Life After Selling

Life after selling a dealership can be a notable change, as it often marks the end of a long and successful career in the automotive industry. I know countless dealers, my father being one of them, who could never imagine what their lives would be like if they weren’t car dealers. In some ways, it is all we know. Many of us grew up in the industry and were primed to be in it from an early age. We never had a choice, so to speak.

Eric and I closed the Kia dealership on March 31st, 2022. A Thursday. By that Saturday, we were sitting at home, drinking coffee, staring at each other not knowing what to do with ourselves. We always wanted to be at the dealership on Saturdays. It was our favorite day of the week. It seemed we had nowhere to go, quickly became irrelevant and felt extremely guilty sitting at home watching golf. In our “previous” life, golf was only reserved for Sundays. Luckily, or perhaps planned by design, we only sat around for a week before we began an eventful travel schedule to Europe, United States, and Mexico.

If I can offer one piece of advice to my fellow dealers; get away from your surroundings once the deal is completed. Go sit on the beach, explore a new city, take a cruise, hike a mountain, do whatever makes you happy outside of your day-to-day environment. Trust me! After years of hard work and dedication, we needed a break and enjoy some downtime.

I was extremely emotional during the sale of both Ford and Kia. In fact, Eric joked there weren’t enough tissues available to soak up all my tears. Taking the time to get away, breathe, see the world, and reconnect with my husband provided us time to heal. It also allowed us to acclimate to a new lifestyle where our phones weren’t constantly ringing with calls, emails, and text messages about employee problems, angry customers, manufacturer requests, or general business inquiries. We weren’t needed anymore, and it was a major adjustment for us to feel so indispensable.

Taking time off was a way for us to recharge and refocus before deciding on our next career move.

We could finally exhale.

There’s no question the decision to sell a dealership can be a difficult one, but it also offers new openings on the path of life. It can be a momentous change for any dealer, their family, and their community. The decision can also have a considerable impact on their finances, career, and personal life.

Eric and I knew we were too young to retire and wanted to explore other avenues within the industry along with alternative investments. Our automotive experience and ability could be used in other ventures, particularly investing in other businesses, real estate, and stocks. This has supplied us the opportunity to generate an income stream without having to kill ourselves in the daily grind of the dealership.

This works for us.

Maybe you have achieved financial independence and feel it is time to retire. For many dealers, the sale of their dealership marks a significant milestone, and after years of hard work and dedication, they are ready to enjoy their retirement and pursue other interests. This can be a time to relax and enjoy life, whether it’s traveling, spending time with family or friends, or pursuing hobbies and other interests. Retirement can also be a time to give back to the community though volunteer work or philanthropy.

Retiring from a successful career can also bring challenges. Many dealers have spent decades building their businesses and developing relationships with employees, customers, and suppliers. It can be difficult to let go of these connections and the sense of purpose that comes with running a dealership. It may also be a struggle adjusting to a new routine and find meaning in post-retirement life.

While retirement is a common reason for selling, there are other factors that can lead to a dealership sale. Dealers may need to sell for health reasons and focus on their health and well-being, which can be a difficult transition after years of focusing on their business. Similarly, a dealer may sell their business due to family reasons. The sale of my father’s dealership, Mike Naughton Ford, is an exact combination of these two examples.

On the other hand, a dealer may sell their business due to changes in the market or industry, in which they might be more prepared for the transition. Just as we did, they could have seen the writing on the wall and made plans to diversify their investments or pursue other opportunities in the automotive industry or beyond. They may also possess a positive outlook on the future and are enthusiastic about the new challenges that lie ahead.

Regardless of the reason for selling, there are common adversities dealers face. One of them is adjusting to a new routine and lifestyle. Most of us have spent years working long hours and being on call 24/7, so it can be challenging to adjust to a more leisurely pace of life. Owners may also need to find new ways to stay busy and engaged, whether it’s through hobbies, travel, or volunteering.

Finding a new sense of purpose is challenging. After years of running a successful business, you may feel a sense of loss or emptiness, struggling to find new goals providing a sense of meaning and fulfillment. However, one thing I have learned throughout my career is dealers are resilient. They have shown an ability to adapt and evolve in response to changes in the industry, so why wouldn’t that same resiliency carry into life after selling?

Eric and I recently had lunch with a close friend whose primary purpose of running his dealerships are no longer financially motivated. We asked him, at what point do you reap the rewards of your hard work and effort? Unfortunately, my father worked his entire life without ever celebrating his achievements and his situation has resonated with several dealers within the community, particularly this dealer. Our question helped our friend reflect on his present situation along with the future, finally declaring he wants to devote more time with his family by traveling with his wife, kids, and grandchildren.

We look forward to hearing about the memories he’s created with his family.

If you have any concerns about what happens after the sale, Eric and I would appreciate the opportunity to talk through your situation and offer any advice we can give.

You can reach us at:

Katie.Naughton@DSMA.com / 647-282-7842 (CAD) / 702-764-8810 (USA)

Eric.Levitt@DSMA.com / 416-801-0463 (CAD) / 702-764-8385 (USA)

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