degree in marketing at Michigan State University and went on to attend classes at Northwood University and graduate from the National Automobile Dealers Association’s (NADA) Dealer Academy. Hanks believes education is one of the main keys to success.
“Education is key. Educating yourself in the basics of business, working hard and putting yourself in a position in a company where you can learn and continue to grow is important. Never stop learning, don’t stop asking questions and keep reaching for the top. There is always a next goal,” Hanks said.
Hanks has set many goals over the years and has worked diligently to achieve them all. Her work ethic is unmatched and ambition is infectious — it’s clear she has a knack for business. It was important to Hanks when she joined the family business that she wasn’t part of the team because she was family, but rather, because she had earned her position as the best fit for the job. Hanks has never hung her hat on her family name because she believes that what you have in life must be earned with drive and passion.
“I had always wanted to work with my dad, but I needed to be good at it. I wanted it to be earned, or I wasn’t going to do it. I wanted it to be because I was capable of doing it, I was good at it, not just because I was family,” Hanks said. “It was important for me to be successful in my own way. I love business. I love sales. I love working with people. I enjoy all of it, and I always have.”
Hanks believes in leading by example. She’s never one to sit back while others work, preferring instead to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with her team while always looking ahead.
“One thing I’ve learned in business is that, to be a leader, you have to know the answers, be willing to find the answers or know where to look to get them. You have to be willing to figure it out to earn their confidence and respect. They need to know you’re willing to go the extra mile,” said Hanks. “I lead by example. If the guys are out there shoveling snow, you better believe we are out there shoveling snow right next to them.”
But Hanks doesn’t just manage teams across four different companies, as she also manages a household. Her husband Chad works alongside her every day to set an example of hard work for their three daughters: Zadah, 5, Aspen, 3 and Attikah, 1. Hanks encourages them to work hard for their dreams, to stand on their own and to have pride in what they do, just as she has done to achieve her slice of success.
“I want them to have a work ethic and a positive attitude. I want them to know how to be successful within yourself. The definition of success is different for everyone, and you have to be happy with the success you have achieved, and you can’t be affected by what other people think. You need to be confident and happy with what you are doing,” Hanks said. “You want to know when you hang up that phone or close the door that you are confident in what you did. I want them to work hard and understand they can be successful in their own way. Life is not created equally. I can run a business, but I can’t sew a button on a jacket. We don’t all have the same blessings, and you have to find your own greatness. I want them to spend their time and energy being great at what they enjoy and what they are good at.”
Reflecting on her journey, Hanks has no regrets, knowing that greater goals rest beyond even greater challenges. And she will undoubtedly go after those challenges with the same passion and excitement that has driven her this far. She can only encourage others to do the same — to go after what they want, work hard, not be afraid to fail and always be willing to prove themselves.
“I would say, expect to fail. That is how you learn. I mean, try to fail as few times as possible,” Hanks joked. “But learn from your mistakes. You can be taught a lot of different things but until you jump on the back of that horse and get bucked off, you won’t know how to get back up. Books can teach you a lot of things, but they can tell you what will happen when you try it. You have to see the glass half full and figure out how to go out and fix it.”
“We live by this saying, ʽTell me. Sell me. Show me.’ Because you can tell someone, and you can try to sell someone, but you better always be able prove it,” said Hanks.
Photos by Red Barn Photography