Michael Anderson, 38
President, Anderson Automotive Group
Achievement: Bringing discipline to succession planning and family involvement
The family car business always beckoned, but coming out of college Michael Anderson was unsure how he felt about the business or working for his father. Instead, he cut his teeth at other dealerships before returning to the fold to manage a new store in Columbia, S.C.
It's a decision he recommends for anyone who grows up in a family business because it gave him confidence and a greater management perspective. That experience, along with an MBA from Kennesaw State University, has proved valuable as Anderson Automotive Group expands and plans for the future.
Since Anderson took on group leadership responsibilities in 2010 — first as vice president of sales and marketing, and then president three years ago — the company has doubled in size to nine stores in North and South Carolina, and now has 1,000 employees. With this year's acquisition of a Toyota franchise in Asheville, N.C., Anderson Automotive projects new- and used-vehicle sales to top 28,000 units and revenue of $800 million.
Anderson had seen how family businesses often fail because of internal family dynamics that undermine what otherwise is a solid operation, so he led an effort to formalize family members' involvement in the business and hold them more accountable for supporting corporate goals.
"We believe our family brings a lot of benefits to the company, but we want to be sure to protect the business from events or issues that all families experience at some time or another," he said.
The initiative includes the creation of an outside board of directors, documented standards and guides for the family's involvement and regular family meetings to educate everyone on the business and goals.
"One of the things we believe, if you are going to benefit from the family business, then you have a responsibility to contribute and be educated on the business," Anderson said, adding: "We do that intentionally so you don't get 15 years down the road and then start looking for a paycheck and you don't understand the decisions being made about the business."
Anderson's father, Fred, had to relinquish some control over decisions, but gladly did so for the organization's long-term health, he said.
As part of a management reorganization, Anderson Automotive has added a COO and a CFO, while streamlining the accounting department.