Exit strategy is a problem that will be faced by every dealer who stays the course, and it takes planning to be sure the dealer's wishes are carried out. Bill Robinson of Mobile, Ala., suggests that you should start planning at 50. He didn't, but he wishes he had.
Most dealerships are family operations, and most owners want them to stay that way. But the next generation must be trained. Sheilah Garcia of Albuquerque, N.M., has two sons in managerial positions in her dealerships. Her advice: 'If you have managers, you have to let them manage.'
In Cody, Wyo., Bud Webster is determined to keep his dealership in the family - if he ever retires. Webster is 86 and has been running the store for 61 years. His son, an attorney and city judge in Cody, will take over.
Wayne Culiver of Scottsdale, Ariz., got out at 55. He saw changes in the business that he didn't much care for - ownership by publicly held companies, for example. So he sold his Cadillac-Hummer operations to Bob Lund, retired general manager of Chevrolet and Cadillac. Culiver told his two sons he felt it was time they worked for someone other than their father.
In this section, dealers talk about the pains and pleasure of planning for the inevitable: The day they must walk out the door.