Gina Allen, 34
Director of fixed operations at Santa Margarita Ford, Santa Margarita Ford Fleet and Santa Margarita Toyota
Achievement: Uses people and communication skills to improve fixed operations at Santa Margarita Ford and Toyota in California.
Gina Allen walked into Santa Margarita Ford's service department when she was 18 years old and never left. Now managing fixed operations at three locations, Allen started her career in 2001 at the bottom of the ladder, taking a job as an assistant to a service adviser. "I didn't know anything about cars," she said. "I learned in the first day I wasn't going to be answering phones and taking lunch orders."A natural people person, Allen took quickly to working in the service department, becoming an expert in customer relations. She moved up the management chain, working as a service adviser for five years, then transitioned to guest relations for another four years."Our business really is a people business," she said. "The moment we stop listening to a customer is the moment things break down."Allen took over Santa Margarita's fixed operations in 2010, adding the Toyota store to her management duties after the dealership acquired it in March 2016. By creating open channels of communication between employees and management, she has been able to attract new talent to the service department and help them develop career paths within the dealership.While serving as a representative on Ford's Parts and Service Advisory Board in 2013, Allen lobbied for a new standard parts warranty, increasing it to 2 years/unlimited miles from 1 year/12,000 miles."I got to see that change start from my office and go all the way to Dearborn," she said. As a young woman in the service department, Allen said she's had some difficulty having her voice heard — or being looked in the eye — by male peers, but her achievements speak for themselves."Other service managers on the job were skeptical of me," she said. "But when I became their representative and solicited them for feedback and got things to change for them, that's when they started to see I knew what I was talking about."