Real Model Interview featuring Laura Brailey, Head of Retail Operations at Mazda Motors UK and Inclusive Leader of the Year 2022

We recently had the pleasure of speaking with Laura Brailey, Head of Retail Operations at Mazda Motors UK and Inclusive Leader of the Year at the Automotive 30% Club’s Inspiring Automotive Women Awards 2022. 

Read more below.

How did you feel to be nominated by your colleagues in the Inspiring Automotive Women Awards 2022 and how did it feel to be recognised as our Inclusive Leader of the Year?

Firstly, genuinely surprised – I really wasn’t expecting it! But also just so proud of what this means to us as a Mazda UK team. I am extremely fortunate to be part of the senior team here at Mazda UK who are all passionate about this area. Therefore for our brand to be so strongly associated with the work I have been involved in is a testament to this hard work – I felt so proud of that.

What action have you taken that led to you being nominated for the award?

I work extremely closely with my dealer network – and see first-hand how increasingly difficult it is in our industry to recruit and retain great-quality people. We need to make step changes in how we attract all types of people into our industry and of course the Mazda brand. We have to actively make changes to dealer recruitment strategy to ensure that we appeal to everyone including women!

I have used industry data and Mazda consumer research to reach out to our network to shine a light on this area and ask them to consider how we can make changes. To support this I needed help! So I reached out to some of our largest dealer Groups CEOs to ask them to consider joining the Automotive 30% Club so we could create a cohort of Mazda dealer partners who were committed to making changes in this area and we could work together as a brand to maintain focus on this. The benefit of commitment from larger Group CEOs would also clearly have a positive effect over the other brands that reside in within their portfolio and therefore this would have a wider influence on our whole industry outside of Mazda.

We had a fantastic response and together with existing Automotive 30% Club members who had joined previously we now have almost half of our network involved with the Club and committed to delivering practical change in this area.

What does your job involve? What do you like best about it?

As Head of Retail Operations, my remit is to ensure our dealer partners are delivering new car sales volume objectives whilst ensuring sustainable profitability and of course enhancing the customer experience at every touchpoint. I also oversee the quarterly retail consumer and dealer incentive campaign. I love the constant challenges of my role whether it’s delivering sales, working on a new campaign, or working closely with a dealer partner on how they can best represent our brand. The nature of my role means one moment I can be working on an annual retail sales strategy and the next I am talking to one of my team about how to resolve an issue at a dealership that has had a transporter broken down en route to them and can’t deliver customer cars !! I love that.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

An Olympic showjumper – failing that a riding instructor!!!!

What or who inspired you to join the automotive sector?

When I left education I went into banking and ended up working in the City of London in corporate asset finance. It was a great job but I had no passion for it. I was very fortunate and at the time Mazda’s Head Office was based in my hometown of Tunbridge Wells. I had a number of friends who worked there. They used to talk about their work and Mazda with such enthusiasm. I loved cars and was bored of commuting to the City and I wanted to work for this amazing car brand that seemed to inspire real loyalty in its people and produced stunning cars. I started on a temporary maternity cover contract just to get my foot in the door!!

What are your future aspirations?

I always hate this question! Really I aspire to continue to challenge myself in whatever role I am in and ensure that my team is truly set up to develop themselves and be the best they can be. I have never had a “career plan”!!

Can you name a woman in automotive that inspires you and why?

I won’t embarrass them by naming them, but whenever I meet one of my women Mazda Dealer Principals, or General Managers in the Mazda network and listen to their passion for getting more women into their roles in our brand and just generally getting the job done – I am inspired! Ladies – you know who you are !!

What do you think is the biggest challenge women face when trying to progress within the sector?

Quite simply our biggest challenge is …. Thinking we don’t have a challenge !! So many times when I talk to people about the need for a step change in recruitment policy, or evolving business culture to think differently about talent development, I am confronted with the response “but we are very inclusive already – we recruit the best people for the job”. We need to challenge that complacency.

What advice can you give to other women who want to progress in their careers?

Don’t wait for the perfect job to come up for which you are perfectly qualified – they are few and far between! Look at those job opportunities which you are pretty sure you could do and would also give you a different perspective on our industry – even if you don’t tick every box that is being laid out in the job advert or description – apply for it anyway.

What advice can you give to men in the sector about helping to build a gender-balanced business?

Through the 30% Club, I have learned about the importance of Sponsorship (different to mentors). I am so thankful for the fact that I have benefitted in my career of having amazing male sponsors who pushed me and made me think differently about what I should/could achieve. So be a sponsor and give that person the benefit of your help and advice when they need it !!

Share this..