Growing up in suburban Detroit, dealer Katie Bowman Coleman lived too far from her dad's rural dealership to work summers there. Instead she sold clothes, which interested her far more than cars anyway.
"I watched my dad go through a lot of hard knocks in the car business," said Coleman, now president of Bowman Chevrolet in Clarkston, Mich. "That was influential to making me think, "I am not sure I want to go into that business.'
"But I was always interested in retail and I liked fashion."
So Coleman pursued a fashion career that led her to New York and Australia. But in 1993, when she returned to her roots in auto retailing, she applied lessons from the fashion world to the car business. For example, she display-ed cars the same way that she ar-ranged shirts in a store and promoted online retailing before it became a trend in autos. Her skills have helped turn her father's store into one of the fastest-growing Chevrolet dealerships in Michigan in new-vehicle sales.
"I have a passion for customer service. It is something that crosses industries, from clothing to [auto] retail," said Coleman, 53. "I also have a passion for people and I believe that how you treat your employees, treat your customers and the attention to detail all matter, no matter what job you're doing."