Wednesday, 31 May 2006 17:00

Ladies bond at inaugural conference for women

Written by Karyn Hendricks
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"It was wonderful to find out that you are not alone in the collision repair world," explained Linda Perry, Baron Von Frier, Berkeley, California. "A conference like this has been a long time coming." 

Scenic Carefree, Arizona, offered a warm and welcoming environment to the collision industry's first "women only" retreat and conference, designed to bring professional women to the forefront of the industry and nurture their contributions. The conference featured three days of intense workshops and networking with primarily women speakers addressing issues such as industry trends and strategies; Six Sigma; lean production; marketing and sales; and human resources.

"This group was about work. We set goals and strove to meet them. And the speakers were excellent. One task was to create the ideal body shop. In doing this we found that women deal with customers in a more nurturing manner," continued Perry.

"Furthermore, women make incredible sales people, and the collision repair business needs to have more women involved. We discovered that we as women have a lot of latent skills. The day is long past that we are the little wives in the background. We need to let the world know that we are more than capable of holding our own in the auto body business."

Empower new leaders

Geralyn Kottschade, Jerry's Body Shop, Inc, Mankato, Minnesota, commented, "It was even better than anticipated. I needed to be inspired again, and I was. The event was a major step forward for women of the collision industry and a fantastic opportunity to empower a new source of leaders!"

"This amazing event was just the first of what will now be an ongoing effort. We welcome other women to join in and be a part of the future," added Kathy Mello, TGIF Collision, Fremont, California.

Relatively new to the ranks of shop owners, Katie Gallegos, co-owner Russo's Collision Repair, Watsonville, California, called the conference "outstanding. It was amazing. I was privileged to meet women with vast experience in the collision repair industry. I walked away with some new friends and mentors.

"The schedule was really intense - with sessions running from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but it was a great experience. It was very refreshing to see multi-generations of women really sharing what they know about the collision repair industry. I think we need to start reaching out to young women earlier - junior high even, to talk about the pros of joining the auto body business. For instance, being a paint tech is a job at which they can make a really good living."

The jam-packed schedule may have been the only criticism leveled at the conference.

Based on the success of their gathering, the Women's Conference will continue as an entity focusing on empowering industry women with future events. Kottschade and Mello were elected as co-chairwomen to spearhead the group's future efforts. In addition, five other collision industry women professionals were elected as group leaders to form the steering committee: Sharon Brennan, Hassell Auto Body, West Babylon, N.Y.; Jaime Angell, Bear Creek Auto Body, Denver, Colorado; Jeanette Guthrie, J&D, Lodi, California; Katie Gallegos, and Linda Perry.

The conference was launched and hosted by Assured Performance Co-op Network, and sponsored by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, 3M Automotive, FinishMaster, Mitchell International, and 1-800 Radiator. The event was open to all industry women and the attendance filled all available room-block space of the resort hotel.

The women's conference would like to invite more women into the talent pool of the industry. Join the movement by registering online at www.CollisionIndustryWomen.com or call Assured Performance Network at 949-221-0088 x223.


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