In this cycle of our Dealer Panel series, we’ve been exploring the idea and practice of diversity in the automotive marketplace. This month, we’ll finish our discussion by asking our panel what women and minorities wishing to enter the industry should do to make it in the business, and what dealerships can do to attract a staff that better reflects the communities they serve.
AutoSuccess: What advice would you have to women or minorities who want to enter the auto sales field but feel intimidated?
Chris Saraceno, VP and partner of Kelly Automotive Group: We would share the same advice to all people wanting to join our industry. Our leaders would tell them, “Do as much research as possible on the potential employer or dealership.” In fact, if you’re a woman, I would say go to women-drivers.com and look at the reviews. Walk around the dealership to make sure you feel comfortable. Are there other females or minorities there? Talk to the current team members and ask them what they like about the company. Join sites like dealerelite.net and read publications like AutoSuccess. Try to learn as much as you can about the dealership and the business and ask people who have similar work history and discuss what they are doing to be successful. If you walk around the dealership and don’t see anyone with your demographic, it might actually be to your advantage. You might be the only female or the only Spanish speaker, and that will make a difference. It will give you a competitive advantage.
Kimberly Cardinal Piscatelli, VP and partner of Cardinal Honda: Ours is a service industry. If you are a good listener who is honest and you have a sincere interest in meeting your customers’ needs, you are perfect for the job of automotive sales. Do not be intimidated. The product training provided by manufacturers is very user friendly and anyone can complete the required training. Women are in the car-buying majority, making up around 65 percent of new vehicle purchases. Additionally, women influence around 85 percent of all buying decisions. Although women are in the car-buying majority, they are definitely still in the car-selling minority. According to a recent NADA work force study, men still make up the majority of dealership staff — at least for now.
Mike Good, GM of Street Toyota: Go for it! After enthusiastically encouraging anyone —no matter gender or race — to enter our field, I’d try to discover what exactly might intimidate them. Is it the “boy’s club” atmosphere, the dealership’s reputation or the lack of racial diversity in the staff? I’d tell them their success may well depend on the dealership’s culture. What really matters is their strengths and weaknesses while learning about their interests, perceptions and experiences. Bottom line, I’d advise them to use their uniqueness to their advantage. Data indicates more women are decision makers than ever before. Statistically, more buyers state they would prefer buying from a woman. Minorities also make up an ever-increasing percentage of today’s automotive customers. It’s a world of opportunity open to anyone, regardless of race, gender, etc. Ultimately, it’s the dealership’s culture that decides whether it’s a good place to birth a successful automotive career.
Chris Lee, GM of McCarthy Chevrolet Lee’s Summit: Most dealerships websites have lists of their employees. If it looks like they’re inclusive, reach out to them. Visit the dealerships. If you don’t feel welcome when you walk into a store, it’s probably not the right store. Don’t be discouraged, I can’t think of a single store that isn’t looking for talented people. The traditional sales process is changing, and dealerships have new positions and departments that didn’t exist five years ago. We need all the help we can get!
AS: What advice would you have for dealership leaders who want to attract females and minorities to work their business?
CS: We’ve used this statement in our internal meetings about recruiting: “Understand your unconscious biases.” Everybody has them. The bias may be to hire people similar to yourself. In my case, if I meet an applicant who’s used to working a lot of hours, excelled in sports and has made an exceptional first impression, I’m thinking that this is a great candidate. We all want to hire someone with similar beliefs, thoughts and opinions of what it takes to be successful in life and business. Everyone has a bias. Make sure those biases — whatever form they take — aren’t getting in the way of hiring great candidates. If you’re looking to hire more females or minorities, there are groups out there that will support your company. It is crucial all leaders truly have internalized and clearly understand the benefits of having a diverse team. The beliefs, actions and behaviors of the leaders will be the pace of the store.
KCP: If you want to attract females and minorities to work for your business, your culture and reputation must reflect this. You must provide and represent a safe and diverse yet dynamic workplace. The women and minorities who are already employed at your place of business should be your ambassadors. You must provide an environment where everyone can do their best work.
MG: Join this century. Forget the good ol’ boy’s predisposition — which is total foolishness — that excludes qualified candidates. Gender and race discrimination should play absolutely no part in hiring decisions. That said, a recent industry survey indicates sexism is still alive and well in our industry. To overcome the trend, a dealership must decide from the top to discontinue discriminatory behavior, be it sexual, gender or racial. It’s obvious! Look for the potential associate who exhibits the traits we all know lead to success. Any other perverted inclinations or prejudicial postures doom you to lackluster results. If you look in the mirror and see those traits in the person looking back at you, do yourself and your dealership a favor — resign. Period. End of story.
CL: Talk to your valued employees; they more than likely associate with people with similar qualities. Ask them to reach out to their friends who have a similar work ethic as them. Start the conversation and plant the seed of what kind of professional success they can achieve by becoming part of your dealerships team.