The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
THE GOAL: FOR DEALERSHIPS TO WORK AS ONE GROUP
It’s not often a job description is “all the things nobody else wants to do,” but that’s how Pamela Pearson describes being the director of internal operations at Sentes Automotive.
The Kelowna, B.C.-based company operates six dealerships and Pearson’s task is to ensure “work as one organization, instead of all separate rooftops doing their own thing.
“I coordinate the same IT, uniforms, garbage, all so managers don’t have to. I oversee the HR team that works for all six, from recruiting to exit interviews, and I deal with IT, so computer issues or requests go through me.
“If there’s maintenance, renovations or new builds, I’m involved in that. And we like to have fun, so I do all the event planning, like holiday parties and golf tournaments.”
Pearson, 38, was an elementary school teacher but decided it wasn’t for her.
She excelled in sales at a tanning salon and a family member suggested she try selling cars. She began at Kelowna Mercedes-Benz and sold 12 cars in six weeks but “I didn’t want to wait for people to come in and I wasn’t comfortable calling people. I was going to quit.”
The dealership was part of Sentes and when three more stores were acquired by early 2008, Pearson was tapped to help coordinate everything. “I did whatever had to be done. The president of Honda Canada was coming and there were weeds in the laneway between us and the next company. We couldn’t find anybody to pull them, so I went home and got my weed whacker and did it.
“I’m ridiculously organized; my boss calls me a ‘solutionator;’ I like to take action; I like to make improvements. I don’t come to work just to do my job, but to make our company a better place to buy cars.”
MANAGING MONEY TO MAKE THE COMPANY MONEY
For profitability, Volvo Cars Canada counts on Waqas Khan. The company’s 30-year-old business controller is responsible for used cars, after-sales and operating expenses.
“I juggle simultaneous deadlines between the three, budgeting and planning and forecasting. For used cars, it’s about getting the best resale for our cars, and for aftersales it’s year-over-year profit growth on parts and accessories, and the right pricing so people don’t go to Canadian Tire.
“I also manage our advertising and selling expenses for the company nationally, from multimedia paid advertising, right to consumables at the office. Another controller manages new cars and I manage everything else.”
Khan was born in Singapore. With family moves for his father’s career in the airline industry, he was educated in Canada and Dubai, specializing in accounting and financing.
“I’m good with numbers and CPA was always a coveted designation, and I’m in the final stages of completing mine.”
Khan earned an MBA at McMaster University in 2010 while working at Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada, filling in for a finance coordinator on maternity leave.
“When that [finished], the only department they could find for me was in sales incentives, so I took a slight detour as an incentive specialist. I did that for four years and then became a sales planning manager at Subaru Canada.”
He stayed there for two years but needed more financial involvement for his CPA. When he heard Volvo was looking for a business controller, he applied.
“I can see how the gears and cogs fit into this well-oiled machine and I know what’s needed to move metal. I can see if someone’s over budget, but it’s needed for the customer. Finance ties everything together to keep it profitable.”
IF SOMETHING’S WRONG, SHE’S GOT YOUR NUMBER
Accuracy is everything when it comes to contracts, and at Kelowna Mercedes-Benz, located in British Columbia’s interior, there’s a second set of eyes for it. As financial services assistant, Carol Malmas double checks all documentation.
“The finance team does all the contract signing, and then I go through with a finetoothed comb to be sure they have the documents for legal and audit, and proper funding. I then do what’s called booking out, which is finalizing the deals in our computer systems for the commissions, and that our gross and costs are correct.
“The deal then goes to the general sales manager, and we tag-team so I haven’t missed anything before it goes to accounting. I also keep track of the retail delivery report, lease payouts, support money from Mercedes-Benz Canada, anything that has an administrative aspect.”
Malmas, 55, was in banking for 30 years and then a new opportunity arose.
“My husband is a sales consultant at the dealership. He was busy and in 2014 was encouraged to get an assistant, which would come out of his commission. We decided we would team up and keep it in the family.”
A year later she became a finance manager but she didn’t like selling products.
“I said there are three of us. Two are good with sales but not great with paperwork, and I am, and I proposed that I look after paperwork and they focus on selling. I basically created the role for myself. It has evolved over the years, with more responsibility.
“I’m very observant and can scan a deal file and find someone’s name misspelled, or numbers or information that don’t match up. I’m super-detail oriented. They just pop off the page for me.”