Karmala Sutton, NextGen's president, calls it a "safe space" for dealer hopefuls to bounce ideas off one another. About 60 members with varying experience levels participate, including salespeople and general managers.
NAMAD also partnered with the National Automobile Dealers Association this year to create a 20 Group for NextGen members. The group looks over the financial statements of their stores with their peers. Top performers, Sutton said, can then share what's working for them with the rest of the group.
Sutton's father, Nathaniel, owns Sutton Auto Team, which sells Ford, Lincoln and Honda vehicles in Matteson, Ill., and Bristol, Wis. She works in accounting at her father's Honda of Kenosha store in Bristol.
"We want to keep this culture of peers to be able to bond and talk about things that happen in their stores that they don't know how to solve," said Sutton, 30.
Fred Salinas made sure his sons were well-groomed for leadership so they were ready when it came time for Ford to approve them. Salinas started his career with Ford in 1979 on the manufacturing side, so he had an insider's view of what the automaker was looking for.
The brothers ran the gauntlet of dealership duties, putting in the long hours their father says are necessary to be successful.
Austin got his start in Internet sales before moving to the finance department and sales desk on his way to becoming general sales manager. Blake returned from the Marines in 2012 and started his career with two years in the service shop. He then made his way to the sales desk before being promoted to new-car director.
Both brothers graduated from the NADA Dealer Academy as well.
Salinas included his sons in key meetings otherwise designated for upper management while they worked their way up the ladder. He broke down variables in financial statements so they knew what was important and often pulled them aside to explain why he made certain decisions.
"With all the preparation, both on their part and my part, they didn't have any problems getting approved by Ford," Salinas said. "I could walk away tomorrow and have full confidence in them. Most importantly, I wanted to pass it along and have a family legacy."
While the family's succession plan plays out, Friendly Ford must confront destruction from Hurricane Harvey in late August. Salinas said the store, 20 miles from downtown Houston, lost up to 70 percent of its inventory to flooding.
It bought replacements from dealers around the country, and Ford was helping to replenish the inventory as well.