Liz Barr joined P J Nicholls in Tewkesbury 16 years ago as a sales administrator. Thanks to continuing training and development, she is now the branch’s General Manager and is working towards becoming Group General Manager.
She is very grateful to her employers for the educational opportunities she’s been able to pursue: “Personal development is important to me, and my company has given me the opportunity to study for a BSc in Automotive Dealership Management which has benefitted both myself and the business.”
As General Manager, she oversees the day-to-day operations at the Tewkesbury branch. She also manages HR and recruitment across the Group, as well as overseeing new car sales and targets to ensure manufacturer objectives are met.
Liz originally joined the motor industry because she wanted a job in a fast-paced environment, and she was not disappointed! “I love the variety and pace. Every day is different, and I get a huge buzz when cars are sold and targets are achieved.”
Managing staff and customers
Unfortunately, Liz has sometimes encountered sexism in her work. “I have experienced difficult situations with sales executives who did not approve of being managed by a woman. On one occasion, I was verbally attacked, which was quite frightening. It was a big learning experience for me – I would never let that happen again! With ongoing support from the Directors, I have been able to overcome challenges as my role has developed.”
Customers have also sometimes proved tricky: “You will always find a minority of customers who would prefer to take advice from male colleagues, as they assume they are more knowledgeable. So I always put customer needs first to ensure they receive first-class service, and they are entitled to deal with whomever they wish - customer service, and their journey with us, is more important. A great recent example of the kind of casual sexism I experience is when I had returned from annual leave and a service customer was dropping off his car - he asked if I had a nice holiday and if it was good to be back. I replied that it was lovely to be back, and he said, ‘well, it’s better than being at home doing the housework’.”
However, there have been advantages to being a woman in the motor trade. “What I have found is that some customers are surprised that a woman is the General Manager, so when they are complaining and I get involved, they are less aggressive with me than perhaps they would be if they were dealing with a man. I am able to calm the situation, try to put their needs first and hopefully resolve their issue.”
Liz is very keen to encourage women to join the industry. Her advice to girls thinking about applying for an apprenticeship is to do it: “Be strong, don’t let anything stand in your way and have confidence in yourself. I hope women thinking about joining the trade give this career a very positive consideration and are then able to realise the benefits that I have experienced.”