Alana Wilson, 35
Human resources director, Friendship Automotive
About seven years ago, Alana Wilson put her banking job in the rearview mirror and moved from Knoxville, Tenn., back to her hometown of Bristol, Tenn.
She was seeking change.
What she found was a career in retail automotive when she landed at Friendship Automotive in Bristol.
Wilson was drawn to Friendship Automotive by its stellar reputation and strong community ties. She also liked working in an industry whose product would always be in demand.
“I wanted to be established somewhere that had a good reputation and wasn’t going anywhere and Friendship hit those marks,” says Wilson, who managed bank tellers before joining the dealership group.
“People are always going to be buying a car or getting a car fixed.”
Wilson started at Friendship as a business development agent in its Hyundai business development center in nearby Johnson City, Tenn., and quickly embraced the group’s business model and culture.
“I enjoyed that position and managed to excel in it quite a bit,” she says. “Not only was I dealing with our customers on a day-to-day basis, I was also getting to speak to and build a rapport with our sales managers, with our general managers and our salespeople in multiple locations. That gave me the opportunity to meet with people from all over our company.”
She continued to advance over the next three years.
Wilson became assistant director of the group’s centralized business development center for its Bristol stores and then took over as Internet and business development center manager for the group’s Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep-Ram store.
When she heard the dealership was looking to fill the newly created position of human resources director, she raised her hand and clinched the job in September 2018.
Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, the dealership’s employee turnover rate steadily declined under Wilson’s watch, decreasing by half from 2019 to 2021 to 14 percent.
Also in 2021, there were fewer instances of employees calling in sick and the number of employee-submitted insurance claims and prescription drug purchases declined. That led to an increase in employer contributions toward medical costs and savings passed along to employees, she said.
The group’s culture — created by its owners, the Walters family — and consistent training, mentoring and education have helped attract high-quality hires and cultivate employee loyalty, Wilson says.
“The environment we’ve created allows people to really find their niche and to really be able to excel,” she says. “We’re big on promoting from within, we’re big on recognizing peoples’ strengths, and putting them into a position where they can be successful and help others be successful as well. I’m a perfect example of that.”
— Arlena Sawyers