Want to work at your family's dealership? Think about being a CPA first

I’ve written before about dealers who ask their children to work in the outside world before deciding whether they want to be part of the family business. But what kind of work should the next generation be doing to best prepare them for running such a complex retail operation as a dealership?

Bill Brantley, COO at Ed Voyles Automotive Group in suburban Atlanta, has some ideas. Before joining the Voyles group in 2004, Brantley was a longtime banker who handled Bank of America’s dealership clients throughout the Southeast.

“Some of the best dealers are CPAs,” Brantley told me. “They understand in the business what it takes to make money. They just have a great insight into the metrics and what works and what doesn’t.”

It makes sense to me. I’ve encountered several dealers who took the accounting route first and seem to be doing well.

Just a week ago, I spoke to Dave Cox, dealer principal at Hare Chevrolet in Noblesville, Ind. The family business dates back to 1847, when it built and sold buggies and wagons. His two daughters now run the dealership on a day-to-day basis. They both worked at accounting firms before joining Hare.

“I’ll put them up against any two boys around when it comes to buying and selling in the car business,” Cox said. “They’re pretty good.”

In Atlanta, the Voyles family, led by second-generation CEO Valery Voyles, asks that the third generation get a college education and work elsewhere “successfully” for two years before they join the family business.

“Not everybody wants to” work in the dealership, Voyles said. “And it’s better for their self-esteem to know they can go somewhere else and make it on their own.”

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