At ABRA Auto Body locations across the country, women are leading the charge in providing the highest quality repairs and excellent customer service. On International Women’s Day, ABRA saluted women who turn the wheels – literally.
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Geralynn Kottschade, director of Jerry’s ABRA Auto Body & Glass Mankato, has spent her entire career in the automotive industry. She was president of ASA, NACE, CIECA, CREF and the ASE Foundation, and was a “founding mother” of WIN.
“Growing up in the 1970s, I had a love for cars and that led me to work in the automotive industry,” Kottschade said. “Many times I was the first woman and the only woman. It’s so refreshing to see so many women joining our industry and having a positive impact on it. I love that there are more young women, especially in the field of mechanical bodywork and not just in our paint department and front office, they bring a keen sense of quality and auditing skills.
Kottschade makes teamwork and customer service its priorities.
“Being in my 60s and growing up in a different time, I approach things differently than most of the female members of my team and my male counterparts,” she said. “I’m more flexible and identify issues or gaps in our processes and then work with the team to find answers. I allow my team to participate and I give everyone credit. My teammates are true leaders in customer service and set an example for everyone. We all work to create a positive image of the store and offer sensitivity and compassion to our customers. »
A family business for the Kottschades, the team has grown to include their daughter Laura, who hopes to take over the business one day.
For Michele Smith, who managed accounting at ABRA Auto Body & Glass in Elk River, St. Cloud and Princeton, Minnesota, for 22 years, the collision repair business is the perfect mix of numbers and power.
“I started out as a draftsman when I was young, then moved into the office to help with bookkeeping while I was in school,” Smith said. “Computers were very new to the industry in the 1980s and I was very intrigued by them. From there I traveled the country helping automotive companies interface accounting products with business systems. I I even owned a body shop and had a consulting business before I finally came to work for one of my clients.”
Smith credits her analytical and accounting skills to helping her succeed in a male-dominated field.
“I’m more analytical whereas facilities teams are more technical,” she said. “It also comes with my accounting expertise. I like numbers. I still have. I also like the camaraderie. Our individual talents complement each other. I advocate for the right person for any position. Find talent and put it where it can be most successful. The owners, Lou and Kedrick, are firm in their faith and beliefs and it shows in their business ethics and the way they treat their employees.
Ashly Hughes, Customer Service Representative at ABRA Auto Body & Glass in Elk River, Minnesota, uses her passion for networking to connect with customers and insurance agents.
“My passion is really meeting amazing people and connecting the dots to build great networking relationships that somehow become mutually beneficial,” Hughes said. “I work with a fabulous team that supports my talents while working together to achieve the overall goals of our ABRA. I use my passion to resonate with customers and insurance agents. I think everyone is looking someone to make a deeper connection to Caring for people, understanding them and giving back is what I do best.
Hughes put that passion for networking to work during the pandemic to create a strong social media program.
“I strategically leveraged social media as an organic advertising tool during the pandemic, increasing our insurance agent’s reach when most things were shut down,” she said.
Hughes credits his mentor, Danyell Wendland, the facility’s principal, with creating a workplace that treats women equally and respectfully.
“I personally believe that our ABRA does a fantastic job of treating women equally,” she said. “One of the most inspiring things I noticed just a week ago was the respect men gave my boss who runs three collision centers. She is competent and not afraid to lead. Men value her opinion. Danyell Wendland has done the work to get where she is, and men show equal respect from what I’ve seen. I believe we’ve set a bar to go from the front where women can be an asset to this industry by working alongside or ahead of our male counterparts.
Danyell Wendland, operations manager for ABRA Auto Body & Glass in Elk River, Princeton and St. Cloud, Minnesota, spent 26 years with the organization, starting in high school as a draftsman.
“My interest in auto repair started when someone said I couldn’t do it because ‘it’s a male-run industry,'” Wendland said. “In high school I did a post-secondary auto repair program, and after high school I went to vocational/technical school and completed the auto body program. I started with ABRA in high school as a draftsman and continued to help out in the car prep, teardown, and body repair shop. I started helping out in the office as a CSR, then moved into estimating. In 2010, I became Director of Operations for the KLST franchise, which has three ABRA locations. It’s been an incredible run since high school.
Wendland says her technical skills, along with her abilities as a multitasker and organizer, helped her succeed.
“When I started, it was hard to get respect from clients – more so than my own peers,” she said. “Because I was educated in bodywork and showed a real interest in my field, my peers treated me with respect. I wouldn’t let being a woman slow me down. I never asked anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do – unless it was about height. We have an incredible team of talented people here. I’ve seen over the years that having a combined group of men and women works best, and with the talents and strengths each brings to the table, it creates an even better atmosphere for our clients and members. of our team.
Kara Schwartz, at ABRA Auto Body & Glass in Elk River, Minnesota, began installing commercial truck tires at age 19 and has spent nearly 30 years in the automotive industry.
“ABRA was a perfect fit for me,” Schwartz said. “I went from my first job to wholesale and administration. Now I use my skills to help with the team effort to fix the cars. I love the family it has become. I feel like I have the privilege of “taking care of my boys” in the store. »
Schwartz says her attitude helps pave the way to success.
“I work to be calm, humble, always smile and be versatile,” she said. “It’s quite rare that I meet a man who has a problem with my gender and my acquaintances. We are increasingly seen as equals.