Kevin Cunningham knows something about auto dealers.
He worked at a family dealership founded by his grandfather in 1914. Now he works with existing 20 Groups and creates new ones for dealer clients of NCM Associates in Overland Park, KS.
Cunningham and I met at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants' National Auto Dealership Conference in Baltimore, MD. I was a keynote speaker. He conducted a workshop on dealer best practices.
During his session, he noted that dealers “open their hearts to those less fortunate.”
He added, “Dealers give so much and don't get the recognition that they deserve. Maybe they don't want the recognition. But they sure do deserve it.”
That hit home for me because, just before the AICPA conference, I served as a judge for Ford Motor Co.'s “Salute to Dealers.” It recognizes outstanding dealer contributions.
“Over each of the past five years, I have taken great pride in honoring a select group of dealers for their generosity of not only their time and money, but their hearts as well,” Edsel B. Ford II said in a letter asking for my help in reviewing the good deeds of 21 finalists.
The judging shortened the list to nine dealers. They will receive special accolades at the National Automobile Dealers Assn.'s annual convention in February.
It was inspiring to read of so many dealers' utter generosity not only of their money, but — as Edsel Ford notes — of themselves.
Although I was judging the good deeds of Ford-brand retailers, dealers of virtually every franchise show similar generosity and kindness.
The following are excerpts from the “Salute to Dealers” nominations (with each dealer given a letter designation so that judges didn't know their identities).
“Working in conjunction with the American Red Cross, Dealer Q developed a school safety initiative to bring training in life-saving skills such as CPR and first aid to inner-city youth…Dealer Q and his entire family have been extremely active with the Red Cross.”
To help Hurricane Katrina evacuees, “Dealer S purchased 1,000 air mattresses to be used at Dallas-area shelters. He designated his dealership as a collection point for donations and matched all of the employees' donations. He also donated $50,000 to the New Orleans Police Department.”
Dealer J has given about $400,000 to more than 60 organizations. He and his wife donated $1 million to help fund a health education center.
“Dealer A considers all of his employees to be extended family. He believes his prosperity is measured by the development of his employees, and he finds his richest rewards in helping his co-workers realize their goals, live a good life and, in turn, make themselves pillars of the community.”
Here is what a nominator says of another stand-up dealer:
“Asking one to sum up all of Dealer E's accomplishments and his love for community on one page is like listing all of God's creations on one page. Dealer E is known throughout our community for his drive to help the needy and underprivileged…He is a pillar to his community, a backbone of our community…His motto is taken from Mother Teresa: ‘Do small things with great love.’”
Dealer H visits India bi-annually to help build houses for the poor, upgrade orphanages and generally assist those in need. “He is a role model in the truest sense,” says a nominator.
Dealer M, a passionate backer of research to cure and better treat breast cancer, has hosted 400 Sunday brunches at the dealership showroom to raise funds for new hospital equipment.
Dealer P closed his 86,000-sq.-ft. service center for a day to host a big garage sale to raise funds for a local food bank. He kicked off the event with a $10,000 donation. A nominator says, “If it is for a benevolent cause, Dealer P wants to be involved.”
That describes so many dealers across the Republic. Their communities and the nation would be less fortunate without them.
Steve Finlay is editor of Ward's Dealer Business magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]