Liking people to begin with" makes it easy to serve the community, says Bob Mallon, who is credited with founding the National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation in 1975.
Mallon was a Ford dealer in Tacoma, Wash., and an NADA director at the time.
"It occurred to me and our committee that a national foundation might be a more effective way to serve, and it would also serve as a conduit for dealers to get the public recognition they deserved," Mallon says.
Over the past 35 years, the foundation has raised more than $10 million in dealer contributions and donated the money to educational, health care and emergency-relief programs across the country. Mallon was the foundation's first board chairman, a post he has held ever since even though he retired as a dealer in 2002.
Mallon, 77, says local United Way drives, community boards and traditional service clubs are good ways for dealers to begin. Leading boards of trustees for a university and a hospital were among Mallon's most challenging and eye-opening services.
"I had a chance to see how these institutions operate and how they relate to employees and the people they serve," he says.
Once, while Mallon was a university trustee, he decided to invite student leaders to come and talk to the trustees but feared the young people might be intimidated. A relative told Mallon that the underground student paper at the school was called The Multi-Vomit.
When the student leaders arrived at the meeting, he asked them about The Multi-Vomit. "They broke up," he says. "And then they were relaxed and opened up about issues to the board."
Mallon says a dealer committed to serving the community sets a good example for employees. It creates an interest in the staff and a sense of pride when the dealer and the business are cited for their work.
But Mallon also cautions that one must develop a "certain discipline, and know when to say no."