By Myra Dandridge, NADA Executive Director of External Affairs and Public Policy
Auto dealer Peter Boulware knows what it means to be a leader – on the professional football field, in his dealership, and in his community. “I can be a dealer and just say, ‘I’m just in it to sell cars and make money,”” Boulware, owner of Peter Boulware Toyota in Tallahassee, Fla. told NADA. “Or I can say, ‘You know what? I’ve got this Toyota dealership. We have some really, really good influence in this town, and not only can we sell automobiles and sell parts, but boy, we can sell hope.’”
From the Field to the Fleet
A native of Columbia, South Carolina, Boulware “never thought in a million years I’d end up in the automotive industry. Growing up, I always wanted to play sports and play football.”
Boulware did play football. First with Florida State University, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Management Information Systems. Upon graduation in 1997, he was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens. He had a number of highlights during his nine-year career with the Ravens, including playing in four Pro Bowls and winning in Super Bowl XXXV in 2001. “I lived my dream,” he said. “My dream was to get to the NFL and I did it.”
Knowing that his career in the NFL would eventually end, Boulware invested in a car dealership, becoming part owner of Legacy Toyota with another FSU alumni, Les Akers. Boulware eventually took a larger stake in the dealership after Akers retired and renamed it Peter Boulware Toyota.
Towards the Goal Line
As an African-American auto dealer, Boulware feels a responsibility to give his community a vision. “Our biggest issue, especially when it comes to youth, is they need a vision. They need other black men and other black women, or other minorities that they can look at and say, ‘You know what? That guy’s doing it. That guys a dealer. I can do it.’”
There is not enough diversity in the dealership community, Boulware said. “Let me just say this: I’m a rarity. There are not many of us out there, and so when I look at that, I’m like it’s a shame. There needs to be more dealers of color, there needs to be more people that look like me in this industry,” he said.
The first step, according to Boulware is recognizing there is a problem with diversity in the industry. Second, is to openly discuss the problem without shying away from the issue. “Now, I’ve learned this: When you start talking about these issues, it gets a little uncomfortable,” Boulware noted. “The only way that we’re going to move forward is to start having uncomfortable conversations.”
More than anything, the legacy you leave is built on what you did for the people and community, Boulware said. “People will forget your stats. They’ll forget the games. The thing that you want to be remembered for most isn’t so much what you did on the football field, [but] what impact did you make off the field,” Boulware said, while sharing advice from his former FSU Coach Bobby Bowden. “Are people better? Is your town better? Are your employees better because you were there? That’s a lasting impact.”