Ellena Woodhams, 30
Compliance and outreach director, Stevens Management Co.
When the coronavirus crisis hit dealerships across the country this year, a big impact for many store employees was the sudden reduction in workload as sales stumbled and service customers thinned out.
For Ellena Woodhams, it was the opposite.
Woodhams, who oversees compliance for four California dealerships and a management office, was inundated with guidelines and regulations related to the pandemic from the local, state and federal governments. Some focused on what dealership operations were allowed to continue during the economic shutdown; others outlined safety protocols.
It was a big test for Woodhams after two years of running compliance operations.
“With the pandemic, it was a whole new ballgame,” she said.
“Everything was starting from zero every day. It seemed like the laws were changing every day. I had to be quick on my feet.”
Complicating the situation, Woodhams wasn’t able to visit the more distant dealerships of the four-store group to oversee compliance in person. Instead, she developed an internal guide to the new rules and worked with managers to document completion of each protocol through email and photos.
The Fresno, Calif., native represents the third generation of her family in the auto business. She jokes that she’s been working in it “since birth,” but it has mostly been from about age 15. She has done stints as a cashier and car washer. She started full time in 2013 after graduating from college with a degree in international business.
For one of her first tasks, Woodhams developed an annual marketing program for Acura Fresno called “The Road to Pink” that involved wrapping a car in vinyl and having people sign it with a marker. For every signature, the dealership makes a donation to organizations fighting breast cancer.
The campaign has proved popular, with requests for the pink car to appear at community events.
The program has been expanded to other dealerships in the group and more causes. For example, Modesto Subaru has wrapped a vehicle to raise money for animal rescue.
Woodhams said it was an easy choice to join the family business. “I was always that kid who sold the most for the school fundraiser. My parents and grandparents always said I had a knack for selling.”
She also likes the dynamic of the broader industry, especially the parade of new models designed to meet consumer tastes.
“Whether it’s new technology, design, hybrids or clean energy,” she said, “something’s always changing and evolving. And I find that exciting.”
— Laurence Iliff