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Alison Spitzer

Spitzer Automotive

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President, Spitzer Automotive
Cleveland
Age: 35
Education: B.A., political science and international relations, Elon University; M.A., international communications, American University

What attracted you to the auto industry? I am fourth generation in the auto industry, and I never thought I would get involved in the auto industry. I was working in New York City in investments, and one day I woke up and decided I could make a bigger impact if I worked in the auto industry. I wanted to find a way to make a difference.

First automotive job: In July 2007, I was the assistant to the general manager at Spitzer Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram in Florida. I did not call my dad for the job; instead I called the GM and got the job. Central business development was located there, but no one was working online/e-commerce, so after nine to 10 months, I took over that area.

Big break: My big break was the timing of when I got into the business. If I had started at any other time, it wouldn't have been the same. In 2007, we had the recession and our company was cut in half overnight. I had to learn by baptism by fire. We were cutting expenses and I was very involved with lobbying efforts to change the law on dealer ownership. I worked with my dad day and night. Without this experience, I wouldn't have made the same impression on our employees and other key relationships. Hopefully, I learned enough to never go through this again. I feel I can withstand any challenge in the future.

What is the major challenge you've faced in your career? A major challenge I have faced is just being myself and being comfortable with that. I had to recognize that leading my way is OK.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career? It takes a village. I didn't have a traditional dealership career so I need people around me to help me. This includes the GMs, COO and my father — there is a lot of back-and-forth and collaboration.

What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? We need to look in the mirror. We are retail, but we don't operate like traditional retail outlets that often attract a lot of women employees. We need to find a way to attract women by offering benefits that are attractive to them. This might include offering flexible schedules or part-time work. We need to offer training and mentors.

Tell us about your family. I am the eldest of six children. I had a wonderful childhood, and our parents encouraged us to find our individual interests and passions. I was never pushed into the auto industry. My journey led me back to this point — this is my choice.

Currently, I am married to my best friend, who I knew in high school but didn't start dating until we were in our 20s. My husband is also in the dealership business. I didn't want this but he is tremendously successful. He is currently responsible for all of our sales operations. We have three children: Vera, 6; Archer, 4; and Gus, 1.

What's your favorite weekend activity? Hiking with the kids or trying out a new restaurant.

Are you able to maintain friendships? Yes. My three best friends from college and I get together once a year, and we text almost daily.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Warren Buffett. I would love to pick his brain and hear his vision on this industry for the future. He just made a huge investment in this industry.

What's your guilty pleasure? A very nice meal, alone with my husband.

When and where was your last vacation? Ocean Reef in the Florida Keys in June with my college friends.

Best advice you've ever gotten? At a company retreat, in a state park, a 93-year-old bartender told me his secret: "I just don't worry about anything. What is going to happen is going to happen."

By PJ Eichten

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