Once accused of being too paternalistic about its minority dealer program, General Motors now takes a tough-love approach with its candidates.
Of the 62 minority candidates who went through the company's leadership assessment program in the past year, 17 are in training or will begin training in 2001; 14 are ready to be placed in dealerships; and 13 were told to reapply for training when they have more dealership management experience. Five candidates dropped out of the program and one died.
Twelve were rejected.
Also, any candidate who does not measure up during training will be dismissed.
In the past, virtually all candidates who entered the program graduated.
Michael McLarty, GM's minority dealer development manager of candidate development, said GM's new approach is the result of a 1998 independent study of the program.
Conducted at the request of civil rights leader the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the study advised GM to be more careful about the candidates it chooses; to remove unmotivated or poorly qualified candidates from the program; and to eliminate 'paternalistic practices.'
McLarty said GM believes the new approach is fair, unbiased and will help the automaker identify the best candidates and give them the best chance to succeed.
'We're being more selective now and very objective with our decisions,' he said.
Minority dealers are heavily involved in the process, McLarty said. They helped GM craft the new process and they interview and evaluate every potential candidate.
Martin Cumba, owner of Sun Chevrolet in McMurray, Pa., and Northtowne Chevrolet in Temperance, Mich., is chairman of the GM Minority Dealer Advisory Council. He also helps GM select candidates.
Cumba said dealer input is key to making the program successful. 'There is more dealer involvement; in the past it was minimal,' said Cumba, who retails about 1,800 new vehicles at both stores.
All potential candidates are put through a leadership assessment exercise to measure business and people skills. Candidates can be eliminated from the running for reasons ranging from having scored poorly during the assessment to not having enough money.
'We don't get deep into personality; we're looking for skills,' McLarty said. 'Can they lead people? Can they empower people to do their jobs? Can they build teams?'
Candidates must have at least $125,000 in unencumbered capital or 15 percent of the initial investment.