DENVER – Years ago, a pregnant Keriann Sullins went into labor when she was finishing a car deal on a Saturday morning at her dealership, Hart Chevrolet in Dalhart, TX.
Sensing something was afoot, the customer said, “I’ll come back.”
Sullins, an F&I manager, wouldn’t hear of that. “I said, ‘No, no,’ because this was my car deal.”
On the following Tuesday, she was back at work, infant in tow. She was entitled to six weeks off but didn’t take it. “Do you know how much money that (six weeks represents) in the car business?”
Sullins and four other women are part of a “Women in F&I” panel discussion at the 2009 EFI Conference put on here by members of a Facebook group, Ethical F&I managers.
Among other things, the panelists discuss their place in auto retailing, an industry that skews male.
Tisha McMillion, an F&I veteran who now does contract work, says times have changed since she started out.
“It’s great to see we’ve evolved,” she says. “We have a support system that mentors people coming up. I didn’t have that. I’m still fighting the good fight, but we don’t have to put up with a lot of what we put up with in the past.”
As a woman working in a largely man’s world, “I had more to prove,” she says. But she persevered. Apparently isn’t the type to mess with, anyway. “My old nickname was ‘Princess of Darkness,’” she says.
Stephanie Cooper says she’s “blessed” to serve as the finance manager for the Timbrook Auto Group in Cumberland, MD.
If something riles her at work, she’ll call McMillion. “She just listens,” Cooper says. “In five minutes, I’m calmed down.”
Cooper’s F&I job advice regardless of gender is “to be yourself, take five minutes between turnovers (when a salesperson hands off a customer to the F&I manager) and know your strengths and weaknesses.”
Sullins speaks of “a wonderful support staff” at her dealership, adding she never has been treated differently there or at outside training sessions.
Likewise, Amanda Lesikar, F&I manager at Bird Kultgen dealership in Waco, TX, says: “It doesn’t matter if you are a man or woman; we all support each other. The dealership’s morals and values should align with yours.”
She is a focused F&I manager who at the conference won first place in a role-playing contest of selling aftermarket products to someone posing as a reluctant customer.
“I’ve absolutely never had a man outperform me in F&I,” Lesikar says. She notes the general manager at her dealership is a woman.
McMillion won her share of monthly performance awards as an F&I manager. She recalls when somebody stole one from her office. “I thought, ‘That’s the only way you’ll get that award.’”
Alicia Ellis, finance manager at Green Eyed Motors in Boulder, CO, has been in auto retailing for more than three decades.
“The car business has changed a lot in 30 years,” she says. “Standing up for yourself in the 1980s is a lot different than now. Of course, I was younger then."
Common perception is that women are more emotional than men, says McMillion. She doesn’t dispute that view. “It’s a fact.”
Ellis disagrees: “Guess what? Some of us aren’t emotional. We’re not fluffy flowers, so don’t treat us that way.”