The Lady Force in Auto Trading
“In areas where women are not the best, such as car search and fronting car payment, the platform built by Cango has truly saved me a lot of trouble. At the same time, their APP platform has all the functions I need and is easy to use, so I have become more efficient at work.”
Suqian Hongxin Automobile Sales & Services Co., Ltd.
Women are not a rarity in the auto industry mostly led by men, and they are in fact an active component of China’s large population of auto dealers. They have ventured out of their comfort zone and are pursuing their dreams in a new realm. They are good thinkers, who are also calm, perceptive, vocal, determined and detail-oriented. Zhou Linan, owner of Suqian Hongxin Automobile Sales & Services Co., Ltd. in Jiangsu Province, is one of those women who have succeeded in the auto trading sector. Life could get tough sometimes, but Zhou Linan believes that as long as they try hard, women will become a force to reckon with in auto trading.
Thirty years old this year, Zhou Linan is from a family of five and the youngest of the three daughters in the family. Maybe because her parents were business people themselves, she grew up resisting the idea of a regular life and had always wanted to do something on her own. Having tried an out-of-town job for one year, she returned to the small city she calls hometown and joined a local 4S store to work in sales. She is outgoing and optimistic, and eager to learn and work, so it took little time for her to establish herself. It was then that her entrepreneur’s dream was awoken again. So she decided to quit her job and open her own store.
Her parents were against it at the beginning. They wanted their youngest daughter to do what everyone else was doing, like finding a stable job, getting married and having kids. But Zhou Linan wouldn’t budge. She talked separately to her two older sisters and won their support. Then the three of them tried together to persuade their parents and eventually succeeded. In 2014, Zhou Linan started her own business and currently owns two auto trading stores in Suqian.
Her ten years in the auto trading industry were challenging and eventful years, and led Zhou Linan to the conclusion that being an entrepreneur was hard, especially for women. Women are by nature less sensitive about cars, mechanics and other relevant knowledge, yet in auto sales, they are often called upon to answer technical questions. Moreover, auto dealers will have to establish rapport with parts suppliers and repair shops where the labor force is primarily male, and that is by no means an easy job for female auto dealers. One cannot fully comprehend what it takes unless she has experienced it herself.
“The way other people see it, female bosses are extremely capable, but only we know how hard it actually is,” Zhou Linan said with a smile. “This industry isn’t easy for women. I am not very good at wining and dining and entertaining clients. Especially at the beginning, since I can’t drink, I had a hard time building relationships.”
Zhou Linan went through many phases running her business, from doing everything herself at the beginning, to selling cars and performing after-sales services together with store associates, to developing more car sources because, as sales gradually increased, she was growing unhappy with picking up all of her cars from 4S stores, and even to toying with parallel-import cars. As the number of store employees exceeded thirty, she started to feel the pressure as a manager. She set up performance evaluation and incentive plans and fired people hastily as a result, she argued and broke up with close partners over different business ideas…When she was feeling lowest, she locked herself in the room for one week binge watching TV shows, until her elderly father couldn’t stand it anymore and shouted at her at the window. For a while, she was lost. But she recovered enough to calmly think about division of labor, staffing structure and talent training. And she set out to try new ideas and gradually found her way in the process.
Several times over the years, Zhou Linan was on the verge of collapsing and giving up. But her preserving nature took over and she decided to march on. “I would go home to calm down, and give myself a motivational speech. Then I woke up the next day and went out to call on my clients.”
Zhou Linan believes that, having worked in auto trading for so many years, she is best at putting herself in her clients’ shoes and starting with small things in nourishing relationships. “I would often ask myself what the clients really want, and why they would want to buy from me,” said Zhou Linan. For her, the key to securing clients is offering them prices they can accept and services they have not expected. To retain existing clients, she will often call them so as to stay in touch and prepare small holiday presents for them.
“Every client is my friend,” said Zhou Linan. “And I am happiest when I have succeeded in making a new friend.” It was exactly her attention to details and patience, which are unique traits women possess, that helped gradually drive her car sales to the current height.
Of course, expansion of business operation is accompanied by increasing number of challenges. Since she has two auto trading stores to run, Zhou Linan has started to shift her work focus to management.
“Being a female boss, I will have to learn to relegate,” said Zhou Linan. “More important, I need to really care for my employees so that they can grow. A company’s business and operation cannot make further progress until its employees have made progress.” No matter how busy she is with the business, she will organize monthly group activities to strengthen teambuilding.
Over recent years, Zhou Linan has come to realize that one individual or one small team has limited power, and that entrepreneurs should seek help from outside professional teams so as to accurately read market trends and develop in close parallel with the market. And that’s where Cango came in, the auto financial services and technology platform offering multidimensional services. In areas including car search, auto financial solutions, supply chain and inventory financing, the Cango technology platform has enabled Zhou Linan and helped her, in a practical manner, further enhance operation.
“In areas where women are not the best, such as car search and fronting car payment, the platform built by Cango has truly saved me a lot of trouble,” said Zhou Linan. “At the same time, their APP platform has all the functions I need and is easy to use, so I have become more efficient at work.” What’s worth mentioning that the Cango associate working with Zhou Linan happens to be a lady, too. At work, they are partners, and the Cango associate can quickly understand Zhou Linan’s true needs and respond to them. In life, they are close friends who will go out to eat together, shop and talk, providing each other with mental support and relief. This lady pair has, in fact, become a pleasant fixture in the local auto trading landscape.
Judging by the macro environment, optimism about the auto market for the next few years is unwarranted. Still, Zhou Linan has full confidence in the future. Cars will always be irreplaceable in human life. And for now, one can only win in the market by providing consumers with even better services.
“For me, growth is the constant process of breaking apart the original me and reassembling the pieces. Embracing even more daunting challenges helps build an even stronger me.”