Proving Her Place

June 3, 2024
Grease Monkey Co-Owner Aleisha Hendricks tells of how vital confidence is for women in the automotive field.
 

When the Grease Monkey location that Aleisha Hendricks now co-owns in Farmington, New Mexico first opened, she wasn’t an owner—she worked there part-time in marketing. But her drive and innovative ideas quickly elevated her to being the current co-owner of the shop, responsible for all day-to-day operations.    

Hendricks has had to work harder to prove herself than her male peers, but she now uses her experience to set an example that empowers other women to thrive under her leadership.    

Fueled by Ambition  

Though Hendricks initially had no experience working in the quick lube industry before joining the Grease Monkey brand, the great women she met early in her career would help shape her.  

Hendricks has done a lot of work in advertising, with her first role having her sell advertising spots in the local newspaper. In that position, she had several women that set the standard for how she should conduct herself—namely her first boss.   

“I learned so much from her,” says Hendricks. “She put me to work, she let me fail, she picked me up, she showed me how she wanted it done, and then I would just learn the process, over and over again. Building up that confidence I think is what it takes no matter what industry it's in.”    

Another woman who was a sales representative managing the automotive section of the newspaper provided Hendricks her first peek into what would be her future career. Hendricks would watch how the sales rep carried herself and spoke confidently, slowly setting an example in how to assert herself as a professional.  

Hendricks would go on to handle advertising for a dealership before leaving the field for seven years to focus on raising her kids. With her experience in marketing, she was reached out to by three friends of hers who had recently purchased a Grease Monkey business, asking her to come on to handle their media relations.  

Hendricks has been with the business since day one, having first started working there part-time to do outside fleet sales and handle marketing. Before long, she became a more integral part of the business as she continued to introduce innovative ideas that promoted growth.   

“I think that I had just shown some real hustle and some initiative. I was constantly coming up with some ideas that would really make it easier for me to be out there selling us,” shares Hendricks.   

Eventually Hendricks’ work became full-time, and when one of the owners decided to leave the business, she became the prime candidate to take his place.    

Growing Into a Leader    

The owner whose place she took oversaw day-to-day operations, while the other two provide support in the background. Though they were there for Hendricks when she first made the transition, there were many lessons she had to learn from firsthand experience—but with her training in sales, customer service was second nature to her.  

Hendricks has cultivated a workplace that encourages growth and confidence in her staff. Of the seven lube techs she employs, four of them are women. Similarly to Hendricks, most of them came into it having no prior experience, but the management at Farmington’s Grease Monkey has been highly supportive of giving training opportunities to its staff.  

This can be a huge benefit to any entry-level technician, but for most women who aren’t offered an early introduction into automotive work, being in an environment that welcomes newcomers looking to learn is even more conductive to their success.   

A woman leading the shop has undoubtedly inspired female techs at the Farmington Grease Monkey, and Hendricks is able to access a perspective that many shop owners aren’t able to relate to; specifically, that of caretakers.  

Having been a stay-at-home mother for seven years, she realizes the ways work and personal life can interact. Being a mother is a full-time job in the truest sense of the word—it's not something you can clock out of before entering the shop.  

“I help them in their personal life as much as I possibly can, without overstepping, when they ask for help. Because as much as we think that those two worlds shouldn't combine, they really do, especially (for) women who have families,” says Hendricks. “I'm not oblivious to the fact that personal life can't always be left at the door—especially for moms.”   

Confidence That’s Contagious   

Nowhere does Hendricks display her dedication to her employees more than when she defends her female techs in the face of harassment; which, unfortunately, can be all too common for women in the industry.  

Though there are certifications and training certificates for all the technicians displayed throughout the shop’s lobby, it doesn’t stop some customers from expressing skepticism at the sight of a female technician, including other women who come into the shop. For a tech who’s worked hard to get to where they are, it can be disheartening to face a customer doubting your capability.   

“Sometimes it's not easy to settle our customers down just at the first pass, and sometimes it can go a little bit further than that, and it does get discouraging, and it is frustrating,” tells Hendricks.  

While it can initially feel insulting, Hendricks uses these incidents as opportunities to affirm her shop’s transparency. As she learned early in her career, confidence will take you a long way. Her staff keeps records of everything they do and are trained to do it right.    

In every encounter with an unhappy customer, Hendricks picks up her shoulders, puts a smile on her face, and looks to defuse the situation as best as she can. She finds out what the problem is, what went wrong, and what they can do to make it better. Recently, when a customer came into the shop claiming he bought windshield wipers that weren’t installed for him, one of the techs pulled up the ticket from his most recent visit, which didn’t show any such purchase. But he insisted it was the case and demanded to speak with someone else.    

Hendricks came and went over the invoice as her employee had done, while being confident, friendly, and honest. Her assurance was effective, and the customer eventually settled down and agreed to have some windshield wipers installed.  

“He just needed someone else to tell him the exact same thing. And that happens all the time,” says Hendricks.  

It’s true that customers can sometimes act differently towards female staff members than they would to men, but Hendricks’ capabilities as a leader shows people that they are in good hands, regardless of any preconceived notions they had. However, Hendricks does not tolerate harassment or insults being launched at her employees, ever.   

“That’s just one thing that I don't tolerate on the property. Because customers can get offensive, and they will berate my employees if allowed,” Hendricks explains. “The buck stops with me on the property, is basically it. I command that respect, I demand it for my employees. And I command it for myself by just putting my foot down in a very professional way.”    

Indeed, Hendricks has never experienced any encounter with a customer that turned uncivil. She stays positive as she tries to find what went wrong with the customer and if it’s something she and her team can resolve. But in cases where a female staff member is being chastised for her identity, it can reach a level where it’s only harmful for the work environment to allow it to continue.    

Hendricks doesn’t believe it’s inherently difficult for a woman to enter the industry. The biggest challenge comes from how others will react. For any woman looking to succeed in the automotive field, it’s imperative to remember your strengths, to not be shy about them, and to find an environment that helps you achieve your full potential.    

“Maybe you don't know everything you could, but you assert the confidence that you're going to find out (and) that you're going to do better next time,” Hendricks advises. “Let them know that you deserve to be there.” 

 

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Courtesy of Justin Krizman
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