Renee Franck, SunTrust Dealer Finance’s national credit manager, shared with a large crowd of female professionals attending the inaugural Women in Auto Finance Luncheon on Tuesday the key lessons she learned in a career that spanned more than three decades.
A lot has changed in that time.
“When you went to meetings back then, you would be either the only woman in the room or one of very few,” Franck said at the luncheon, which was held during the 18thAnnual Auto Finance Summit. “It’s a male-dominated world, and we’ve grown, but we have a long way to go.”
Franck began her auto career in 1987 when she left a clerical banking job to work at Bill Talley Ford in sales and dealer finance. Today, she is the first women to hold the title of National Credit Manager in the SunTrust finance unit.
As her career progressed, she learned how to take chances, how to use her individual skills and abilities and how to be a transparent leader.
“These three things … have followed me throughout my career, do not be afraid to take a risk,” Franck said. “When I told my family I was going to step out of that safe clerical position at the bank and go sell cars, they thought I had lost my mind.”
But Franck didn’t think of it that way, she saw an opportunity to excel in a space women did not traditionally occupy.
“There was nothing like selling a truck to a guy and telling him what gross weight he needed to tow and all those kinds of things, it psyched them out,” she said.
But going against the grain did not always come naturally to Franck.
“When I first started in the car business I tried to fit into the man’s world and not use the emotional side, to be tough. I found that was not natural for me,” she said.
Successes came when Franck felt she could be herself.
“I encourage you to not shy away,” she told the audience, “you’ll be more successful and true to yourself.”
A final point Frank made at the luncheon was the need for women to mentor others. A style she learned from her own mentor, SunTrust’s head of national indirect lending Charles “Chuck” Jones, is to communicate openly and transparently.
“Being honest, open and transparent will help you build a better team, a better department, a better business internal and external it builds a better model.”