ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Rodger Olson is an absolute geek on retailing. And he makes no apologies for that as he lectures undergraduate students in his class on retail sales at the University of Michigan here.
Whether it's comparing the franchise models of Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald's or measuring the success of 7-Eleven convenience stores' rollout in Taiwan, Olson can speak with the authority of someone deeply immersed in his chosen subject. His fascination rubs off on his students -- the mark of a good professor.
Only Olson, 38, is not actually a professor. He's the COO of Victory Automotive Group, a suburban Detroit dealership group that owns 26 stores around the country and is ranked No. 40 on the Automotive News list of the top 125 dealership groups in the country, with 17,999 new retail vehicles sold in 2013.
"Retail has been something of a dirty word. We're trying to change that," says Olson, who spent 14 years working as an engineer for auto suppliers before he got his MBA and changed careers. "There are some fantastic opportunities on the retail side. Everybody thinks of the greasy, slimy used-car salesman who's in your face."
As guest lecturer, Olson's mission goes beyond just changing perceptions. Victory Automotive can use his class to mine talent coming out of the university's Ross School of Business, one of the nation's most prestigious business schools. In fact, Olson got his MBA from U-M.