Wednesday, 04 May 2011 20:44

Women's Industry Network Conference Held in San Diego

The Women’s Industry Network (WIN) held their 5th Annual Conference May 1–3 at the Westin Gaslamp Hotel in San Diego. WIN was organized to enhance the collision repair industry—and the role of women within it—through education, networking, and sharing of resources.

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Attendance for this year’s conference was up 30–40 percent, according to Chairwoman Kim White. The event attracted over 150 attendees and featured speeches from motivational and industry experts as well as break out sessions where attendees could receive detailed, personalized tips for their businesses. The event was attended by Autobody News’ Assistant Editor, Erica Schroeder, and Barbara Davies, General Manager and Co-owner.

Speakers discussed a variety of topics designed to enhance business and personal skills as a whole.

“We are proud to offer sessions that will spark new ways of thinking, better performance, and greater understanding of industry issues,” said White.

In the opening session White also thanked the current board for their work this year including the organizations first, and very successful, booth at the International Autobody Exposition and Congress (NACE) in 2010.

The organization was able to increase their membership and exposure with the booth as well as their Women’s Track Classes that they offered during NACE as well.


Executive Coach Jennifer Sertl
The information sessions started with keynote speaker Jennifer Sertl discussing Business Strategy and Leadership in the 21st Century. Sertl is president and founder of Agility3R, an organizational effectiveness company which focuses upon the optimization of customer value by aligning corporate objectives with the individuals responsible for delivering results. The co-author of Strategy, Leadership, and the Soul gave her thoughts on business strategy in a male-dominated arena.

Sertl gave copies of her book to everyone attending the keynote and awarded audience member, Amanda Shelly of Saint-Gobain Abrasives, with the ‘Ms. Anthony’ award, represented by a contemporary version of Susan B. Anthony’s trademark alligator bag. Sertl had spoken about Anthony’s influence on her life and the lives of women everywhere during her speech. She supports the Susan B. Anthony House in her hometown of Rochester, NY.

Mitchell’s Greg Horn
Greg Horn, from Mitchell International, gave an Industry Trends update following Sertl’s keynote. Horn began by giving some statistics about our driving habits over the last few years.

Accidents are at their lowest rate since 1950 and that Americans have been driving less as gas prices continue to soar—two factors that will no doubt effect the collision repair industry. Horn gained nods and chuckles from the predominantly female audience when he compared statistics on male driving habits vs female driving habits. Male drivers are more reckless and cause the vast majority of accidents.

Horn also recounted that the disruption for Japanese automakers caused by the earthquake and tsunami in March could result in more than just scattered and short-term parts shortages. The most popular Japanese sedans are assembled in U.S. plants using locally sourced parts, Horn said, but parts shortages are more likely for the higher-end brands, such as Lexus, and for smaller vehicles such as the Honda Fit and Toyota Prius, which are still built and imported from Japan. But Japan also is the third-largest producer of automotive-grade steel, and exports 43 million tons of it a year.

Decreases in output from those factories (all Japanese companies have been asked to reduce their electrical use by 25 percent) are raising steel prices globally, Horn said. That will likely affect pricing for all sheet metal parts, OEM and non-OEM, and as those prices rise, prices for used parts likely will rise as well.

“So you’re going to see this event’s impact stretch well into next year,” Horn said. “We’ll have to wait and see what the final tally is, but we’re going to see inflation overall in average repair severity because of rising parts prices.”

He also talked about the viability of alternative-fueled vehicles in the coming years due to a federally mandated mpg average of 35.5 by 2016 for all new cars and trucks. This will change the way cars are repaired and the cost of repairs due to new technology and materials used in new vehicles to make them meet these standards, said Horn.

WIN then held their Annual Membership Meeting during lunch on May 2, where they acknowledged the work done by their separate committees this year and announced their new board for 2011-2012.

Current Board Member Mary Kunz not only won the Cornerstone 2011 Award for her contributions in 2010, but was also honored as one of the departing board along with Kim White, Jeanne Silver and Geri Kottschade.

The 2011–2012 Executive Committee was named as follows; Victoria Jankowski, Chair, Jennifer Justice-Haley, Vice-Chair, Margaret Knell, Administrative Vice-Chair, Denise Caspersen, Secretary, and Teresa Bolton, Treasurer. Other Board Members for 2011 will be announced shortly. The goals for the 2011–2012 Board will be to grow the network, build a sustainable funding base and align and build an infrastructure to support WIN’s vision.

The six students who won scholarships to attend WIN this year were also acknowledged; Ozarks Technical Community College’s Hannah Nickles, Southeast Community College’s Kendy Maddox, Center of Applied Technology North’s Rickia Mines, College of Western Idaho’s Jessica Crowley, Green River Community College’s Jessica Gauthier, and Southeast Community College’s Mollee Lunkwitz.

Student Jessica Crowley also won the Cornerstone Scholarship Award, an award presented by Teresa Bolton that consists of a financial contribution from WIN to continue school.

“Being awarded the Cornerstone Scholarship is a gift. I plan to use this gift to give back to others,” said Crowley. “I aspire to emulate each and every woman that I came in contact with at the 2011 WIN Conference.”

Two Instructor Scholarships to attend WIN were given this year to Michele Charlebois-Didreckson with Ozarks Community College and Rodney Bolton with The Center of Applied Technology North.

Two additional scholarships were given to collision repair center employees to attend WIN, winners were Tona Haywood with Gautier’s Auto Body and Glass, Inc. in King George, VA, and Teresa Super with TGIF Body Shop in Fremont, CA.

Day two of the conference began with the Annual Scholarship Walk Presented by Enterprise; over 100 women attending the conference participated in the walk and were able to raise over $5,000 through individual and corporate donations.

On the last day, keynote speaker Lauren Fix opened with a discussion entitled ‘Using Your Female Force for Good Car-Ma.’ Fix is an automotive writer (Guide to Loving Your Car, The Car Coach) as well as a former race car driver, mechanic, and driving instructor, known for many media appearances.

Fix focused on ‘what comes around, goes around’ and that women in a male dominated industry need to focus on empowering themselves.

“The glass ceiling is only there if you put it there,” said Fix.

Fix said she was impressed with WIN and the conference itself, she had excellent feedback from attendees after her speech and said the group really represented all different aspects of the industry.

“I’d never heard of the group [WIN] before being asked to speak at the conference—but I was thoroughly impressed,” said Fix.

Napping is a Good Thing
The last keynote speaker of the conference was Dr. Sara Mednick, Dr. Mednick is an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at UC San Diego, who reviewed research on sleep deprivation and naps. Eliciting chuckles from the audience when she announced she would be discussing ‘napping,’ Mednick explained the link between adequate REM sleep and productivity and creativity. Showing that adequate sleep drastically affects their workforce’s productivity had the audience taking the topic a bit more seriously by the speech’s close.

Mednick showed charts from her research showing that REM sleep during a daytime nap can make up for sleep deprivation at night, and encouraged businesses to allow appropriate rest breaks, including napping. With more productivity demanded by businesses, Mednick showed that getting adequate REM sleep is not only critical, but is a much more permanent solution then downing a cup of coffee. More information about Dr. Mednick’s research can be found at www.takeanap.info.

The conference also consisted of networking breakfasts and activities designed for members to get to know each other better as well as several one-hour break out sessions in 5 topic areas.

Leadership From the Inside Out
Keynote speaker Jennifer Sertl spoke in a breakout session using the metaphor of a light bulb’s wattage to describe how to ‘separate your focus.’ She told everyone to decide a ‘wattage’ of focus they have in a given increment of time (weeks or months) and to separate that wattage into a certain portion for each category including internal relationships, external relationships, organization, implementation, industry education and reflection.

Sertl also encouraged attendees to make a list of 18 people they hope to meet in their lifetime. This list is not so much about meeting the person, but about knowing how to handle the situation if you were to meet the person.

“You can’t admire a quality in someone without having that quality or the potential for that quality in yourself,” said Sertl.

Social Media
Social Media guru Helen Todd gave a basic overview of how a business’ social networking presence can reach more clientele if used correctly. She gave tips on how often to post on social media pages, what to post and other advertising options within social media that can garner attention for your business.

Todd favored social media giant Facebook during the presentation, citing that most of the conference attendees used Facebook above other social networking mediums to promote their businesses.

She also favored a social media presence over a traditional website chiefly due to the fact that a website is really a ‘brochure’ about your services and business while a social media page is interactive and allows users to create a conversation about your services and business—a marketing tool that cannot be quantified. Social media questions can be directed to helen@socialitysquared.com

You Are Your Business Card
Ann Fulton presented a lively discussion about how important it is to dress appropriately for your own professional, age and lifestyle and how to important your own personal coloring is in selecting clothes and accessories. Ann is the owner of Never Pay Retail in Denver, CO.

Lean in the Front Office
Emphasis has been placed on focusing on lean processes in body shops however going lean also applies to processes and organization in the front desk area of any business. There is a large amount of paperwork involved in any repair shop, and assuring that the paperwork is flowing quickly and correctly throughout the job is essential. Eliminating redundancy and clutter and accurately labeling all supplies is a quick way to get started. The quickest, most efficent way paperwork can flow is the path it should take.

Hot Button Employment Issues
Jim Webber, an experienced employment lawyer and human resources manager from Washington state, led this session focused on legal requirements for employers. The session covered harassment issues and prevention, workplace ethics, and tips for supervisors. Webber pointed out that investigating harassment and discrimination complaints can be stressful and frightening.

The outcome of an investigation provides the basis for critical employment decisions and a prompt, thorough and unbiased review is an essential part of both preventing liability and maintaining a healthy workplace. Webber created the blog Evil Skippy at Work to provide an entertaining view of what makes workplaces great and not-so-great. See this blog at www. evilskippyatwork.com and also at  www.jimwebber.net.

The WIN event was sponsored by AkzoNobel, Allstate, ASE, BASF Refinishing, Enterprise, DuPont, State Farm Insurance, Hertz, 3M, Sterling Autobody Centers, GEICO, Fix Auto, CARSTAR, PPG, Marco’s Collision Centers, CSi Complete, ABRA Auto Body and Glass, LKQ, CAPA, Finish Master, Symphony Advisors, 1-800 Radiator, Sherwin-Williams Automotive Finishes, Mitchell International and CCC Information Services.

“WIN has accomplished so much thanks to the support from our members and sponsors ... we are incredibly fortunate and ever grateful for their generosity,” said Kim White.

For more information visit www.womensindustrynetwork.org.

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