Linda McMenamin is Group Service Development Manager at Arnold Clark, where she’s responsible for providing training for all service staff, including classroom training in the company’s three training centres, alongside her team. Linda’s team also provides a one-to-one coaching facility by visiting branches and guiding staff through an in-depth learning period. In addition, Linda has responsibility for ensuring a consistent approach to systems and processes within the company’s service departments, developing these for ease of business within branches, alongside ensuring digital communication with customers.
“…people make the difference, not gender. If you pick the right person then gender doesn’t matter. The motor industry is learning that!..”
Linda, please can you tell us about your career to date and what made you want to work in service management?
I started with Arnold Clark as a service advisor 17 years ago and had no previous experience in the motor trade. By gaining experience in this role it was the natural step for me to move into management.
I moved within the company to bigger branches and progressively gained more experience and knowledge in the Service department. With some training and coaching I became ready for management. Now I am working in a group manager role in a development capacity, which is a great way to use my 17 years’ experience through our business at different levels.
Please can you tell us more about what your role involves on a day-to-day basis?
I head up a department that trains and coaches our service divisions from new-start service advisors to service managers, ensuring staff welfare and development is at the forefront of it all.
Alongside this, I am actively looking at continuous improvement within our service departments, digital communication with our customer, implementing change to enhance our systems and processes; all while ensuring our customers are the focal point for everything we do.
There is a whole new world for me at this side of the business; I am involved with our training group at GTG, our Digital Product Development team, marketing teams and many more aspects of the company that I wasn’t exposed to when I was at branch, which is an exciting new challenge for me.
There’s a myth that women don’t know anything about cars. How do you and your staff challenge this and other outdated stereotypes?
I lived that myth every day when I was at branch. People feel that knowledge is the key to success and I sometimes disagree – confidence is key for me. We don’t expect all of our technicians to be completely expert in the mechanical side of the business, but we have workshops full of specialists at hand to help with the knowledge and learning. It’s being confident to deliver this to customers and also for management to make decisions based on information that sometimes you have to rely on others for.
Our service advisors are all trained through GTG, we provide a Technical for Non-Technical Staff course, which covers the basics of the mechanical set-up of a car and some of the services we do. And overall, I tell all new staff my own personal trick, which was always: Just keep asking questions. Until you have the right information and you understand how to help the customer, then you’ll never fully understand and neither will your customer.
We have fantastic tools for our advisors to use as we move more into digital age and this also helps our customers.
Arnold Clark is proactively developing a gender-balanced workplace. Why is this important to the company?
I feel we understand that there is a place for everyone within our massive company and the right balance of gender means we can get the right people in the right roles. I’ve had a mix of genders working for me in roles that maybe were once thought of as being for ‘boys’ or ‘girls’.
Take technicians for instance; I had a very successful female apprentice work for me. I’ve also had a lot of men working as service advisors, which was once thought of as a ‘woman’s’ role. All of our customers are different, therefore our mix of staff should reflect that, and it’s who’s best for the job, not gender first.
The car industry is traditionally male led. How is this changing more broadly?
As I said earlier, people make the difference, not gender. If you pick the right person then gender doesn’t matter. The motor industry is learning that!
How do you maintain an inclusive culture in the workplace at Arnold Clark?
We work hard at making all our staff feel part of the business and ensure that we are working on communicating with everyone as a whole by developing communication tools. All staff are part of our director’s meetings, and staff benefits and career development opportunities are available to everyone regardless of branch, location or role.
What’s your advice for girls and women who are looking to join the automotive sector?
Do it! It’s a great industry and I know an awful lot of people who would agree. I remember when I first started in Arnold Clark and heard people say, “Once you start in the motor trade, you won’t leave.” I didn’t believe them but it’s now 17 years later for me!
What is coming up next for you and Arnold Clark?
Continuous improvement is my goal throughout our aftersales department. Improving our people, our processes and our culture will be my focus. Being involved in a broader aspect of our aftersales division will improve this also.