Like the fellow who thinks he will make a great “PR Man” because he likes people, there are hundreds (thousand’s?) of car fans who think they’d make great auto writers and live with reviewing a different new car every week. Unfortunately, many of them try.
Autowriters.com’s Spotlight was created to let “wannabes” know and remind those struggling what it takes to succeed. It truly is even more of a struggle for a woman to succeed, particularly if she eschews “the women’s angle” and puts up her knowledge, experience and judgment against all comers in the mostly man’s world of cars.
This is how The Car Coach, Lauren Fix, does it in her own words, a chapter she contributed to A Woman’s Perspective on Leading, an essay anthology featuring women leading the way in the automotive aftermarket.
“A Woman in a Man’s World – How I Became The Car Coach”
Nothing can stop you but yourself. Today I’m a leader in the automotive, aftermarket and broadcast industries and an inductee into the National Women and Transportation Hall of Fame. But when I first embarked on the journey to pursue my love of everything automotive, I faced many hurdles. Youth, inexperience, self-doubt and a male-dominated industry were my some of my greatest barriers. While women are still underrepresented (and sometimes underestimated) in the automotive and aftermarket industries, they were much more so in the 1980s. I got my start working in mail order sales at my father’s brake remanufacturing company and each day was a challenge to assert my competence in the face of stereotypes. Every day, callers to sales or tech support would ask for a man who could help them. I always responded with, “I can help you!” Although I was the one who designed the components or kits, I found I had to defend my qualifications time and time again.
Despite this and other roadblocks, I consider myself lucky to have discovered my passion for cars at an early age. I rode my bike to the dealership to negotiate the purchase of my very first car before I was old enough for a license. I started racing at the age of 16, and would head to the track by myself for the love of the sport and the feel of the road. Other drivers would ask, “where is your boyfriend, father or brother?” It never phased me. I would simply head to the track, change the tires, race all day, change the tires and then drive home.
My father never told me that there was a glass ceiling or hurdle in my way, or that “girls can’t do that.” So I set my own standards, developed clear goals and never limited myself. We used to say to one another, “nothing can stop you but yourself!” Years later, I used that quote in my motivational seminars on leadership as well in the introduction of my third book. As a leader, I’ve discovered that honesty, strong ethics, positive communication, mentoring, and constant and consistent education are the keys to channel my ambitions and drive me forward toward every-broadening goals. I’ve always believed that we create our own barriers, hurdles to clear and ceilings that limit our abilities. The phrase “nothing can stop you but yourself” has kept me going through the occasional wrong turn or bad stretch of highway.
In fact, a glance back into the rearview mirror teaches me that that those unpaved, dirt and gravel roads were the ones most worth driving down. They taught me invaluable lessons about stamina and resilience that are critical to becoming a successful leader. If you stick to the paved highways, you may eventually get to where you’re going, or you may end up simply following in the worn track of millions before you. A big turning point in my career came in the 90’s when I had the opportunity to be on the Oprah Winfrey Show. This opportunity changed my career path completely. I had to react quickly to reinvent what I did, while staying true to my carefully crafted passions, mission, education and talents. Suddenly other national news outlets started calling, and morning shows that we all watch every day were inviting me to share my expertise about cars. Overnight, I was no longer in automotive aftermarket sales, repeatedly asserting my credentials over the telephone. I was no longer inching bumper-to-bumper in an unending traffic-jam of hopefuls. Suddenly I was The Car Coach.
As a successful entrepreneur, I’ve harnessed that flexibility and ambition to found multiple corporations in the aftermarket, manufacturing and consulting industries; all while simultaneously managing extensive racing, testing and broadcast careers and being a wife and mother of two. I’ve learned that the more frequently traveled highways of “success” may appear to provide faster access to your goals but, like any byway to fame and fortune, you’ll soon find yourself white-knuckled and frustrated, caught up in a corporate traffic-jam. True leadership requires a direction or vision that is always evolving, that changes with the ever-fluctuating markets, and that doesn’t mind a foray through a few orange cones when it’s time to change lanes.
But if good leaders know how to forge ahead on their own, great leaders know how to leave behind a roadmap for others. Over the years I’ve been helped and humbled by wonderful mentors who believed in my abilities and support my goals. Part of the key to my success is my husband, Paul Fix. Paul has always been my biggest supporter, best advisor and biggest fan. We are a team, and I offer the same support in return for Paul and his efforts. At the most important forks in the road, you never know who will be the one to give you the push you need to follow your greatest ambitions. Often friends and family members, bosses or mentors are the people who provide that critical support. But occasionally it’s a good Samaritan who sees you on the side of the road and offers just the right word of encouragement, advice, sincere criticism or jumpstart that changes everything.
“That understanding should inspire us to share our stories as honestly as possible and to mentor others. In my case, that means being forthcoming about my need for consistent education in my field and coming to mentorship as both a learner and an educator. It also means gaining the understanding to speak to a new generation. When my daughter Shelby was still a new driver, we developed a program to bring teens and college students a fun, fresh vision on cars, driving, and the personal freedom pitfalls that accompany them. Today we still work in partnership with schools or community service groups to give hands-on automotive demonstrations, allowing drivers to explore their own vehicles. I also travel across the country in person, print, and on-air to educate America about a wide range of automotive topics and issues. Getting back to these basics reminds me of my own start in my father’s garage. It also ensures that, despite all the changes and challenges ahead, I stay true to the original passions that got me where I am today and to the traits that characterize a leader worth following.”
New Book “A Woman’s Perspective on Leading” by Women in the Auto Care Industry is raising money for scholarships. Cost: A donation to the Women’s Board Scholarship Fund
All proceeds benefit the 2016 Babcox Media Women’s Board Scholarship fund. The book was created by Dr. John A. Passante and edited by Amy Antenora of Babcox Media. Babcox Media donated all costs associated with publishing the book. Contributors to the book share their inspiring and diverse stories as well as advice for future leaders in the auto care industry.
Contributors Include: JoAnn Bortles, Nicole Brennan, Tammy (Chaffee) Tecklenburg, Jody DeVere, Ruth Ehlinger, Lauren Fix, Julia Johnson, Jody Kramer, Diane Larson, Bogi Lateiner, Paula Lombard, Amy Mattinat, Colleen McCarthy, Ashley Ridenour, Lisa Rodriguez, Karen Salvaggio, Lorraine Schultz, Patricia Serratore, Beth Skove, Laura Soave and Donna Wagner.
For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org.