AS SOME BOOMER AND OLDER DEALERS get set to retire, a wave of Gen Xers and millennials—or Gen Yers—are about to step in. But are they ready? The answer is yes…soon.
For decades, NADA and its American Truck Dealers (ATD) division have prepared future dealers and general managers to run their dealerships. The popular NADA and ATD Academy programs offer online courses and classroom training. But NADA and ATD saw a need to
cultivate future leaders who were younger, more tech-savvy and interested in becoming “influencers,” not simply in their social media spheres and dealerships, but also on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures. The result is NADA’s new NextGen program.
MENTORS, PEERS AND CAPITOL HILL
“Our NextGen program, which continues to evolve, offers various initiatives to help up-and-coming dealers and managers become successful business leaders in their communities and to get them more involved with their national trade association,” says NADA
President Peter Welch. “They can learn from mentors, meet with peers at networking events and learn about important industry, legislative and regulatory challenges facing dealers.” Recognizing the need for diverse perspectives on issues, NADA and ATD have also
appointed NextGen dealers to serve on several association committees.
And Academy students now attend a policy briefing in NADA’s Capitol Hill office. Here they learn about regulatory and legislative issues that affect dealerships, how to be more involved in grass-roots efforts and take a tour of the U.S. Capitol. “Just like in sales, when
you’re working on a legislative issue, you have to be persuasive, persistent and close the deal,” says Ivette Rivera, NADA vice president of legislative affairs “The earlier we start in the policy process, the more successful we can be.”
NextGen dealers say the briefings are very helpful. Andrew G. Linn III, a second-generation dealer at Southland International Trucks in Homewood, Ala., says the topics discussed are key to dealers and their customers. “It is very important to highlight
these issues with our elected officials so that they understand the impact they can have on our business and industry.”
GAINING CONFIDENCE AND KNOWLEDGE
During NADA’s annual Washington Conference last fall, nearly 70 younger dealers attended a dedicated NextGen progam, which included a networking reception, a legislative briefing on key public policy issues, a workshop on how to lobby elected officials effectively, a luncheon with a member of
Congress and a bus tour of D.C. monuments. Nancy Tonkin-Zoucha, e-commerce director at Ron Tonkin Family of Dealerships, Portland, Ore., attended the Washington Conference and says the NextGen program creates a solid link between industry leaders and younger dealers. “These NextGen
members can gain the confidence and knowledge they need to grow and shape the future of the industry.” New for 2015: NADA’s political action committee, the Dealers Election Action Committee (DEAC), will launch a NextGen Leadership Club to encourage young dealers and
dealership successors to get more politically involved.
ATD’S NEXTGEN PROGRAM ATD launched its NextGen program three yeas ago. “The principles of our program are primarily education and networking for future truck dealers and managers,” says ATD NextGen Chairman Chad Remp, operations manager of Wheeling
(W.Va.) Truck Center. Remp, a fourth-generation dealer, says a major focus is growing the program by getting more people involved through social media, holding networking events and offering NextGen workshops during the ATD convention.
ALL ABOUT BEING A LEADER
Is the NextGen program having an impact? Last year, 387 students graduated from the Academy—an 18 percent increase from 2013. The curriculum—including the time now spent on Capitol Hill learning about legislative and policy issues—is so popular that Academy classes are nearly sold out for this year,
so the Academy is taking registrations for 2016. “The NextGen program has little to do with age or ownership,” says Allen Phibbs, director of the NADA and ATD Academy. “It has everything to do with leadership and who will lead the next generation of car and truck dealers. There are
going to be more professional managers leading the industry than successors and private owners. That’s the direction we’re going.” Young leaders can be as involved as much as they want in the NextGen program. And that’s a good thing for NADA, and for dealership leaders of the future.