Like many second-generation dealership leaders, Amber Martin always knew working in the family business was an option. But heading off to college, Amber had different passions: She was interested in media, in entertainment and in entrepreneurship. And her father, Cornelius, supported her desire to explore her options.
But when Cornelius was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2006 by a driver under the influence of drugs, Amber and her younger brother, Chad, were pulled back into the dealership business unexpectedly, and earlier than either had anticipated.
Amber and her brothers feel responsible to continue their father’s legacy as a leading minority-owned dealership business. “What my father started, what my mother has continued to invest in—my brothers and I are committed to that legacy,” Amber says. “When I think about what it was like 35 years ago, when my father started this business, I’m in awe that he persevered in the way and at the level he did.”
Chad is now president of the Martin Management Group and its dealership and motorsports operations in six states. For Amber, though, the path hasn’t been as clear-cut. “One thing that has been challenging—and I think it’s the case for many second-generation leaders—is to find that role that works for me,” Amber says.
After three years owning and operating a fashion retail store on Melrose in Los Angeles, Amber returned to Kentucky and the Martin Management Group headquarters. She spent 15 months implementing processes and procedures to increase service appointments and develop the group's centralize receptionist department in the company’s corporate BDC, and now is director of business development and community partnerships. “We have a great opportunity to make sure our partnerships in the community—our philanthropic efforts and family endowments—are as effective as they can be,” she says. “Then we can see how we can generate more traffic through business partnerships and create opportunities to increase our scholarship funds.”
And she is still interested in finding ways to intertwine her personal passions with her auto career. She says she’s looking for ways to help the Martin dealerships increase brand marketing through video content, and doesn’t rule out another business venture—possibly in something like athlete management, which she’s very interested in.
One thing she’s never questioned is being a woman in business and in the auto industry—and she thanks her dad for instilling that confidence. “He exposed me to industry conferences early on,” Martin says. “It was only in high school and college that I started to realize: I’m the only female here. But even then it didn’t feel uncomfortable, because my father ran a really diverse dealership business and corporation. I saw him put women in power positions in our company; I saw women who were managers when I was a child. So I never felt that this was unachievable. I credit my dad for that.”
Martin was recognized this year as one of the Automotive News 40 Under 40 dealership leaders, and honored with the Ally Sees Her Award in recognition of her work in the community and for promoting the next generation of minority dealers.
Her advice for young women entering the industry, she says: “Make sure you get the respect you deserve, but be slow to be offended. Especially when you’re in an environment where there are not a lot of people who look like you, and not a lot of people who will think like you, be confident in your position. Don’t silence your voice.”
She recommends soliciting “a team of allies and advocates. You’ll need that, because not everyone will see your greatness,” she says. “Build relationships with those who do.”