Managing Partner, Cascade Auto Group
By Terry Troy
As managing partner of the Cascade Auto Group in Cuyahoga Falls, Michelle Primm has been a champion of women in business for her entire career. In addition to her duties running multiple franchised automotive dealerships with her two brothers, she also serves as an at-large member of the Board of Directors of the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), representing all women dealers east of the Mississippi. While she started in the family business at 12, Primm is a graduate of Kent State University with a degree in finance, and is also a graduate of the NADA’s Dealer Academy. We asked Michelle three questions about the challenges women face in what is perceived as a male dominated business.
Do women face any obstacles when it comes to finding a career in the retail automotive industry?
PRIMM: I have never thought of my gender as a disadvantage. The challenges facing women in retail automotive are the same as they are for women wanting to get into any other industry. We need to break through the stereotypes and help others understand our strengths and capabilities and then teach them how to embrace diversity and inclusion. The problems aren’t our problems, the problems are their problems. We need to help people overcome their biases and lack of understanding as to what we can do. It’s very much like selling a car. In sales you need to stand out from the crowd. So being a woman in this business is not a disadvantage, it’s actually an advantage, an opportunity.
What kinds of career opportunities currently exist in retail automotive?
PRIMM: Between now and 2026 there will be more than 76,000 job opportunities in the car business, and women can fill every one of those. Smart business people recognize that, and will find people to fill those positions regardless of their gender. Being on the NADA Board of Directors, part of my job is to help women recognize that this is a great career path. The average wage in an auto dealership, even without a college degree, is $56,000 a year. A technician can make $80,000 a year or more. Our industry is also very flexible. Women can jump in and out of careers, if they want to take time out to raise a family, or to care for an aging parent. There is always going to be a place for you in the car business.
What advice would you give a young women just starting out on a career path?
PRIMM: It doesn’t matter whether you think the field is dominated by men or not, find something that you are passionate about doing. But don’t limit yourself either. If you are a passionate about helping people, you don’t necessarily have to be a nurse or a schoolteacher. You can use that kind of empathy in a wide variety of career paths, including in our industry as either a sales person or service adviser. Regardless of what field you eventually choose to go into, don’t assume that a college degree automatically grants you the right to be the boss or have the highest wage. One of the best ways to find yourself is to start working in high school or test the waters as a part of some sort of work-study program while in college. That way you can see what kind of work you love.