Dealer and automaker staff often ask me and former chairmen and NADA board members what it takes to become the chairman of NADA. The answer is passion for and commitment to the industry, interest in the political process, and a forward-thinking vision for how to stay on the cutting edge of political advocacy and industry innovation.
First and foremost is a burning desire to serve our industry. Local dealerships are great businesses that root us in our communities. These businesses are good for communities, our customers -- and they're good to us. Serving with NADA is a great way to give back. I also found that my prior employment with Ford Motor Co. was helpful in having perspective on both sides of dealer/manufacturer issues.
Interest in politics is important -- but of itself, it is not enough. NADA's chairman has to have an active willingness to communicate with legislators and policymakers, and be part of the process. Active participation and leadership in a state dealers association, such as the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association, is important. The time I spent on the Colorado Motor Vehicle Dealer Board helped me understand the regulatory and enforcement world at the state level.
It's also a big, full-time job. The NADA chair travels a lot -- to state dealer association meetings, to auto shows, to speaking engagements with manufacturers, and to dealer-manufacturer meetings both domestic and international. The travel-averse need not apply.
So it is critically important that you have good management in place at your dealerships, as a good deal of your time is dedicated to being chairman. My team has attended the NADA Academy and we participate in three NADA 20 groups to stay on track.
My secret sauce for a successful chairmanship is a supportive wife like my Nancy who was there in all phases of my chairmanship.
These are the basic prerequisites to be chairman. I sometimes compared this job to being a pilot and the training I have had, although I haven't risen to the top of the pilot world, nor will I. The important comparative factors are that you rely on your training, experience and patience, you stay calm under pressure and you are creative when things start to go sideways.
Then there is the campaign. It is sometimes uncontested, and other times as many as three candidates run for vice chairman on the way to the chairmanship. My year had two candidates, and I prevailed. This earns you one year of "dress rehearsal" as vice chairman and briefings at a light-speed pace.
NADA's board of directors is composed of 63 smart, successful entrepreneurs who have been around the block enough times to have been elected by their fellow dealers. They decide who leads NADA. It can be political but it is important. The campaign is short, capped by a speech at the October board meeting preceding the vote for vice chairman.
Traditionally, the chairman-elect is seated at the convention. I was seated in a non-traditional way because the 2016 convention was late in March instead of the typical late January or early February. A special board meeting was held in January 2016 at the Ritz in Dallas where I assumed the duties and responsibilities of chairman, but Past Chairman Bill Fox protected the gavel until the convention in Las Vegas. Creativity and flexibility are important.
Once you're chairman, things happen fast. There are committees to form, duties to be done, decisions to be made and messages to be delivered. Change occurs daily in the regulatory, legislative arena and with manufacturers' policy and procedures. The good news is there is a lot of flight time to keep up on the reading.
But the real secret of a good year for a chairman is the NADA staff. The people make or break an organization. Dealers would not last long without our Capitol Hill team.
Nor could we make it if the regulatory affairs staff was not vigilant watching all the agencies that impact us. Our industry affairs staff has a thankless job of maintaining relations with the OEMs.
NADA's dealership operations department has to up its game every day. NADA PAC is in the top five for political support and was 95 percent successful in the last election. The charitable foundation responded quickly to the disaster in Baton Rouge, La., this year while continuing its other missions.
All of this is manageable when you have a president and CEO like Peter Welch.
I would say it's been an excellent first 100 years. Now let's celebrate and look forward to the next 100!