The women interviewed for this special series share their stories. The goal of this interview series is to not only share the stories and experiences of these market leaders, but also inspire more women to join this fun, exciting and growing carwash industry.
This month, let’s meet Cori Rodgers.
Cori Rodgers, General Manager, Sonny’s Car Wash Services – Texas
MP | How did you get your start and how long have you been in the carwash industry?
CR | In 1992, I accepted a parts manager position for Car Wash Equipment Company (Kwik Industries Inc.) working for Ray Ellis and his family. I spent 23 years working for Ray and his family. Over those years I moved from parts manager to overseeing all sales and operations. Being a turn-key operation — from design and construction to service and supplies — allowed me to touch all aspects of the carwash industry. My favorite aspect … the people.
MP | What is the most important lesson you have learned while working in the carwash industry?
CR | I’ve learned to expect the unexpected, first impressions count and you can’t stand still. Continuous innovation and improvement are necessary for continued success. And, more importantly, people matter.
MP | What advice do you have for women getting into the carwash industry today?
CR | Educate yourself. Sharpen your skills. Find a mentor. Work on building relationships and cultivating friendships throughout the industry. Share your thoughts and ideas. Be humble. Work hard. Don’t settle.
MP | What are some challenges you have overcome as a woman in the carwash industry that you’d like to share with other women in hopes of helping them to overcome similar challenges?
CR | Honestly, I think the biggest challenge, for me, was finding a strong female mentor. However, over the years I’ve seen this change for the better.
MP | What aspect of the carwash industry is most exciting/rewarding to you?
CR | The future growth of our industry is extremely exciting. Automation is changing the way we work, and Sonny’s Enterprises is adopting new technologies allowing automation to help us become more effective and efficient. This technology reduces our labor costs, speeds up the manufacturing process and allows us to provide customer service excellence. Providing customer service at a level that surpasses expectation is always rewarding for me.
MP | What three character traits are most important in your opinion for a woman starting out her career in carwashing?
CR | Patience: Maintain your composure; things will go wrong.
Courage: Don’t be afraid. Jump in and learn as you go. Speak up.
Discipline: Stay the course. Have a plan and stick to it.
MP | What would you have done differently starting out in the carwash industry if you could go back to the beginning? Or, would you not change a thing?
CR | My life has been shaped by my experiences, helping me become the woman I am today. I wouldn’t change a thing.
MP | Did you have a role model or a mentor in this industry? If so, who and how did he or she inspire you?
CR | Ray Ellis and his family were my role models in this industry. Ray was a pioneer in the industry. He built his first carwash in 1964. That was before I was even born. This family-owned business had ups and downs over the years but their tenacity and drive always helped them overcome obstacles. This has always inspired me to believe, whatever the challenge is, I can overcome it.
Ray was a people person, a handshake kind of guy. His joy was seeing other people become successful. He leveraged everything he had to do for that over the entirety of his life. That commitment still resonates with me today.
From a female perspective, Kati Pierce, president of Sonny’s Enterprises, is my role model. Kati leads by example. She is strong and driven, and she is a dynamic leader in a historically male-dominated industry. It is an honor to work under her charge.
MP | Where do you see the carwash industry moving toward in the future?
CR | The carwash industry will continue to excel and grow over the next several years as the trend toward vehicle maintenance and the demand for carwash services continue to rise. Opportunities will continue to expand on all fronts. Manufacturing, sales and distribution will offer many viable career paths for all. It’s exciting to be a woman in an industry that continues to open doors of opportunity for career advancement.
Melissa Pirkey is the CEO/president of Melissa Pirkey Insurance, dba Car Wash Insurance Agency. If you are interested in sharing your story in an upcoming issue, please contact her at 214-998-8960 or [email protected] or email PC&D’s Rich DiPaolo at [email protected].