Providing a woman’s touch

Jan. 1, 2020
My service manager is very comfortable around men but would never be mistaken for one of the guys. She performs standard service advisor responsibilities in addition to her intangible talents that you can’t put on a resume.

I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in May with one of my good customers, Richard, and his wife Kathy at the Mecum Auction in Indianapolis. The reason we were there was to sell five of his cars from his collection.

This was a very stressful weekend for him and my first opportunity to spend time with Kathy. They are an older couple and have very traditional roles. In other words he gets the cars fixed so I only see her for a minute each time.

As the auction went on and the standard car guy dance of detailing the cars every five minutes and stressing about what the cars would go for unfolded, I got to thinking about how women interface with our industry. Before anybody gets excited and starts writing hate mail, roll with me.

Let’s start with Kathy, who gracefully cycled between quietly making fun of the constant dusting to assisting with the sometimes sweaty work of wiping down cars. During the auction she provided support despite her own stress as the numbers started flying. Keep in mind Kathy is not technical and not really that into older cars. She likes the way they look but their lack of comfort amenities is not really her thing.

I told her I was going to write this column based upon my observations and she laughed and told me to let her know if I needed any further insight. It turns out that I need only look around my facility for other examples of women working in our industry.

My service manager is a woman named Caryl who is very comfortable around men but would never be mistaken for one of the guys. She performs standard service advisor responsibilities in addition to her intangible talents that you can’t put on a resume.

I have a technician going through a rough divorce. He is not the most forthcoming fellow about what is going on with him until he chats with Caryl. She acts as a listener and shares with my dad and I that this tech is having a rough time. Along the way no confidences are broken but a better environment is created.

A few months ago my sister-in-law Tina Marie, we call her TM, was laid off from her high-powered, six figure position at an aerospace company. For many people this would have been devastating. While I am certain that she loved her job and would have preferred not to leave it, she has reinvented herself and is going to be working with us.

TM and I are both project managers with decidedly different roads that brought us to these skill sets. We are opening an additional building next to our existing shop to offload some of the hot rod projects. TM and I are working out the details of how that will work and what responsibilities each of us will take.

I observe her ‘handling’ me but she does it so well and without injuring my tender male ego that I don’t say anything. I just let her do it. My ego is not that tender, I work in retail. TM has worked in high power corporate America where a position seems to imply respect and she is an expert at working in those constraints.

So here is what I have determined. Having a woman in your life or in your business is a wonderful thing. Now, this is where I will get myself in trouble if you don’t read carefully. My advice is please don’t treat women like men. You will be missing out on all the amazing things they can do. Just like every other human, each woman will have her strengths and weaknesses and I would not presume to boil their innate skills down to a top 10 list, but in my experience their environment and the way they are wired will not fall too far from the women I have described to you.

You cannot look for a TM because the interview process generally does not provide the opportunity to screen for that training and experience or the ability to apply it. You might be able to determine if you have someone with the ability to make customers comfortable and be a counselor or sounding board for you pretty easily. What a great bridge if you are a manager who your employees are a little reluctant to talk to.

These skills are subtle and take a different effort to identify than the relatively easy measurement of a technician’s efficiency. Having people with these skills in your business is not something you can develop any kind of measurement for except this: does it feel better to have a woman in your business and do your customers appreciate her? I will answer for us. Absolutely!

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