In the fast-paced realm of the automotive industry, turning obstacles into green lights is the key to securing the future of your family-owned dealership—it’s no cakewalk, more like a thrilling rollercoaster ride filled with unexpected twists and turns. Strategic succession planning is the name of the game, and as a savvy car dealer, mastering it requires more than just fancy footwork; you need to be in the know and play it smart.

This guide is your backstage pass, delivering real-deal insights from industry heavyweights like George Karolis from The Presidio Group and our family business and succession planning expert, Champ Rawls. So, buckle up and get ready for an insider’s perspective on steering your dealership legacy through the twists and turns of succession, turning obstacles into green lights along the way.

RoadBlock 1: Hesitation in Making Critical Decisions

A primary challenge in succession planning is the reluctance to make crucial decisions. Car dealers often struggle with determining whether to retain the business, navigate family and business dynamics, explore growth opportunities, or consider selling the business. Ignoring or hoping that interpersonal family and management issues will resolve naturally can lead to significant conflicts and disruptions in business operations.

Green Light: A Structured Approach

Overcoming this hesitation requires a structured approach. Engage in open and honest discussions with stakeholders, including family members, key employees, and trusted advisors. Seek professional guidance to assess your business’s financial health and identify any obstacles in fulfilling your vision. Analyze various scenarios and their potential impact on the business and your family. You can make confident decisions by establishing a clear vision aligned with your aspirations.

Roadblock 2: Capital Allocation and Strategic Planning

Automotive succession planning involves critical choices regarding capital allocation and financial planning. Dealers often struggle with identifying the optimal use of resources, determining capital needs, and exploring funding options.

Green Light: Strategic Planning – Optimizing Resources for Car Dealerships

Seek expert insight from advisors and seasoned dealers through networks like 20 groups and state associations. Seasoned succession planners and business advisors can provide a third-party perspective to assess your dealership’s financial position, identify capital requirements for growth or transition, and explore funding options. Engaging in strategic planning can help you determine your purpose, strengths, areas for improvement, potential threats, and growth opportunities. Developing a comprehensive strategic plan aligned with your vision and objectives will help secure the future of your dealership.

Roadblock 3: Leadership Development and Talent Management

Building a strong leadership team and developing successors are crucial for a seamless transition. Relying on the success of a single individual is not a viable long-term strategy.

Green Light: Talent Management Strategies for Seamless Leadership Transition

Implement a systematic talent management program tailored to your business’s needs. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of existing team members and provide targeted training and mentoring to fill skill gaps. Encourage cross-functional experiences to broaden their understanding of the car dealership’s operations. Emphasize the importance of teamwork and collaborative decision-making. By investing in the development of your team, you can build a sustainable foundation for future success.

Roadblock 4: Family Dynamics and Governance

Family-owned auto dealerships often face unique challenges related to family dynamics and governance. Balancing the interests and aspirations of multiple family members, resolving conflicts, and establishing effective decision-making processes can be complex.

Green Light: Navigating Family Dynamics – Effective Governance for Auto Dealerships

Foster open and transparent communication among family members. Consider establishing a family council or a board of directors to educate non-active family members on business dynamics and oversee the strategic direction of the business. Clearly define roles, responsibilities, and expectations for family members involved in the business. Seek guidance from professionals experienced in interpersonal coaching and navigating emotionally triggering conversations when necessary.

Roadblock 5: Professional Expertise and Guidance

Succession planning requires expertise in various areas, such as finance, legal matters, tax planning, business valuation, interpersonal development, team building, and family dynamics. The lack of access to professional guidance can hinder the effectiveness of the process.

Green Light: Engaging Professional Expertise for Automotive Succession Planning

Engage professionals specializing in automotive dealership succession planning. Seek assistance from experienced tax and legal experts and business consultants who understand the industry’s unique challenges. Their insights and guidance can help you navigate complex issues, ensure compliance with regulations, and maximize the value of your dealership during the succession process.

To ensure a smooth transition of ownership and secure the long-term success of your dealership, foster effective decision-making, optimize capital allocation, nurture leadership talent, manage family dynamics, and leverage professional expertise. Tailor these solutions to your specific circumstances, seeking expert advice from professionals well-versed in the intricacies of the auto industry. With the right approach, you can achieve your family and business goals, securing the continued success of your dealership.

How We Help You

Are you struggling with navigating the twists and turns of succession planning in your family-owned dealership? In the fast-paced automotive industry, strategic succession planning is essential for securing the future of your business. But hesitation in making critical decisions, capital allocation challenges, leadership development concerns, family dynamics, and the need for professional expertise can create roadblocks along the way.

But fear not. Our team is here to help you turn these obstacles into green lights on your journey to success. With insights from industry experts and tailored solutions, we can guide you through each challenge you face.

Contact us today, and let’s work together to navigate the complexities of succession planning in the automotive industry. Schedule a consultation with us to gain valuable insights and strategies to propel your dealership towards lasting success. Don’t let uncertainty hold you back—reach out now and let’s pave the way for your dealership’s bright future.

The article was originally published in Digital Dealer: The Roadmap to a Smooth Guide: Navigating Obstacles in Auto Dealership Succession Planning.

For more insight:

Visit the “Strategic Considerations in Automotive Retail” discussion page or select one of the additional episodes of the series below:


  • The Presidio Group: an independent merchant banking firm focused on mergers and acquisitions, capital raising, and investments in the automotive retail and consumer mobility sectors.
  • Succession Readiness Survey:  A 7-minute investment in time will put you in an informed position of opportunities many business owners overlook, impacting business value, growth, and lifestyle, and ultimately achieving your vision.
  • Contact a Succession Planner: The Rawls Group can help you with insights and other resources and see if it makes sense to work together. At the very least, in 30 minutes, you may get some ideas you can apply to your business immediately.

The Succession Planning Matrix

Many people put off succession planning because they think it means retirement, exit, and the end. However; succession planning is just the beginning. It gives the owner options in terms of what “their next” looks like, whether that be growth, philanthropy, or a new business venture. Our process focuses are addressing 10 key areas of what we call the Succession

Click the following link for more drill-down resources on The Succession Matrix, or check out our Facebook post.

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We can provide insights and other resources and assess whether it makes sense to work together. In just 30 minutes, you may gain actionable ideas that you can immediately apply to your business. Contact us via phone or email below, or fill out the “Ask An Expert” form.