AF: You’re leaving during a wild time in this industry. Any unfinished business or trends you’d like to have seen play out?
CG: As tough as the last few years have been, I would have liked to have seen how this all comes out as an inside representative of the industry. I know it’s my time to leave, and I think these crises will make everyone stronger. Just think in five years how much smarter and stronger we’ll be.
Not to be cliché, but you really see what people are made of during crises—good, bad, and indifferent. You learn what’s important, too. I keep telling the team they’ll be so much smarter and more equipped to handle any adversity. Emotions are high and everyone has an idea about how to conduct themselves and their businesses. I think we’ll work smarter and learn more about ourselves and our companies that we took for granted.
AF: Looking back, you went to Siena Heights Business University for Business Administration and Management.
CG: Right here in Adrian, Michigan! I was born here, high school, college, all of the above. I worked for a local bank for 23 years and after the fifth merger, I knew I had to do something different. Adrian Steel was local, I knew some people, there was an opening in outside sales, I was offered the job, and I took it. I never knew anything about traveling on the road and it was a perfect fit.
No one really knows the sheer volume of planning and dedication outside sales demands. It sounds glamorous—or at least it used to!—and you get to visit many nice places. My region was always the northeast.
There were no cell phones—there was no GPS! I was given a road atlas and a list and that’s it! It was a great learning experience.
AF: I bet. Had you ever even heard of fleet before?
CG: Not really, no, and certainly never imagined I’d find my vocation in it. From banks to fleets, it’s about just taking care of the customer. Don’t give anyone a false answer—it’s OK to say to a customer, “I don’t know, but I’ll get back to you,” provided you do. That’s where you’ll earn their respect.
It’s been a wonderful journey full of great people. From the competition and the ever-shifting landscape within the fleet industry, it’s full of good people. And good competition makes you better.
AF: We continue to diversify and women in fleet is a huge part of that; what do you hope for the future for women in this industry?
CG: Mentorship is key. I’ve had the opportunity to help individuals that I see in the industry and even within my community and our employees at Adrian. I want to encourage anyone to hang in there if they care about it. Don’t give up.
I was the only woman in outside sales when I started. Now my successor is a woman, three account execs are women, and there are many others in leadership roles at Adrian Steel. Over the past 25 years, many industries have become more progressive and now feature women in leadership roles.
AF: Who helped mentor you?
CG: There are too many people to thank! Certainly Lynn Baugh, who was VP of sales when I began at Adrian; he thought I’d make a great addition to the A-Team and showed me the ropes as an outside sales rep.
My first boss and former Adrian president Dave Pilmore was also a great teacher and pushed me to be the best version of myself—“always make new mistakes” was his motto.
The last 12 years I’ve reported to Jeff Warnecke, VP of sales and marketing, and he supported me as I assumed the role of business development manager. He always made time for me and taught me to have more self-confidence. I will forever be grateful for their mentorship and patience. Last, there are too many people at AFLA to name who helped shape myself and my career.
AF: What’s next in retirement?
CG: Spending time with my husband. We’ve been married 34 years and we’re both huge Spartans fans—that’s Michigan State football—and we have season tickets. I’m also looking forward to spending time on our back deck and enjoying the view, and a little bit of traveling.
I’ll still do consulting and will help the transition with my successor, Shelby Simpson.
I’d like to thank all the individuals I’ve met during this journey; I’ll forever be indebted for their expertise and friendship. See you somewhere down the road!