I am pleased to have Bob Glaser, the CEO of the North Carolina Automotive Dealers Association (NCADA), as a guest columnist this month. Mr. Glaser has been the CEO of NCADA for the past 16 years. He is a CPA by profession and has written extensively on association management and finances for the past two decades, including previously in this column. Here are some words Bob had to say about Young Dealer Groups and the future of the industry.
As the industry slowly emerges from one of the most tumultuous periods of time, one of the growing trends that is being witnessed is the emergence of “Young Dealer Groups” or “Next Gen” dealer groups. These groups, generally consisting of dealers, (or sons and daughters of dealers, between the age of 25 and 50) are starting to rise up in various states across the Nation.
With the baby boom generation inching closer to the age of 65 and beginning to contemplate a phased-in retirement, many of these dealers have sons and daughters that are working in various leadership roles within the dealership. These children form the backbone of tomorrow’s leadership and as such, have started to form “young dealers groups” around the nation to better understand the industry, emerging trends and fellow dealers.
The North Carolina Auto Dealers Association (NCADA) first discussed a Young Dealers Group in 2005. With Board approval in 2006, NCADA appointed a former chairman of the state association to act as a moderator/founder for the group. With all of the pieces in place, the Young Dealers of North Carolina met for the first time in the spring of 2007. To date, the group has met at least three times each year and more than 100 young North Carolina dealers are actively involved in the program.
Also, witnessing this shift in the dealership workplace, NADA made a concerted effort in the fall of 2011 to invite “Next Gen” dealers to participate in the Washington Conference. More than 60 answered the call from NADA and participated in meetings and visits to our Nation’s Capitol. While several states across the Nation are taking concrete steps to develop and implement a Young Dealers Group, NADA, for the first time, is planning to have a “Next Gen” representative on each of its operating committees and two representatives on NADA’s long range planning committee.
While the benefits of implementing and participating in a young dealers group are very tangible, it is critical to the success of our industry, state dealer associations and the young dealer groups, to clearly identify the benefits that these groups present to the industry.
Increases the members participating in the Association Young dealer groups expand participation in the state auto dealer associations. Not only as a stand-alone subsection of membership, but also as willing participants in legislative programs, educational sessions and annual conventions. For example, members of the young dealers group are often used to introduce speakers, chair member meetings and provide programming for the annual convention. Similarly, at the upcoming North Carolina annual convention, the young dealer group is acting as the host for the opening reception.
Networks your fellow dealers at a much younger age As one young dealer noted, “Why should I have to wait until I’m 50 to meet the other Ford dealers across the State?” While once there were line-make meetings that allowed younger dealers to network together, the opportunities today in most states are more limited. An active young dealers group allows dealers of all ages, and all parts of the state, to meet one another in a positive, networking type arrangement. This relationship building could produce decades of friendship among industry professionals.
Expands the educational topics presented While most state associations provide educational programming for their members, the advent of a young dealers group allows the association to better understand the most current dealership issues that are impacting dealerships. Issues such as Facebook advertising, twitter uses and text advertising are educational issues that have been addressed by North Carolina’s young dealers. Young dealer members, most of them grew up using the latest technology, may see the use of emerging cutting-edge technologies as vital to a dealership’s success and profitability.
Allows Young Dealer Groups to provide a snapshot of the future At the recent 75th anniversary of the North Carolina Auto Dealers Association, the young dealers coordinated a special presentation projecting the “Industry of Tomorrow” to all attendees. A panel of six young dealers discussed what a possible dealership operation would look like in the year 2035. From sales, to service, to the showroom layout, the young dealers painted a snapshot of what the dealership of tomorrow may resemble. A summary of their presentation is still being requested nearly two years after their presentation.
Educates young dealers on benefits offered by the Association While not all association members are active in the various state dealer association, there is an increased likelihood of involvement should the dealer become engaged at a younger age. Accordingly, as part of the regular young dealer meetings, an opportunity exists to “cross market” the benefits and programs that are offered by the state association. With an increased awareness of the value of the dealer association, it is hoped that these members will stay active in the association for the next couple of decades.
Provides a shared family value from one generation to the next Many of the members of the young dealers group have watched, as young adults, their parents go off to association and industry meetings. It is now their time to share the same experiences that their parents had in years past. For example, the young dealers of North Carolina often attend meetings with their spouses to demonstrate the ‘family value” central to our industry. As one of the most vibrant family industries left in America, young dealer groups allow today’s dealers the opportunity to share the same experiences and values that their parents enjoyed in prior years.
In closing, as increased numbers of dealers are starting to evaluate options related to retirement or are transitioning to less time at the store, it is critically important to the long-term success of the dealership to have the next generation of dealers actively involved in the industry. As this next generation of the automotive leaders prepare for their time at the helm, statewide young dealers group, orchestrated by state dealer associations or NADA, can play a valuable role in providing tomorrow’s dealers with education, networking and tools to build our industry’s success in the decades ahead.