Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News, presented the two Professional of the Year Awards. Pat Bowie (left photo) received the award for the operator and Joe Pritchard (right photo) won for the vendor category. Photos by Amy Winter-Hercher.

Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News, presented the two Professional of the Year Awards. Pat Bowie (left photo) received the award for the operator and Joe Pritchard (right photo) won for the vendor category. Photos by Amy Winter-Hercher.

Two car rental professionals were honored as the Professional of the Year Award winners on Tuesday’s awards ceremony at the 2016 Auto Rental Summit in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.

This year, a Professional of the Year Award was presented in a new category dedicated to an associate from a vendor company to the car rental industry. The criteria for this award was judged based on customer service, operations management, sales, leadership, and industry and community involvement.

The second Professional of the Year Award was given in the operator category. It honored an associate from a corporate, franchise, or independent location who demonstrates and promotes outstanding customer satisfaction within the car rental process.

The two winners were chosen by a panel of five judges, including Sharon Faulkner, executive director of ACRA (American Car Rental Association); Leslie Pujo, attorney/owner at LaPlaca Pujo, PC; Ziad Khoury, founder and president of the Frontline Performance Group (FPG); Jim Tennant, principal of The Tennant Group; and Chris Brown, executive editor of Auto Rental News.

Presented with trophies at the Auto Rental Summit, here are the two winners:

Operator Category

Pat Bowie, the director of training and development for International Franchise Systems (IFS), won the Professional of the Year Award in the operator category.

In addition to developing various training programs for IFS’ franchise and corporate rental locations and call center operations, Bowie also takes care of human resources performance management functions.
As a department of one, Bowie supports over 100 of IFS’ franchise and corporate locations in its Rent-A-Wreck, Priceless, and NextCar brands.

Bowie is recognized for her willingness to listen to employees’ suggestions and then work on ways to put their ideas into action. She has created a Rental Car University platform and found a Federal Credit Union where employees with no financial relationship could join to receive their paychecks by direct deposit. She has automated the performance management process; employees and managers now receive reminder emails and can complete the evaluation process online. She also started an employee newsletter.

Bowie has developed procedures to help employees better understand their roles as well as ways to do their jobs easier, which ultimately benefit the customer.

“I thank God, my prayer warriors, which include my family and extended family for their special presence in my life,” said Bowie. “I’ve also been blessed to have a circle of great supporters in my HR/training career. One of which happens to be my boss, Michael DeLorenzo. He is my business rock and sounding board for all the bright ideas that I go into his office with after I’ve received my early 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. ‘ah ha’ moments.”

“I would be remiss if I didn’t share my heartfelt thanks to Chris Brown and all the team members of Auto Rental News for creating a platform for us to celebrate our employees and the vendors of our industry,” added Bowie. “The 2016 Auto Rental News Summit theme has been my philosophy for years: People, Process, and Profit. Trainers affect the ‘People,’ who work the ‘Process,’ which provides the ‘Profit.’ I believe wholeheartedly that if you take care of your people, they’ll take care of your customers and your profits will follow. On behalf of my entire International Franchise Systems family, I humbly accept the 2016 Professional of the Year Award.”

Vendor Category

Joe Pritchard — president and CEO of Pritchard Companies, which includes Pritchard Auto Group and Pritchard Commercial Sales — was selected as the winner of the Professional of the Year in the vendor category.

His company serves the rental industry through fleet and commercial sales and service support with Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler franchise vehicles.

Starting as a detailer, Pritchard has served in many positions within the company, including service, sales, controller, sales manager, general manager, dealer principal, and now president and CEO.

To help improve satisfaction among customers and employees, Pritchard has an open door policy and welcomes input from every employee and customer. He utilizes the advice and knowledge of others to grow his business. For example, he institutes internal and external customer surveys annually to set goals, increase efficiencies, and resolve problems.

Pritchard’s leadership is demonstrated by his actions. He won’t ask or expect anyone to do something that he can’t or doesn’t do himself. He treats every customer the same — from a mom-and-pop customer with a fleet of 15 to 20 vehicles to a Fortune 500 customer with a fleet of 30,000 vehicles.

Pritchard is also recognized for his generosity and caring support toward his community. In honor of the company’s 100th anniversary, Pritchard donated $100,000 to local community charities where the seven dealerships are located. He is involved in every community where he operates a store and participates in many of his customer/business partners’ charities and communities. The company was recognized as Outstanding Philanthropists by the North Iowa Fundraising Professionals and by the North Central Iowa Leave a Legacy.

“I would like to thank Auto Rental News, my family, and our employees for the honor and privilege of the nomination and award of the Professional of the Year as your vendor,” said Pritchard. “Our company is proud to be serving the industry for over 100 years and five generations strong. Our philosophy is very simple — our internal customers [our employees] and our external customers are like family. We believe in developing strong relationships, both personally and professionally, that allow us to grow together and position your companies to be the most successful in your industry. I especially want to recognize Perry Ressler, our president of rental and livery, who is responsible for our growth and success in the rental industry.”

By Amy Winter-Hercher