From the Spring 2013 edition of Vanderbilt Business

Nelson Andrews
Owen EMBA graduate Nelson Andrews is general manager of Andrews Cadillac and Land Rover of Nashville. For mini profile in spring Vanderbilt Business. (John Russell/Vanderbilt University)

Nelson Andrews III, BA’89, EMBA’95, grew up around the automobile business, but he didn’t see himself making it his career. His father owned a dealership in Michigan before the family moved to Brentwood, Tenn., to establish the area’s first Cadillac dealership. As a teen, Andrews found himself doing whatever needed to be done for the business: mopping floors, manning the parts department, tending the landscape.

When it came time for college, Andrews majored in political science at Vanderbilt and took computer classes at the School of Engineering. The two fields combined research-oriented, big-picture projects with organization and structure, which suited Andrews’ skills and interests. After graduating from Vanderbilt, he moved to Detroit and a job in the computer industry at Electronic Data Systems. A few years later, however, Andrews recognized that he wanted to do more than computer coding. He wanted to know the principles behind industry and be someone who could lead and shape strategy. Looking at MBA programs, he liked what he saw at the Owen Graduate School of Management.

“I had a great experience at Vanderbilt as an undergrad and Owen had what I wanted,” Andrews says. He could also help the family business, Andrews Cadillac, by working there and upgrading and integrating its computer systems.

A funny thing happened during those two years: He discovered he liked the family business. Today, Andrews is general manager of Andrews Cadillac and Land Rover of Nashville, two of Middle-Tennessee’s most successful automobile dealerships.

As general manager, he oversees everything from planning and construction to special events and sales. The role of planner and strategist suit him, he says.

“The biggest thing I learned at Owen was strategy. Everything was strategy. It might be Germain Böer’s Financial and Managerial Accounting course, but he really taught strategy,” Andrews says.

That emphasis on strategy has helped Andrews in the changing world of marketing his business. Where automobile companies used to rely on newspaper, radio and TV advertising to reach customers, Andrews now relies on the wired world. “If a Land Rover customer expresses an interest in off-roading, I can send them an email inviting them to an off-roading event. We can text them when a part is in because that’s how the customer said to reach them,” Andrews says. “It’s much more personal. Customers let us know how they want to be contacted.”

Andrews and his wife, Trisha, are the parents of four children ranging from 15 to 5. He says that although all but the 5-year-old have helped around the dealership, it’s too soon to tell if any will want to take over the family business. And that’s ok with him.

“I’m more concerned that they seem to want to go to Michigan for college,” he says.