For this installment of Dealerships in Depth, we spoke with Norman Braman, one of the nation’s most well-known auto dealers, owner of Braman Motorcars.
It is virtually impossible to have spent any significant time in Florida and not know the name Norman Braman. Born of immigrant parents in Philadelphia, Braman has built a high-profile brand that now consists of more than 20 luxury, ultra-luxury and mainstream showrooms under 14 rooftops, including BMW, Bentley, Rolls Royce and Porsche.
Q. What do you think is your greatest strength as an auto dealer?
A. I was a neophyte when I came to the car business, but I adopted a simple philosophy that holds true to this day, “treat people the way I would want to be treated.” I asked myself, how I would like to be treated if I was the car buyer, and I have fashioned all of my operations around that – “why would I want to do business with Norman Braman?” Now, beyond that, in order to give the buyer the kind of experience I would want for myself, one of the keys has been to surround myself with the best people. I am a big believer in the big pie, so to speak, and when you can give people an opportunity to have equity in the business, you attract and retain the best people, and that is something we do that I think is rather unique in the industry.
Q. What do you feel is your most significant accomplishment as an auto dealership/ auto industry professional?
A. I don’t look at it that way. Yes, I have been successful, but I do not define my life by what I have accomplished in business. I define my accomplishments as to who I am. Who I am to my children, my grandchildren and to all the people I meet and get to know. Your name is everything, and I believe we have built a good name. That is what I am most proud of — the good name we have built outside of the business world, our contributions to the community, to our young people, we take civic responsibility very seriously, locally, nationally, and even internationally.
Q. Yes, and the ways you give back to the community are noteworthy. You have paid for the college educations of dozens of students as a sponsor of Miami’s “I Have a Dream” Foundation. I know you also donated the funds that established the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute. You and your wife of course, are major patrons of the arts, and have built the Institute of Contemporary Art in downtown Miami. The list can go on and on, but among all of your good works, is there anything that particularly stands out, that you personally find the most gratifying?
A. I really love a program that we are doing with the dealerships, where we are taking young people from the inner city, and teaching them our business, giving them skills, teaching them to be technicians, so that they will be able to support themselves and a family someday, and contribute to society. I am particularly proud of that. Of course, there is all we do in the health arena. I would not want to try list all the many programs we are involved in that I am proud of, for fear of what I might leave out. But, it all comes down to giving back to the community and having a name we can be proud of.
Q. How long have you been a client with MBAF, how has that relationship helped you face those challenges, and otherwise helped you to reach your goals as a dealer?
A. We have had a relationship with MBAF ever since we first came to Miami in 1969. I resettled here with my wife and two children, and I had the need for an accountant and I guess it was through a mutual friend that I met Al Morrison and Joan, Al’s wife. We all became friends. Al started preparing my personal tax returns, and when I went into business here, I turned to Al Morrison — there wasn’t even a second thought about anyone else. I think we must have been the firm’s first automobile client. Unfortunately, Al of course is gone now, but he was there throughout just about every move I made. When I bought the Philadelphia Eagles in 1985, I turned to Al Morrison, and again, I believe that was the first professional franchise the firm was involved with, and here we are all these years later, and we are still with MBAF. We must be one of your oldest clients — I believe the firm was just recently founded when I first met Al — and you all have certainly served us well over these many years.