Since the first Aussie car dealership opened its doors in the early 1900s, the industry has been male dominated. Even today, there are only a handful of female Dealer Principals who run dealerships.Why is it so? To find out, I spoke to Toni Hunter, the only female owner and Dealer Principal of a dealership in Western Australia.
How long have you been a Dealer Principal (DP)?
What does it take to become a successful DP/business woman?
I think like anyone – hard work, ensuring you have a plan and building a team of people around you that have the same ethos.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Trying to have each department achieve success at the same time.
How do you juggle family life with business life?
It can be very difficult, but I have a great husband who supports me and we do play tag a bit at home but we get everything done. We are quite a tight family unit and we spend a lot of time playing and watching sport together.
You always wanted to be…?
Why aren’t there more females in retail car sales roles?
I think that is changing quite quickly. In the past, the hours were a killer and we offered no real career development in the dealerships. In my dealerships we are very mindful of being able to offer further development in our staffs’ career paths, regardless of gender.
What drives Toni Hunter?
Success and getting the best results I can from my dealerships.
What are the qualities that make a successful DP?
Choosing the right team to have around you, including having a plan and being able to adapt when it’s not working. But above all, taking time to assess what is happening in your business as opposed to working in it all the time.
What does Toni Hunter do to relax?
I love golf! Love playing it, love practising it and love watching it.
Who or what inspires you?
My dad inspires me – he views everything so pragmatically and brings me down to earth when I need it. He is just so balanced and I aspire to get his balance and perspective in life.
What plans do you have for the future of Range Ford?
The dealership has been in operation for nearly 40 years and I am the fifth owner. I used to work here in the 90s and I have a great love for it. I was fortunate enough to purchase it nearly nine years ago. I hope that we can acquire some more dealerships in the near future and that my sons ultimately progress through the ranks.
What have you learned about yourself over the course of your career?
That you can’t always take NO for an answer – if the first proposal does not work, think about how to make it work not just from your side of the equation, but the other person’s view.
Generally if you have empathy and get to know what the other person’s driving motivation is, then a happy outcome for all can be achieved. The art, of course, is finding out what the other person’s motivation is – in selling, in buying dealerships, in dealing with staff or even my kids – it is the same principle for all scenarios.
What are you passionate about?
Are you a “closet” rev head? Do you like fast cars?
No, I am not a rev head, nor do I like fast cars. My husband on the other hand is ‘yes’ for both. He has a Shelby Mustang that he has tricked up to 850hp and 1200Nm of torque – it’s mad and loud!
What is your best car memory?
Learning to drive my dad’s XC Ford Falcon wagon! It had a three-speed manual gearbox and a pillow behind my back as I couldn’t reach the pedals. It was a bench seat too! Did I mention I was 12?
Do you have a favourite V8/Formula One team/driver?
I really like the demeanour of Perth boy, Daniel Riccardo. He seems to be a well-balanced young man.
Favourite travel destination and why?
I love New Zealand and Canada – the scenery is breathtaking and both countries have great people who have great respect for their tourists.
Who is your industry mentor or inspiration?
There are a number of people I have watched over the years. I think John Hughes has done a great marketing job in Perth in the past eight years and has had great success (not sure I should have sold him his Ford dealership now). There are many guys I have known for 20+ years and I have watched many styles achieve success using different paths. This is what fascinates me about our industry – there is no one set of rules to achieve success.
Most memorable automotive ad campaign?
The Toyota “Jump” and the Mazda “Zoom Zoom” campaigns, both long term and did great things for both brands.
What sells cars? Give me three words.
Honesty. Knowledge. Emotion.
Who would you like to sit next to when flying to an overseas destination?
James Packer or Richard Branson.
Apple or Android?
Your first car was a…?
A burnt orange Mitsubishi Sigma.
What’s the best thing about being in the automotive retail industry?
Your ability to earn as much income as reward for the amount of hard work and effort you put in.
In another life you’d be…?
A fulltime mum with more kids.
Which three words sum you up?
Family. Loyal. Love.