When Larry Miller says he gave up his baby, the family-oriented car dealer isn't talking about abandoning one of his five children.
Miller, 59, is referring to the early 1990s, when it became clear he no longer could manage his expanding dealership chain in Sandy, Utah, alone. He had to build an executive team and step aside from managing day-to-day operations.
"I had things sitting on my desk waiting approval that were 60 days and 90 days old,'' Miller says. "I was becoming an impediment. We needed to convert to a corporate management style from an entrepreneurial management style."
Miller, owner of the Larry H. Miller Group, is one of a growing number of dealers with large operations who have had to hire outsiders to run his stores.
The trend toward multistore dealership groups and publicly traded dealers has created a tier of professional managers with titles such as CEO, CFO, CIO and COO. And they fill the gap between the dealer principal and the sales managers, service bosses and F&I pros who have long run dealership departments.
Size isn't the only issue driving the change; auto retailing has become more complex. Regu-lations are more complicated, centralized accounting is necessary, technology has flourished in the showroom and the service bay, and quality control is a must.
And in many cases, hands-on entrepreneurs don't have enough hands to run things properly.
"I consider myself a seat-of-the-pants operator," Miller says. "I'm very informal, don't do agendas at meetings well - I just talk. I don't even have a computer in my office. I started out buying one little Toyota store 25 years ago. I never had an idea of going past one dealership. But then I got a phone call (from Toyota) asking if I thought about buying a second one."