How to build a dealership where people want to work — Carolyn Liotta

More women are joining the automotive industry and excelling, but it’s still not at the same rate as their counterparts in most cases. Today on Inside Automotive, we’re joined by Carolyn Liotta, Director of People and Culture at Vaughan Automotive, to discuss the importance of having more women in the industry and how to recruit them.

Liotta entered the automotive industry fresh out of college in 1992 and worked in the accounting department for a dealership that a relative of hers owned. She transitioned into sales despite being “petrified” and confirms that scheduling demands were, and are, the “biggest drawbacks” for women considering working in auto sales.

All Vaughan Automotive employees, Liotta says, get one “Cowboy Weekend” per month in which they have a three-day weekend. She also notes that it is a family-owned business and recognizes instances in which some employees want to be with their kids, such as Christmas Eve and the evening of Halloween.

Compensation discrepancies have been a prominent issue for years, including when it comes to dealership sales teams. Liotta states that Vaughan Automotive offers paid training to all new employees, which helps them learn the process, learn the product, and then practice so they can do their best on the sales floor.

When hiring, Liotta says giving people “an honest evaluation of what the job really is” up front can help filter out the best applicants. She feels that Vaughan Automotive’s success has been due to branding, its focus on culture, community participation, and engagement on large online platforms like LinkedIn.

There has been a lot of buzz around workplace “culture” lately, but that is hard to describe in many cases. A dealership’s culture, according to Liotta, is more like a feeling someone gets when walking into a dealership. She says small things all add up, and every single employee within the operation is critical.

Liotta reports that there is still a widespread misconception that the auto industry is “a man’s world.” She notes that many people don’t realize how many departments there are in a dealership, and she adds that many women assume working at a dealership solely means either service or sales.

Employees across all industries, especially the younger generations, have been pressing for more personal time off and a better work-life balance throughout the past few years. When asked if a 40-45 hour work week will eventually be possible for dealership employees, Liotta says there “has to be” a work-life balance, and the industry must “evolve” in order to be able to retain great employees.

Liotta advises women thinking about entering the auto industry to “have the confidence to try it.” Determination is key to success, she says, regardless of what sector of the dealership a woman is interested in. Ultimately, she advises women not to look at it as a job but as a career.

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