Kristen Bowen, 36
General manager, Audi Northlake
Long before she was general manager of a dealership, Kristen Bowen initially rejected the idea of selling cars.
But the temporary receptionist position she took with Hendrick Automotive Group fresh out of college immersed her in a retail environment. Her career began flourishing in 2008, when she was promoted to sales adviser at Hendrick Mini in Charlotte, N.C. She worked her way up through multiple sales and finance positions.
Her retail skills became so fine-tuned that she was hand-selected to help open a Charlotte-based Audi store for Hendrick in 2014. She was appointed general manager of that dealership, Audi Northlake, in January.
"Now I realize how important [the receptionist position] is in the dealership," Bowen said. "They really know exactly what's going on at all times. It was super important and I learned a lot."
Audi Northlake, with Bowen on its team and now at its helm, has increased its net profit each year since it opened.
The pre-owned department's gross profit grew to $2.15 million in 2020, up 25 percent from the year before. The department's net profit shot up to $813,905 in 2020, a 72 percent increase from 2019.
With Bowen in the driver's seat, the store in March posted a best-ever monthly net profit of $542,731, beating by $548 the previous mark from December 2020.
The store, like so many, had to quickly adapt to selling digitally during the COVID-19 crisis. It responded by redirecting the Internet traffic received by its business development center to sales managers, allowing personnel to connect with customers from the start.
Bowen learned a leadership lesson during the pandemic: the need to stay in touch with her employees. Near Easter, she went as far as to arrange for employees hiding eggs with fun facts in them for a hunt that gave them a break and got them to learn more about each other.
"That [lesson] is something that really stood out to me — just continually making sure that you're talking to your people and listening to what's going on in their lives," she said.
Bowen added that in her time at Hendrick, no one — be it an employee, colleague or manager — has made her feel as if she doesn't belong exactly where she's at.
— C.J. Moore