Elgie Bright on Equipping the Next Generation of Dealers

May 19, 2023
Elgie Bright is the Automotive Department Chair of Northwood University.
Listen On
Apple Podcasts IconSpotify Icon

Key Takeaways:

  1. Northwood University is a business school with a premier automotive marketing and management program.
  2. Students at Northwood University receive a four-year degree (BBA) in automotive marketing or management, along with other business courses.
  3. Students come to Northwood University from dealer families or discover the school through its renowned student-run auto show.
  4. Graduates from Northwood University find opportunities in retail automotive, corporate positions, startups, and various vendors in the automotive industry.
  5. Northwood University is intentional about telling its story and creating awareness about the career options available in the automotive industry.
  6. Automotive offers a wide range of career paths, including sales, service, technology, manufacturing, business management, accounting, finance, aftermarket marketing, and racing.
  7. The incoming generation of students is enthusiastic, tech-savvy, and motivated to be the best versions of themselves in the workplace.
  8. Northwood University graduates are sought after by major dealer groups, OEMs, and companies in the automotive space.
  9. The career fair at Northwood University attracts 120 automotive companies looking to hire their talented students.

This is Amplify, the retail automotive podcast by Reuters Events and ASOTU.

During Automotive Retail USA 2023 in Las Vegas, Paul J Daly and Kyle Mountsier interviewed dealers, OEM representatives, industry partners and more, looking to make the most innovative voices in retail automotive louder.

Paul Daly: 0:00We're so excited today we have Elgie Bright Automotive Department Chair of Northwood University.

Unknown: 0:05

This is Amplify, a retail automotive podcast brought to you by Reuters events and ASOTU. It's time to make the most innovative voices in retail automotive louder

Paul Daly: 0:22

Elgie it is so nice to be here with you in person face to face.

Elgie Bright: 0:27

I appreciate it. It is so nice to be with you and the team. There we go. It's a good day got

Kyle Mountsier: 0:35

cameras everywhere. Everywhere, right?

Paul Daly: 0:37

If you're only listening and you're not watching, I hope you can hear the smiles right now. We got a lot of smiles going on this table. I love it. Okay, Automotive Department Chair of Northwood University. Tell us what Northwood university does and what your role is. So Northwest

Elgie Bright: 0:52

University is a business school, but we have one of the only and the premier automotive Marketing and Management School in North America. And I say that, that the students are getting a BBA. So it's a four year degree. So it's not just automotive training. It's a it's a business school where you can get economics, finance, business administration, and these students have come to Northwood to a major in the automotive marketing or management curriculum.

Kyle Mountsier: 1:25

Now, where are most of the students that are coming through? What's the trajectory for them where, cuz I've seen you know, as I've fallen northwood, what I've seen a few come out and graduate and move into roles in automotive, but what are some of the trajectories that they're mapping to in the industry,

Elgie Bright: 1:41

so students come from dealer families, anecdotally, 50%, from dealer families going back to dealer families, or are coming because of we have the world's largest student run auto show in the world, and they discovered us through looking for automotive schools. And they're may go to a retail automotive, but they may go corporate, they may go to a start up, they may go to one of the many vendors that they see out nada, because they're all employers. And so, you know, just like anybody else that's going to another private or state school, they come to our career fair to employ the students that come from dealer families, of course, you know, they're connected in a unique way. We like to say that we got 25% of NADA, either through investment or management that have you know, touched our school.

Kyle Mountsier: 2:40

Right, that's incredible. It you know, one of the things that we talk a lot about is how do we bring more people into the industry at a younger age, right that they didn't just stumble on it because they wanted to get out of their serving job or anything like that. And this is this is the opportunity to provide a really, really clear career path. What are you all doing? And how can the industry come alongside Northwood? To to bring visibility to hey, this isn't this career option and an education option.

Elgie Bright: 3:10

But I think one of the things that we're going to be intentional about is to tell our story to a wider audience. I mean, that's just something that, you know, that we want to do our our president, Dr. Kent MacDonald, it's been there for years now. Just tremendous leadership. But we're gonna get intentional about telling our story. You know, we've been intentionally small for a long time. I mean, there's everybody's got an infrastructure, including dealerships, yes, some, some can be big Publix, some can be small, rural, take care of their communities. But we're gonna get intentional about the storytelling and and tell the story of the opportunities that are available in retail or retail facing opportunities. And and we think the more than we tell that story that the wider the net will be killed

Paul Daly: 3:58

for sure, absolutely. We've been talking quite a bit lately about the layoffs going on. And this is in the major news networks, right, as well as as well as us talking about the tech companies laying off. And even if you were to ask students in graduating students just like three years ago, what are the top companies that you want to go into? You'd see a lot of Googles and Facebooks and tick, right, all the digital tech companies, and now they're not there anymore, or they moved significantly down in the list and automotive seems to be doing its own thing. Right. It's a little bit of an opposite narrative. Yeah.

Elgie Bright: 4:31

Well, the great thing about automotive though is it's on to printer real, you know, so whether you want to, you know, go to an existing retail or you say, you know, somewhere out there, I see myself as a dealer, or you want to do one of the many startups that have happened, hey, I listened to you guys story this morning and one of your sessions. I mean, there are so many different paths, you know, you get to nada, and I just use that as an example. You know, you probably didn't think about a carwash or a, you know, 360 photography company. Yes. And yet, students see that it's more than just the dealership itself, although that's the linchpin. I mean, nothing happens until you service a vehicle. But there are just so many different opportunities around the retail space. Yeah, I mean, the manufacturer, you've

Kyle Mountsier: 5:25

got retail, on the sales and service side, you've got technology, manufacturing, business management, accounting, finance, like literally manufacturing, right, you want to work with your hands, that's an opportunity in the automotive industry. It's so broad that in an an, not just that, but we see so many people take I mean, these dealer families, right, they they intentionally put their their kids into multiple different areas, the good ones do because because you can move you can move across different different avenues.

Elgie Bright: 6:00

And a month I'll be at the NIADA conference. So there's a used car and remarketing. There's also we and we have the only degree in the country. Aftermarket marketing, aftermarket management so you think of it in terms of the suppliers or the independent aftermarket the Pep Boys of the world and the O'Reilly's, you know, those are those parts concern or thought

Paul Daly: 6:26

about that? That's part of auto to it is the aftermarket. Like we don't get into that world a lot. And we probably buy stuff in the aftermarket for vehicles. Absolutely.

Elgie Bright: 6:34

Racing. That's a

Kyle Mountsier: 6:36

whole other. That's a whole thing. So

Elgie Bright: 6:38

we go to apex Sema, and and we're gonna go

Paul Daly: 6:41

with you this year. That was on our list, and last year round. Okay, yeah, we'll do it. We'll do it. Let me ask you a question about the incoming generation. Right. So I think like we've had our fill of talking about millennials for the last 10 to 15 years, right, right. Everybody, Gen Z is coming in hot. You you get most of the people that come through your program, are are just starting in their career, correct. 18 to 22 years old. All right, give us the Skinner, you spend a lot of time with them, you recruit them, you train them, you send them out, you find them jobs, you get a feel for their attitude, you get a feel for their work ethic, give us the rundown,

Elgie Bright: 7:18

I love them. I mean, they're they're spirited. It is different than a generation ago. But you know, it's just like sports. I mean, you you look at sports in the 70s and 80s. It was different coaching, it was different styles. I mean, these students want to be their best self to work every day, they want to bring their personalities, they want to bring, you know, a new way of looking at things. And it's refreshing for me, as an old guy, you know, to see these young people that are so excited about not only this industry, but how can I be the best version of myself coming to work every day? How can I exhibit some of the things that we've always talked about? Empathy, the customer experience, how can I come up with new ways and different than then you know, me, they are steeped in technology. And they've always had a cell phone they've always had,

Paul Daly: 8:13

as my kids get older, I'm grossly aware of how good they are. Yeah, technology.

Elgie Bright: 8:18

Yes. And so they know that data is the currency. And they're good at data. But they're also

Kyle Mountsier: 8:25

they don't need to go to any automotive conference to learn those important data is important and that content and

Paul Daly: 8:32

it would actually look at your cricket, if you suggested anything,

Kyle Mountsier: 8:35

anything otherwise. Yeah, exactly.

Paul Daly: 8:37

Like in the olden days.

Elgie Bright: 8:39

I'm the guy that's handing them my phone, you know, help me Hi.

Paul Daly: 8:44

Can you fix that? They're like, Oh, yeah, just all you have to do. Well, well into that. So tell us about you have a graduating class and outgoing class, right? It is it's May so I don't know his graduation happened yet.

Unknown: 8:55

Graduation happened a week ago. And so these students tell us where they're going. They're going to the big dealer groups. They're going to Hendricks and Penske, and Flo and LaFontaine and number one Cochran, but they're also going to the OEMs they're going to General Motors. They're going to Cox Automotive CDK Reynolds and Reynolds. Wow.

Paul Daly: 9:19

I saw one OnStar Yeah,

Elgie Bright: 9:22

they're gonna OnStar I mean, they, they just, you know, a career fair for us, even as a small university brings 120 companies that are in the automotive space, trying to get that talent looking for our our students say I, you know, this a little bit of a humble brag, but to see the private planes come up, looking for your people who are looking for our people.

Paul Daly: 9:48

Yes. That's amazing. Well, listen, it is always great to hear about the work that you're doing. Thank you so much for joining us. We were following along. We need you to highlight the best and the brightest.

Elgie Bright: 9:59

Thank you for All Thank you Kyle, I appreciate it.

Unknown: 10:04

Thanks for listening to the AMPLIFY podcast brought to you by Reuters events and ASOTU. For more engaging episodes like this, subscribe or follow on your favorite podcast platform. You can learn more about our hosts Paul J Daly and Kyle Mountsier by visiting asotu.com

Get the daily email that makes reading the news actually enjoyable. Stay informed and entertained, for free.