Classmates Are Now Partners in Successful Company
Alan Jay Wildstein (’89) was born and raised in sunny South Florida.
In 1986, as he headed up to Midland, Michigan, to attend Northwood, there were many things he couldn’t have anticipated.
There was no way to know that a historic flood would sweep across the community a few weeks after he arrived. There was no way to know how bone-chillingly cold the winter to follow would be (though he was warned!). And there was no way to know that, even before the weather could turn bad, he would meet good people who would form his longest, strongest friendships, including two – Michael Witham (’89) and Art White (’90) – who eventually became his business partners.
“We actually met before classes started, at freshman orientation,” Wildstein said recently. “We ended up pledging the same fraternity. For the 32 years since we met, the three of us have been together.”
The bonds remained strong after Wildstein graduated – in only three years – and retreated back to the warmth of the Miami area to start operating automobile dealerships.
“In 1992, Alan became the youngest Chevrolet dealer in the country, and that same year he invited me to come down and be a part of it,” Witham said.
Their company, the Alan Jay Automotive Network, now owns and operates 11 Florida dealerships.
White joined them in Florida for a while, before returning to the Midwest for non-business reasons. Even then, White was part of a group of about half a dozen Northwood friends who remained close with Wildstein and Witham, making regular trips to Florida.
So, when the Alan Jay Network had an opportunity to acquire dealerships in the Detroit area, they knew just the person to spearhead the effort. Now, White has partnered with Alan Jay and operates the organization’s four Detroit-area dealerships.
“We’re really pleased with how it’s all come together,” Wildstein said. “The first Michigan dealership we bought was in the black in its first month, and we’ve never looked back.”
Wildstein said operating several dealerships generates scale economies that are beneficial, but the most important factor in Alan Jay’s success is having the right employees.
“It’s all people. I’m smart enough to surround myself with people who are smarter than me, pay them fairly, and let them do their jobs,” Wildstein said. “We have a statistically low turnover rate. It’s our culture. You can’t demand it. You can’t buy it. You can’t grow it. You just have to have people who are happy to be where they are.”
And it helps to have Northwood connections.
“We definitely learned a lot of things at Northwood that have helped us be successful,” Wildstein said. “And the relationships that began at Northwood have become my lifelong friends.”