It’s hard to believe that one week ago I was in Orlando at my second Women In Automotive Conference. I met so many wonderful, talented, strong, and amazing women! Dealer Principals, OEM, fixed and variable dealership personnel, vendor partners—all of us there, connecting, learning, laughing, and maybe even a little crying. (I don’t mean to leave out the great men who were there, supporting WIA…there were quite a few and we need you!) It really was amazing and I feel very blessed to be a part of this needed movement. “We are Stronger Together” was the theme this year.
The “We” concept—the idea that TOGETHER we can accomplish what we could not accomplish alone—is something that has been central to my life for the last 24+ years. So, when I heard the resounding “WE” coming from the stage it went straight to my heart. In my experience, this concept can create actual miracles. Really.
As the conference progressed, what came to me was “Walking the Talk”. I mean, let’s face it. Sometimes we women can be our own worst enemies. We can be catty and judgmental. We sometimes make assumptions and can be…ok…I’m just going to use the word: Clicky. We can be clicky.
My first experience at WIA taught me about how important it is to walk the talk of “we”. I came to my first WIA Conference last year, not knowing anyone and unsure of myself. I had just opened my consulting business a few months before and frankly, I was scared. I remember taking a deep breath and diving in…but it wasn’t easy (and if you know me, you know I’m an inherent extrovert—being new is daunting no matter what your personality type).
But you know what broke the ice for me last year? Another woman, Bobbie Herron, who was having a conversation with a group of fabulously dressed people just a couple of feet from where I was standing—alone. Bobbie noticed me and literally pulled me into that conversation. I have never forgotten that. It changed the conference for me. I was so happy to be able to thank her for that moment at this year’s conference.
Another amazing woman who walks the talk is Nicole Ashe of Cox Automotive. We talked at that first WIA for a time and as we talked—well, the only way I can describe it is that she “saw and heard” me. Nicole is a board member, a speaker at the events, and very busy—yet as we spoke, her attention was focused on me. Asking me questions and truly listening to my answers. Then she remembered me when she saw me again! (Somehow it never ceases to amaze me when people remember me). The next time I saw her at DD24 we talked again and now correspond once in a while. She’s become a model for me. She and Bobbie both. Their inclusive, reaching out a hand and heart, might be a model for us all. The fact is, their openness—their reaching out, gave me the courage to reach out to people and begin relationships I may not have begun otherwise.
This of course isn’t a one way street. We also need to be open to the reaching out and respond to it.
This leads me to a connection I made with a young woman. I met Natalie at the first event of the Conference—Speed Networking. Yes, it was just what you imagine. We sat across from someone we didn’t know and talked for 5 minutes or so. I sat down across from a lovely, porcelain skinned young woman with a beautiful smile. We both kind of looked at each other—and we jumped in, telling each other what we do for a living etc. Natalie is probably more than 25 years younger than me and I found myself in awe of her courage and go get it attitude. She has just begun her second dealership position after graduation from college. And here she was at WIA and jumping in to a scary speed networking event! And she came on her own dime and steam! As she told me about herself and we talked about different career paths, I found myself telling her that this conference is about women helping each other, supporting each other. As our time drew to a close and it was time to go to the next person, I urged Natalie to connect with me and if she needed to bounce things off of someone I would do my best to be there for her. And off we went our separate ways, meeting the next person in line.
That night, a little miracle of “we” happened. I received a connection request from Natalie on LinkedIn! This small thing truly made my night. We have had been communicating via email and LinkedIn since and I hope we continue to get to know each other. I got to take a picture with Natalie and it’s one of my favorite of the conference. It reminds me to Be the We—to Walk the Talk. It’s also a reminder to be Natalie—be bold, be open, reach back.
Because it is true: WE really are stronger TOGETHER.