My GMEP Experience

POSTED ON January 22, 2019

Today marks the start of my final week in a year-long program through the NCM Institute called the General Management Executive Program (GMEP for short). In essence, it’s a program for current or aspiring General Managers, crafted to give us the foundational knowledge we need to successfully run a retail operation. Since my first day in the program, what makes my experience slightly unique is that out of a class of 26 students… I’m the only one not working in a dealership. While traveling out to Kansas City for this last session, it occurred to me that my perspective might serve some value to those within the industry considering a similar training course.

I’ve had the benefit of working within automotive in many capacities: In retail selling cars, as an agency servicing automotive OEMs, and most recently, working directly for an automotive OEM. Throughout my journey in the GMEP program, there is one question I’ve gotten the most.

“Joel… so why are you going to dealer school?”

Even during that first session, so many of the other students asked the same question, perplexed as to why I’ve made the investment of time to attend and complete the necessary coursework if I wasn’t currently (or didn’t have imminent plans to become) a GM.

For me, there were three driving reasons that I wanted to attend:

1. To recognize the headwinds facing the industry and the evolution of the retail environment

When I started this program (and for most of the time I was in it), I worked directly for a manufacturer. Understanding that our collective job could become more difficult in the future, I felt the need to develop a true understanding of the thought process that the largest decision maker in the retail environment (the GM) goes through when evaluating opportunities or making decisions. Conversely, I wanted to prepare my team accordingly to better identify what additional training might be needed for them to become completely successful in their roles and deepen the partnership with our retailers.

2. To further develop myself as a subject matter expert

There are so many details and processes that go into a successful retail operation. If you’re not directly living and working in that space, it’s hard to appreciate what it takes to make a successful retail operation.

3. To learn more about fixed operations.

My knowledge in the variable space significantly outweighed what I knew about fixed operations. My hope was to become more well-rounded through the course of this program.

My Takeaways

In every aspect, the NCM Institute greatly exceeded my expectations and what I sought out to learn during this experience. As someone who had the privilege of attending two major universities, I had a strong opinion of what constitutes a great instructor. NCM excelled in this regard, as the instructors were fantastic with both academic and credible real-world experiences. Even the strongest GMs in our class were continually picking up new ideas and better approaches to solving problems in their stores.

I would, without hesitation, recommend this program to any current or aspiring General Manager in the automotive retail environment. Further, anyone in a true leadership position working for an automotive brand would also get a ton out of the experience. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner!
In the coming days I plan to publish a couple more articles outlining my experience at a detailed level; so be on the lookout! I would also like thank Subaru and the team at Subaru of Las Vegas for allowing me to use their knowledge and time as I went through this journey.

- Joel Zimmerman, 2019 GMEP Graduate

Visit our course page for GMEP to learn more about the program.