Meet Tracy Weise, Dealer Principal at Market Square Volkswagen Uitenhage
Cut-throat competition, so they say, is what best describes the automotive retail market where car dealers often have to be very aggressive and brutal in order to survive. Sounds like a space best avoided by women… wrong! Women like Tracy Weise are tearing down stereotypes and showing that women can blossom anywhere, if they get a chance.
Tracy, who is the Dealer Principal at Market Square Volkswagen Uitenhage – and currently one of 12 women in her position in the entire VWSA network, joined the auto industry back in 2004.
“Until 2009, I worked initially for VWSA in their Market Research Department and then as a Regional Sales Manager focussing on Eastern Cape dealers,” describes Tracy.
“I think this is when the ‘bug’ to join the auto retail industry bit. I can fondly remember thinking, back in 2009, of where I wanted to go with my career and being a Dealer Principal at Market Square VW would be great – but, at that stage, it was a goal that seemed very far off from reality.”
Perhaps, even further off after VWSA relocated her position to Johannesburg just after the birth of her second child.
“That pushed me into the retail sector. I did not want to relocate, so I accepted a retrenchment package and contemplated being a stay-at-home-mom for a while,” Tracy remembers.
“Having enjoyed my experiences with the local dealers that I had had the privilege of working with, I phoned them all to say my good-byes. During one of those calls, one of the directors of Kelston Motor Group, which owns Market Square VW, asked me to consider joining them!”
She agreed and joined the company as their first-ever Group Marketing Manager in 2010. The next two years, Tracy devoted her energies to setting up a fully-functional internal marketing department.
“Kelston is a company with a strong focus on developing people from within the organisation. So, in 2012, I was promoted to the Dealer Principal position at their commercial dealership in PE and when we sold that dealership, I moved to Market Square Uitenhage as a Used Car Manager, then General Sales Manager and in 2014, I was promoted to Dealer Principal,” she describes.
In addition to realising her dream, in 2015, Tracy won the Businesswomen’s Association (BWA) Regional Business Achievers Award in the Corporate Category, was part of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber’s Top 40 under 40 and was also the Eastern Cape Finalist for the Misa Business Woman on the Year.
“Over the last two years, I have also been really spoilt with various trips and awards from VWSA – the most prestigious being the VWSA Club of Excellence Award for 2015, whereby only two dealers in our category achieved this status. It is a comprehensive measurement of all departments in your dealership and that you are achieving on all KPI’s,” adds Tracy.
She believes the hard work, persistence and a vision she had as a young PE girl has finally paid off. Tracy matriculated at Alexander Road High School before completing a 4-year B-Tech degree in Marketing and Sales at the then Port Elizabeth Technikon.
“The best advice that I have received about business is that it is impossible for you to know everything – but always know someone, who knows and make sure you use their knowledge and expertise to grow yourself,” she adds.
With around 90 staff and managers under her, Tracy says she has a ‘hands-on’ approach to management and leadership.
“I am extremely passionate about both our dealership and the VW brand and am involved in all aspects of the business. If a customer is unhappy, I want to know why! I am also constantly looking for new ways to better our business. I think as a leader I am quite demanding,” she describes, adding that she still maintains an open door policy with her subordinates.
Thus, under her direction, Market Square VW has also added several awards to its cabinet.
“Work hard in the good times, but even harder in the tough times,” Tracy advises.
“Communication is also critical; communicate regularly and with as much information as possible. All your staff must know what the goal is and how we are progressing towards that goal. Staff are the heart of your business; empower them with knowledge and assist them to deliver a ‘wow’ experience to all clients. Try not to get caught up in the day-to-day rat race and take time to acknowledge those members of your team that deserve it!”
About being one of a few women Dealer Principals in the VWSA network, Tracy said; “I am extremely proud. I think over the years the profile of a Dealer Principal has changed dramatically and the position has become more female-friendly and utilises several of our strengths – attention to detail, administrative abilities and general neat housekeeping.
“As with everything worthwhile, it takes hard work and commitment to be taken seriously, but I think in our network, we have female DP’s that can comfortably hold their own around a boardroom table. I think, in general, the industry is now far more open and accepting of female DP’s.”
She also believes that very few women were making it to the top, not because of restrictive boardrooms or the lack of skills and talent, but because of few opportunities locally – hence, many are relocating elsewhere.
“However, it is still difficult, more so in a retail environment, for women to be both moms and business ladies - I think it is unfair that in some cases you are expected to choose,” says Tracy.
“There is need for flexibility to allow ladies to be both. Women sometimes do more than we credit them for – so allow them to develop in areas that are not traditionally ‘female’.”
She says having a wonderful support structure – in her husband, Philip, her family and her long-time domestic helper, Nicky; proper planning and conveniences like online shopping, have made it easy for her to juggle the home and the office.
Tracy advises women hoping to scale the corporate world to set goals and stick to them even when facing huge hurdles along the way. She believes in having a mentor, networking and doing what you love as well as giving back to the community as keys to success.
About her legacy at Market Square VW, she said; “I hope to be remembered for my passion for both our brand and our dealership. I hope that I grow the business further and to one day hand over the reins to my successor a bigger and better dealership. Most importantly, I hope to have managed to grow, develop and improve just a few people’s lives during my time at this great dealership.”
Away from the office, you will most likely find her at various horse events or exploring the Sundays River with her husband and two kids, Tara and Caden.
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