Cars and car maintenance is stereotypically a male dominated industry and hobby, but the folks over at Kicking Horse Ford are ignoring the convention.
“Women make up nearly half of our staff here,” said Naomi Maisonneuve, controller and managing partner for Kicking Horse Ford.
“We have five women and six men working here right now. And that’s quite different from when I started here 15 years ago. Back then Vonda was the only woman, and then I came.”
Maisonneuve started as an accounting clerk, and has worked her way up to part owner of the dealership (a franchise Ford dealership, but an individually owned business). And she has won the Peak Performer award for the 14th year, which is given the top accountants in Ford.
The five female employees as Ford cover all areas of the business. There is Darlene Blais, who Maisonneuve describes as “our lot attendant extraordinaire,” and Robin Beckett, who is the finance manager, but also deals with sales.
“She’s been here for three years, and she does a great job for us. She was a Summit Award winner for 2011. That’s the top 10 per cent of finance people in sales of warranty and insurance,” said Dan Maisonneuve, the dealer principal and general manager at Kicking Horse Ford.
Vonda Foraie has been working with Ford for 25 years, and is now managing the service and parts department. And although things have changed over the years, she still gets a few funny looks from customers when they ask for the manager and get her.
“I do get funny looks sometimes. I’m not scared, and I know what I have to do. As long as I let them know that I’m confident in repairing their vehicle they’re fine,” said Foraie.
“But nowadays, people are used to women in positions like these everywhere. They have no other choice. And everybody treats each other very well here. The guys treat us fair, always. Just because we’re women, it doesn’t make a difference to them.”
Foraie loves her job, and the company that employs her, but she is particularly grateful for co-workers and customers.
“I have developed a very good relationship with my customers. We have our locals who come back again and again,” she said. “I have discovered throughout my years of working here that my co-workers, employees, staff and owners are, and always will be, very important to me.”
Also hailing from the service department is Loretta Johnson, who is the service advisor. She has been with Kicking Horse Ford for seven years, and spends her days booking people in, recommending services that are due, and letting them know how much it will cost for repairs and how long it will take.
“I enjoy having a career in cars, very much so,” said Johnson, who is described by her coworkers as a gearhead. “Every day is a new day, I never quit learning. Every year they’re coming out with more cars and trucks, and new things, which means new things that are better and new things that can go wrong. And that’s the nice thing about this, it’s never boring. Every day is new and you never stop learning.”
Johnson used to race cars, on and off the track. She would drive her Mustang, sometimes her friends’ cars, and “anything that ran.” But when you consider how she began driving, it isn’t a surprise.
“I’ve been driving since I was really young, I just loved to drive,” she said. “My aunt had a farm, and anything that was parked out in the back field that we could get running we were allowed to drive in the field. I spent a lot of time doing that. And if you got it stuck, you had to figure out how to get it out. So I learned a lot from that, just about fixing cars and how to get them running.”
The entire Kicking Horse Ford staff is a close knit group, and Dan Maisonneuve credits that staff with much of the company’s success.
“I’m very happy with my staff here. Like any other job it can be tough and trying sometimes. And the whole staff is responsible for us winning the President’s Award. And the girls are a huge part of that.”