Selling a dealership: A painful process of letting go

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Having the heart of an auto dealer doesn’t always mean having the stomach for all the business entails.

Take the former dealer who recently told me his story but did not want his name used.

He sold his dealership several years ago and now works for a dealership group. He is sometimes involved with the group’s acquisitions. And when he sees a selling dealer with cold feet, he understands.

“It’s an emotional deal,” he says. “But you realize it’s a business and you have to do what is best for you and your family, so you do it.”

The former dealer has several children. None wanted to take over the dealership, he says, even though some of them were well suited for it.

“But what they tell me now is they watched the long hours I worked and how hard I worked at it, and they didn’t want to do it,” he says.

Many dealers face similar situations: They own stores into which they poured years of blood, sweat and tears -- perhaps as second- or third-generation dealers -- and now find themselves aging and without succession plans.

And so starts the painful process of letting go.

The former dealer continues to work in the industry he loves, and he does so without the headaches and heartaches of ownership.

“My daughter asked me why am I still working? I say, ‘I still have a passion for the business,’” he says. “But I’m in my 60s now and I don’t want the risk.”

You can reach Jamie LaReau at jlareau@crain.com. -- Follow Jamie on Twitter

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