Are family-owned auto dealerships destined to fade in the shadow of giant retail chains, or can they harness their unique heritage to outpace the competition? Champ Rawls, a business succession planner at The Rawls Group, emphasizes the delicate balance between maintaining a local, family-owned appeal while integrating the structured practices typical of larger dealerships and public companies.

Emphasizing Family Business Roots

Rawls advises that leveraging the dealership’s identity as a local, family-oriented business can significantly benefit customer perception and loyalty. He suggests that dealerships should not only preserve but emphasize their family-business roots throughout their operations.

The Shift Towards Professionalism

However, he also cautions against the pitfalls of informal business practices that might detract from professionalism. According to Rawls, the automotive retail sector has evolved past the mom-and-pop phase, and professionalizing operations can enhance the inherent strengths of a family-run business.


Strategies for Professionalization

Rawls recommends several strategies to professionalize a family-owned dealership:

  • Developing a mission statement that aligns with the dealership’s core values.
  • Creating detailed job descriptions.
  • Establishing performance metrics.
  • Formulating strategic plans for expansion.

These steps are essential for transitioning from a casual to a professional business structure. For instance, a clear mission statement can direct daily operations and decision-making, ensuring they reflect the dealership’s foundational values.


Setting Clear Expectations and Responsibilities

Professionalizing job roles with explicit descriptions also helps set clear expectations and responsibilities, crucial in a setting where personal relationships might otherwise overshadow professional boundaries.

Moreover, implementing performance metrics is important for assessing employee success and is critical for succession planning. These metrics ensure that leadership roles are filled based on merit and suitability rather than lineage alone.


Strategic Planning and Expansion

Rawls also discusses the importance of strategic planning in the expansion of family-owned dealerships. He suggests that dealerships assess their strengths and weaknesses to develop a ‘buy box’—a set of criteria that determines whether a potential dealership acquisition fits the family’s strategic goals. This approach helps family businesses focus their efforts and resources on opportunities that align with their long-term objectives.


Professional Operations as a Competitive Advantage

Savannah Simms, Director of Marketing and Business Development at Simms Automotive, shares a similar perspective. Transitioning from managing high-profile dealerships to a leadership role within her family’s business, Simms highlights the necessity of professional operations in establishing a dealership as an industry expert.

Redefining Family in Business

Simms notes that at Simms Automotive, the concept of ‘family’ is broadened to include business partners, fostering a sense of community and shared opportunity. This inclusive approach not only strengthens business relationships but also contributes to a supportive corporate culture.

Family-owned dealerships that adopt professional business practices can significantly enhance their operational efficiency and market competitiveness. By doing so, they ensure their longevity and relevance in a dynamic industry landscape.

How We Help Family-Owned Dealerships

Are you and your family grappling with the delicate balance of maintaining cherished traditions while steering your dealership toward unprecedented growth? Do the unique challenges of operating a family-owned business sometimes seem overwhelming?

Connect with us today, and let us provide you with bespoke support and strategies crafted for the specific needs of family-run dealerships. Whether you’re looking to redefine roles, leverage individual strengths, or foster effective communication within your family business, our experts are ready to help. In just a 30-minute consultation, we can offer you actionable insights and practical tools designed to enhance your business operations and strengthen your family dynamics immediately.

Don’t let the complexities of family relationships limit your dealership’s potential—seize the opportunity to turn familial bonds into a competitive business edge. Contact us now to start your journey towards a thriving and enduring family-operated dealership.

This article was originally published in Sense of Mission Essential for Family-owned Dealerships, Consultant Says

Strategic Planning

The only constant one can plan for is change.  Strategic planning positions the business to address the probable, possible, and potential contingencies impacting business success. 

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