We had the chance to sit down with Erica Bruno, a CoEFFICIENTM® user and a Fixed Operations Manager with Nissan, to discuss her background, how she got into the industry, and what keeps her motivated everyday.
Square Root: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the auto industry?
Erica Bruno: The auto industry runs in my family. My grandfather owned a few car dealerships and some of my earliest memories are of going to work with him. My mother also worked as a general manager and I was able to see how as a woman she was trying to change the industry and what she had to go through. My grandfather eventually wanted her to take over his Toyota dealership and she definitely had to fight to get there. It’s really what inspired me to go in the industry.
SR: Your first full-time job was with Toyota, how did you get into that?
EB: When I was in college my dad told me I should look into the Toyota Management Training Program. I got the job two weeks after I graduated. After that it was a whirlwind. I spent over a year training at Toyota’s national headquarters in Los Angeles where my training included: NADA financial statement training, Dealer Operations training, Customer Service Experience in both the Toyota & Lexus call centers, Warranty training, and Accessories training.
SR: What was the hardest part about your job with Toyota?
EB: When you start with Toyota in the Management Training Program, you’re supposed to be at the call center for the first six months. When I was about to finish my time there, the Toyota pedal recalls happened and I was in the call center for another six months. It was by far the hardest point in my career. I had people yelling at me everyday. Even though it was hard, I did learn a lot and I was able to experience Toyota’s excellent anger diffusion training and emergency situation training.
SR: Where did you go from there?
EB: After more than a year in LA, I moved to Chicago to be a regional analyst for Toyota. There I took it upon myself to learn the technical side of the business. I figured that if I’m going to be interacting with all aspects of the dealers, I should be able to at least speak their language.
After a year as a regional analyst, I took a position as the district service and parts manager for the Chicago region which is where I spent the last three years. My first district was Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. There were days that my “commute” to work was eight hours! I wanted to get closer to home in New England and Nissan offered me a position in Vermont and New Hampshire that was perfect.
SR: So after five years with Toyota, how has your time been at Nissan so far?
EB: I’ve only been with Nissan for six months, but I love it so far. The people I work with are amazing and you can genuinely and openly talk to them.
SR: Coming into a new district and a new company, how did you go about getting to know your region?
EB: The first thing I did was get out to all my stores to meet the people. I always work to meet every staff member at every dealership—not just the management team. Knowing the culture and the people at each store helps me help them reach their goals. This is a people business and I’ve got to connect with them and show them that I’m a person too. From day one, I employ open communication with everyone I work with and I believe this is what has helped me create great relationships with my region.
SR: What is the best part of your job?
EB: The people I work with and the relationships I’ve fostered. It’s great going into a dealership and hearing people have made a little extra money or have done something a little more because of the value that I brought them. That’s why I do my job.
SR: What do you find most challenging about your job?
EB: Like most auto manufacturers, there are always a lot of different programs. Explaining them to the dealers and getting them on board can be challenging. Programs that may work for some locations may not work for others. To have success, you have to look at everything from an individual store level. If you can’t connect with them and show them why a program will be beneficial, you won’t create change.
SR: What does a typical day/week look like for you?
EB: There is little to no consistency to what my week will look like. I could be home all week or in the stores all week. The core part of my job is to make sure I’m taking care of the dealers—anytime and anywhere. If I’m at home, in a store, at dinner, doesn’t matter. If they need something, I need to be available.
SR: What advice do you give the people you work with?
EB: I always say, “Do one more.” I always tell them that you have to challenge yourself to do one more of whatever it is and once you do you’re good. Almost all my dealers have One More written on a whiteboard in their back room or they greet me with that when I walk in their store.
SR: What do you think will change about the district manager role in the next five years?
EB: I think for this role to have more success it needs to transition from a paper pusher to more of a consultant. When I came into the role I refused to get a printer because I didn’t want to walk in to a meeting with a bunch of papers. You’ve got to go into the dealers and show them real situations, real life stuff that will change their business today not a month from now. Once you make changes they can see then you can start talking about the future.
SR: Last question, what would you be doing if you weren’t in the auto industry?
EB: I’ve always had a passion for musical theater and if I wasn’t in the auto industry I would probably be on Broadway!
Thanks to Erica for her time and thought leadership on the role of the Fixed Operations Manager at Nissan. To learn more about different Square Root® users, check out our Square Root tour page.