Katie Bowman Coleman and her father John didn't always agree on how to modernize the family business, John Bowman Chevrolet in Clarkston, Mich.
In fact, Coleman, 49, left the dealership in 2009 and enrolled in General Motors' women's retail network program, training to open her own store.
"But the family interceded, and we settled our differences," she says. She returned in 2011 and replaced her father as dealer principal in early 2012, several months before his death.
The store had done well since John Bowman purchased it in 1976, as Clarkston grew from a sleepy Oakland County suburb 40 miles north of Detroit into a built-out bedroom community in Michigan's richest county.
But what Coleman took over in 2012 was a single-point operation surrounded by four Chevy franchises less than 15 miles away. And in an era of stair-step factory incentives that reduce the wholesale costs of higher-volume outlets, she needed to grow to compete against larger dealership groups in metro Detroit.
Coleman took swift action. She opened the store on Saturdays, revamped the Web site and advertising, replaced a sales manager, expanded service facility capacity, refurbished the showroom and made the store more inviting for female customers. Expanding the four-car showroom was impractical because it's landlocked in a busy urban business district.