Amy Fleming, 44
Senior Director, Regional Operations and Sales, Mazda Canada
Location: Richmond Hill, Ontario
Education: B.S., business administration, St. Francis Xavier University
What drew you to the auto industry? I’ve worked in the auto industry since I was a teenager, so really, it’s all that I’ve ever known. My experience has been really positive. I like challenges. The auto industry is always fast-paced, so you have to be very nimble. I also appreciate all the different opportunities that I’ve had across the business. I’ve worked both on the retail side and the corporate side, both on service and sales.
First automotive job: I started at my cousin’s dealership in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. I started by answering the phones and filing repair orders and basically just learning the basics of the accounting office and the service department. It was 1992.
Big break: When I became director of sales operations at Mazda. I led the development of a network performance program. We used it to recognize and reward our dealer partners that focus on sustainable business growth through both brand and customer experience. It’s still in place. The development was really inclusive. It was very collaborative, with frequent reviews and feedback from our dealer council.
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What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? I would say definitely this year during COVID. I oversee sales, and we started the year with sales growth. We were up 10 percent in February. And then in March and April, with most of the dealerships closed across the country, the entire industry plummeted. We had to make so many decisions quickly, not only for our internal team, with safety as our priority, but also for our dealer network and our customers. What made it really challenging is how rapid everything was changing with different recommendations across municipal, provincial and the national governments.
You’ve been in the industry 28 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? The innovation. Just even through the COVID-19 crisis, how quickly everyone is innovating through doing things online. We had a national dealer meeting with our entire dealer body [online]. We haven’t done that before, and we’re really proud how well that went. Dealers are innovating through appointment-based processes and online lead-handling. It’s been really impressive how they’ve pivoted and changed their processes to make sure their customers are safe and their staff is safe.
What work achievement are you most proud of? The development of the [dealer] network performance program. Leveraging my relationships across the dealer network and the collaboration with them to co-develop the program. That really got support and buy-in across the network.
What do you struggle with? Probably multiple priorities, taking on too much.
Describe your leadership style. One of our leadership values is authenticity, and that really resonates with me. I’ve been the first female in a lot of my most recent positions in our company, so there’s not like a female role model that I can look up to. I don’t try to emulate or be like anyone else. And I just really want to reinforce that with my team. I try to be myself and embrace what everybody brings to the team. If they are the best versions of themselves, we’re going to have a strong team.
What have you learned from the COVID-19 crisis? The key thing that I learned is that communication is so critical. I always thought communication was important, but the frequency of communication needed during a crisis, with things escalating and changing so quickly, is paramount.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? I think awareness is key, so [young women] know what the career opportunities are. For example, at Mazda we are connected with the University of Ontario. Through our relationship with them, we can interact with the student body. It’s both male and female students, but we’ve been able to recruit for summer jobs and gotten some full-time applicants. There’s a female on my team right now who was originally part of one of the sessions I presented at.
Are you able to maintain friendships? Absolutely. Part of the key to my success personally is my group of girlfriends. There are 10 of us who grew up or attended university together in Nova Scotia. And we’ve all since relocated to Toronto. They are an ironclad support system.
— Laurence Iliff