Celebrating Women In Auto: Q&A with Finance Manager Chelsea Gillis
There are many hats a person wears during their career. In a challenging environment like the automotive industry, one has to be quick to adapt to change.
We had a chat with finance manager Chelsea Gillis who has taken on multiple roles in the industry. Chelsea has been with OpenRoad for just over 8 years. We talk about her career, the importance of the finance manager’s role in the sales cycle, and what it means to be a woman in the automotive industry.
Q: What was the first role that you took in the automotive industry, why did you take it, and how was your experience in that position?
A: "The first role that I took was a receptionist position at our OpenRoad Mazda Port Moody store. I came from a retail background with its pros and cons, but I craved something more for myself and decided to leave to find something new and exciting. I came across an ad to join the automotive industry. I knew fairly little about the industry but decided to go for an interview. I got the job, and started my journey learning an extensive amount of back-end dealer functionality and processes."
Q: What roles did you take on during your time with OpenRoad?
A: "Over my time with OpenRoad, I have had the pleasure of helping create, implement, and establish 2 brand new positions at our OpenRoad Audi Boundary Flagship store. Which I had the pleasure of watching turn from concrete and rubble, to the beautiful store it is today. I have been a Receptionist, a Sales Administrator, a Used Car Coordinator, Financial Services Associate, and now Finance Manager."
Q: What is the role of a Finance Manager in the sales process?
A: "The Finance Manager is an essential role in the sales process. You are one of the final steps in a customer’s buying experience, and you are a key component in the profitability of the dealership. After a Sales Representative has reached an agreement with the customer, the customer then gets turned over to the Finance Manager. As part of the process, the Finance Manager is responsible to collect a deposit, establish a connection with the understanding of the customers' lifestyle and driving habits, then completing a 'credit application' if necessary. When it’s time to deliver the vehicle, your role is to re-enforce the initial connection, complete all documentation, and provide all available protection products while maintaining customer satisfaction. The Finance Manager is essentially one of the most vital roles in the sales process. The duties and responsibilities that come with a Finance Manager role are numerous, however, it comes with many rewards."
Q: What has changed the most about the auto industry from when you first started out?
A: "To put it in perspective of how far we have come as a company - when I first started in the industry, all OpenRoad employees were able to gather together for one big Christmas party in a reasonably sized venue. Over the last 8 years, the company and industry have grown exponentially. However, customers are changing and evolving on how they make purchases and buying decisions. Customers have all the tools they need to do their research prior to even walking through our doors. The social aspects of environmental and ecologically sustainable development are now being recognized across the world. The growth and innovation of electric vehicles are now prominent and inevitable with this changing industry. The use of online portals has also increased, making it easier for clients to spend less time in dealerships and more time in the comfort of their own homes. After COVID-19, I would expect to see an even bigger increase in the coming years."
Q: What makes working in the automotive industry unique compared to other industries?
A: "Working in the automotive industry there are many opportunities for growth and many different departments to highlight your personal skills and attributes. Not only is it unique in how brand-new positions can be created to accommodate and encourage growth, but on a day to day, you’re constantly dealing with new situations and challenges. I find with the automotive industry, there are many different scenarios and variables in each department, therefore challenging you and making each day a new day."
Q: For the longest time, the automotive industry has been predominantly male, what are the biggest challenges you have overcome as a woman during your career?
A: "When I started in the industry, I was only 1 of 4 women in my dealership. This was standard across the board even for years after. But times are changing and it is becoming more evident and recognized that women are a key attribute to this industry. Personally, as a woman in the Automotive Industry, I have felt the need to prove myself more than others. I have felt the need to speak up for what I believe in and call out if something needs to be fixed. This industry is not for the faint-hearted, but if you truly believe in yourself and your abilities, nothing can get in the way of your goals. Discrimination is real, and slowly but surely the spotlight is getting brighter. In the future, I see an Automotive Industry where more and more women will be designated Executive, Vice President, and General Manager roles."
Q: What is your best advice for women who are interested in pursuing a career in the automotive industry?
A: "Do it! I think it so incredibly important and powerful to have variety on your team. The industry is not just for people who enjoy knowing every car's features or getting dirt under your fingernails from an engine. The industry is so much more dynamic and evolving, that now would be a perfect time to join. Women bring a different way of thinking naturally to the table, which in turn, if you work hard, will make you stand out from the rest. Lastly, use my journey as a real example of the opportunities that come with simply starting as an entry-level position. Your journey is completely up to you, and you will take yourself where you want to go."