In our initial discussion on Why We Sold Our Dealerships I explained some of our fears entering the market. Fears that made us rethink our strategy within the industry.
The majority of the reasons were industry or OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) related when it came to the dealership we discussed. But Mike Naughton Ford is a different story. And a new tale to tell. It was a completely different animal, one I’m sure many families will be able to relate to.
Mike Naughton was my father, and he was an institution in Colorado.
“Big” Mike Naughton was a Ford dealer in Denver, Colorado for more than 40 years. He had a passion for the business and dedicated his life to that dealership. There were very few days when you wouldn’t see my father at the office.
When he fell ill and was no longer able to handle the day-to-day operations, Eric and I got involved. We traveled back and forth from Toronto to Denver, managing both Kia and Ford. Although it was stressful, and our personal lives were put on hold for a few years, we managed to uphold two profitable dealerships in two countries.
I come from a family of five children. All of whom were involved in the business at one time or another. Both my younger brother and I attended the NADA Dealer Academy in Washington D.C. I graduated in 2008 and Mickey in 2013. But school wouldn’t teach us passion. Growing up we loved visiting my father at work and truly admired him. My father instilled a similar passion for the Ford brand into all of us and we valued the impact he made on our community.
When we grew older, it was important to us to maintain the business he worked so hard to build while preserving his legacy.
This was our challenge.
Our facility was in desperate need of an upgrade, requiring an extensive amount of work to meet the new standards of the OEM. Plans were in motion to start construction, however, red tape from the city and compliance standards from the manufacturer created inevitable delays. As I am sure many have experienced, delays also increase expenses.
Couple this with the demands of the day-to-day business, manufacturer performance pressures, and internal family politics. Operating the dealership quickly became a difficult feat.
With the size of our family, there were plenty of views and opinions on direction. Some were focused on cashing out, others saw a massive opportunity to grow the business, and others were simply burned out and tired. The tremendous amount of family pressure inevitably became too much to manage. After reviewing all the different paths, it ultimately came down to a parental decision.
The best analogy I can provide with our situation is parents managing children. When a group of children are playing together and start fighting over one toy, what does the parent do? They take the toy away. If you can’t all play nicely with the toy, than nobody gets the toy.
And a decision needed to be made on Mike Naughton Ford.
For me, a particularly difficult one.
It was an end of an era. An era I’m still emotionally attached too. With that being said, it was the best decision we could have made as a family. It forced us to take a different path in life, but I’ve learned it is not always bad and sometimes exactly what is needed.
The automotive business is family centric. It is one thing I have always valued and respected about it. There are countless dealers across the United States and Canada who have very similar stories to me and my father.
I know firsthand what many dealers are facing right now. Succession planning is crucial, and even though my father did have a plan, we found out first-hand it doesn’t always work out as intended. I feel there are so many other variables at play, the landscape is much different today and adjustments need to be made. I’ve learned succession planning is a contingency plan and not a one-time event.
As life changes, your plans should be re-evaluated and updated.
I’ve suffered a lot of loss over the past two years. First with the sale of the dealership, then my brother Mickey’s passing, and most recently the loss of my father. I’ve learned life is short and to enjoy it. My family has been through a tumultuous time with all the events taken place over the past four years, but I can confidently say it has created a stronger bond amongst all of us.
I’ve been through a lot, and I know many families are experiencing similar situations. Please reach out to me. I’d love the opportunity to talk through your situation and offer any advice I can give.
You can reach us at:
Katie.Naughton@DSMA.com or 647-282-7842 (CAD) / 702-764-8810 (USA)
Eric.Levitt@DSMA.com or 416-801-0463 (CAD) / 702-764-8385 (USA)