Great memories. No regrets. And at 59 and healthy, Bob Shuman is ready for the next phase of his life.
It doesn't always go this way. Dan Schneider has seen his share of messy dealership transitions. He's a partner at Rawls Group, an Orlando, Fla., company that helps businesses with succession planning.
If there's no interest — or the right skills — among family members, and if the owner is not inclined to bring in professional managers, a decision to sell can be cast as a big win.
He says he tells his clients: "It's a good way to pass on to children the message that the business is the goose that fueled the family legacy."
And if the dealership plays a big part in giving back to the community — as many do — then there's added satisfaction in knowing that there was a greater purpose to the blood, sweat and tears than peddling cars.
Shuman sounded as relaxed as a soul could be when he reflected on the move last week. But his demeanor belied the wild ride Fiat Chrysler dealers have been on over the years.
Chrysler was a U.S. company in early 1997, when he bought an assemble-it-yourself desk and set it up next to his dad's. A year later, Chrysler was a German company. Then came private equity ownership. And bankruptcy. And a rescue by Italy's Fiat. And, soon, a merger with France's PSA Group.
"I don't know how many more shocks to the system I can take," Shuman said.
The marketing game has also changed.
His father banked on newspaper promotions for attention. For him, it was wacky radio ads. He crammed more words than humanly possible into his signature 15-, 30- and 60-second spots with a tongue-in-cheek kicker touting "the biggest Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram dealer in Walled Lake."
His metro Detroit audience knows it's a postage stamp of a community, population 7,000. He was the only franchised dealer of any brand in town.
Yet it worked. His low-overhead shtick was this: Sure, we could impress you with granite countertops and a cappuccino lounge. But we'll spare the spending on fancy stuff ("We have free coffee — not good, but free") and leave some money in your pocket instead.