Liza Borches, 45
CEO, Carter Myers Automotive
What drew you to the auto industry? My family has been in the auto industry for three generations. I’m the fourth generation. But I did not believe that I was always going to go into automotive, but it’s amazing how this industry gets in your blood. In college, one of the job offers I had gotten was from American Honda. And I started thinking about where I would be most excited to work and feel most engaged. There was just no question.
First automotive job: In 1997. My first role in American Honda was in their national trainee program in Torrance, Calif. It was six or seven people each year they hired, mostly from colleges. We got to spend a year and a half rotating through every department, each division, learning all about the company before getting placed. I went into auto sales after that 18-month program.
Big break: When I got the job offer straight out of college to go into this national training program. It just made me see the industry from a bigger perspective than just my family’s dealerships in Virginia.
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What is the major challenge you’ve faced in your career? I would have answered this differently a year ago. This year has certainly been a challenging one in ways that none of us expected. Starting with COVID, but then being impacted by child care issues, business leveling off, race relations and tension in our country. The biggest challenge that I’ve had is not any of these individual subjects or issues, but being able to help everybody in our company realize that the emotions that are happening are very real, that we can’t judge each other, that we need to respect each other’s fears, anxieties and emotions and understand that we’re all in different places right now.
You’ve been in the industry 23 years. What has been the most important change you’ve seen? Everybody said that the Internet was going to change the way people buy cars and that all these third-party vendors and brokers were going to take over our business. The biggest change that I’ve seen really has been in the last couple years, where that’s come full circle to say all the technology in the world isn’t going to sell cars without a relationship.
What work achievement are you most proud of? The fact that I’ve been leading our family automotive company since about 2012. When I moved up to vice president of our company, we had five dealerships. (The group now has 16 dealerships.) We’ve grown from 150 associates to almost 700 associates.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently in your career? I wish that I had taken a gap year either between high school and college or between college and starting my career. Once you get going on a career, especially one that you’re passionate about, it’s hard to sometimes take that time to explore yourself and your world. It took me longer than I would like to have realized I need to spend more time learning and reading and growing as a person.
What should be done to encourage women to enter the auto industry? We received 950 applications last year for job postings, and 24 percent of them were women, but only 2.5 percent were applying for jobs in our service or parts departments. They’re not applying first because they don’t see successful women already in these roles. The second reason is we typically put requirements in our job postings saying, “You need to have DMS knowledge, CDK/Reynolds preferred.” They don’t know what that is! “You need to have a mechanical aptitude.” No, you don’t. “You need to have five years’ experience.” We put these things in there that are not encouraging women who have never considered automotive to even apply.
How do you bring your best self to work? I start every day a little bit before 5 a.m. I spend about 30 minutes writing down my 10 gratitudes for the day. I write down my five goals for the day. I then listen to a 30-minute podcast called “Rise and Grind.” I go out for a run for about an hour every morning, from 5:30 till 6:30 a.m. Then I come back to my house, and that’s when I start my day. I quickly get ready, and then I drive my kids to school so I can have a few moments with them every morning. I drop them off, and then I head to work at whichever dealership I’m heading to that day.
Tell us about your family. I am incredibly fortunate with the relationship I have with my dad. He let me buy this little Volvo dealership, run it on my own, learn the business from the ground up without much involvement from him. I didn’t want to be known as the owner’s daughter. I put my own money into this Volvo dealership. I went in as the general manager, but I was also the sales associate, the finance manager, used-car manager, the service manager. It was a very small store. Both of my kids were born while I was running that store. My husband also worked there for the first seven months. We raised our son in my office. Every customer knew my son, and the joke was they couldn’t not buy a car from us. My son would smile at them from the BabyBjörn, and they’d say yes.
— Jackie Charniga