While there remains debate as to whether or not women in the U.S. have once and for all “broken through the glass ceiling,” pictures of a diversified workplace — where a woman is just as likely to manage a company as a man — are pushing their way to the foreground.
One car rental company exemplifies this picture. With nine locations in the Los Angeles area and a branch in San Diego, Midway Car Rental comprises a management team full of women. Each started at the bottom, but then generated their own growth through innovation, confidence, leadership and diversity in skills — and then made sure to mentor new employees with what they had learned.
“We’ve developed a very strong culture at our company, and our women mean a lot to our business,” says Rick Mullinax, executive VP for Midway Car Rental. He says that the women who thrive in the company are those willing to grow their roles as the company expands, and this dedication creates a competitiveness that continues to raise the bar even higher.
Cynthia Tejeda, Director of Corporate and Entertainment Sales
Give credit where credit is due is the mantra Cynthia Tejeda lives by. This applies not only to her success as Midway’s first female manager, but also to opportunities afforded to other employees.
Tejeda began with Midway when the company acquired Southwest Leasing, where she was a receptionist. She started as a customer service representative, and in 18 years she has been an account manager, collections manager, reservations manager, sales manager, assistant manager and branch manager.
Today, she deals mostly with celebrity and entertainment travel agents, as well as travelers from the Middle East.
“I’ve done the operations side and the sales part, so I understand what it takes to make a deal happen or to guarantee certain makes and models, and to not overpromise,” Tejeda says.
Role flexibility is shared between all the women in management, according to Tejeda, who has served as a mentor to several women, who then mentored others.
Recently in fact, a new employee asked Tejeda what she needed to do to become a manager at Midway. “It was amazing that she valued my opinion,” Tejeda says. “And I shared what I did. And that’s the one thing I’m most proud of is I give them all I can — as far as telling them what I did — but the rest is on them. I just want to be a positive role model.”
Tejeda credits Mullinax and Gary Macdonald, president of Midway Auto Group, which includes all the company’s services and a total staff of about 200, for always looking to hire and promote from within whenever possible.
“All I ever did was give people the credit they deserved,” she says, “and then really gave them praises to upper management who weren’t there to see them in action.”[PAGEBREAK]
Beth Eidman, Director of Website Operations
Handling almost anything regarding the online transaction — from calls, emails, website creation and revisions, email campaigns, mobile bookings, online chats with customers worldwide, social media, online advertising and more — Eidman is in her 14th year with Midway. She started as a phone sales representative after working for Internet reservations in the casino industry.
“One of the most exciting positions in any field is online sales because the technology is so incredible,” says Eidman, who has been managing the Internet division of the company for nine years. “It’s exciting to find new ways to improve, new products to offer the customers and new ways to reach out to them.”
Midway Car Rental went from getting a few emails per day when Eidman first began Internet sales to now hundreds. She manages a staff of six after growing the Internet division from a staff of one. “Things are happening very fast because five minutes in web time is like 30 minutes,” she says. “People expect all customer service to be as quick as a text.”
Eidman’s success comes from exploring new technologies and being “adaptable,” she says. Most proudly at Midway, she says the online growth rate has been “eclipsing all other forms of business” and that “nothing compares to the growth of how people are booking online — it’s off the charts.”
Utilizing the newest technologies in order to cultivate online sales wouldn’t have been possible without the management style of Mullinax and Macdonald, Eidman says. “They give you a ball and let you run with it,” she says. “They guide you, but they’re not holding your hand, which is a fantastic way of working. And that’s how I’ve lasted working here for 14 years.”
And not to mention, “We have great women,” she says.
Elizabeth Alonso, Area Rental Manager
Starting at Midway when she was 20 years old, Alonso worked for six months as a customer service representative before making it to assistant manager. After two years, she became the Santa Monica branch manager, and within another two years, the corporate office manager. Then just two years ago, she became area manager of four Midway locations.
“It’s about believing in the team and having their back, and teaching them everything in my life that I’ve been taught,” says Alonso, who was born in Mexico and has been living in the U.S. for more than 12 years.
When she began working at Midway Alonso was attending college for an accounting degree. While she loves numbers, she knew the field wasn’t right for her. She says she kept remembering helping her father with his business in Mexico and how she enjoyed servicing customers and talking with people every day. “I always liked to be a part of making something happen and to see hard work turn into something great, and that’s what Midway allows me to do,” she says. “The sky is the limit.”
Alonso admits to a hint of perfectionism in her work style.
“I like to be No. 1 in everything I do,” she says. “There are too many people that just want a job, and that’s why they never have the opportunity to keep growing, they get too comfortable.”[PAGEBREAK]
Caroline Kim, Director of Loss Control/Claims Recovery
Hired in 2003 at Midway as a hotel sales manager, Kim is also a woman of dedication. When hired, Kim woke up every morning at 4:30 a.m. to bring doughnuts and coffee to hotels in the Los Angeles area while working to sign Midway as the hotels’ exclusive car rental agency.
Prior to Midway, Kim worked as a head hunter for an optical network company and survived five rounds of layoffs before the company took a tumble. Kim initially applied to Midway as a customer service representative.
“The branch manager said that I was overqualified, but I said that I was willing to work my way from bottom up — I’ve done it before and I can do it again,” she says, adding that her experience as a recruiter helped her land the job. “I was very persistent.”
Within a year, Kim broke the “one million dollar mark” in hotel sales. After Mullinax told her that she had “conquered” that role, he asked her to take a stab at the company’s oldest branch in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. Kim, who was born in Korea, was up for the challenge. Her task was to upgrade staff operations and enhance customer service. “I had to get people out of the mentality that customer service is not just when a customer is in front of you,” she says.
In another year, Kim was hired for a new position: performance manager, corporate trainer and HR coordinator, and not too long after, Kim was appointed to claims management.
Again, her task was to hone in on staff operations in order to streamline the company’s claims process. “They were writing notes on yellow Post-its and sticking them onto manila folders,” she says. “So I just sat and watched for two weeks how the claims were being handled. And I quickly figured out that we needed to change the procedure. I just started from scratch and built a new procedure that we now can’t live without.”
Kim also now deals with fraud and theft cases, parking citations and corporate security. “I’m Jill of all trades at Midway,” she says.
Sandra Perrichon, Director of Hotel Sales
A native Angeleno, Perrichon has been with Midway for nine years but has been in the car rental industry for more than 15 years. She entered the car rental industry while working at a hotel — a job she got because she is fluent in Japanese.
After working for several years for the car rental company, she was drawn to Midway, which she describes as a local company that boasts a strong support system within the executives and associates.
Perrichon says the camaraderie among staff is what makes for smooth transactions within the company. She says her cousin once likened Midway to a duck crossing a pond because you can’t see how hard the duck is paddling its feet under the water. “And that’s Midway,” she says. “In order for success, you have to put in hard work.”
Another part of Midway’s success, Perrichon says, is the fact that even as the staff grows, employees are still given proper training, and the resources and attention needed in order for associates to feel they can make the next step. This is how the company achieves that “family feeling,” she says.
Similar to other Midway women, Perrichon also serves as a mentor to others. Her tip to new associates is to remember to empathize with customers.
Perrichon says that aside from the support system after getting hired, Midway focuses on employing goal-oriented people, which helps provide long-term success at the company.
“And it just so happens that Midway has selected women that are 100% committed,” Perrichon says. “If we’re in our skirts and high heels and they need help washing cars, we will wash cars. We will do whatever it takes.”