2017 Powered by Women

From reader nominations, DBusiness selected eight professional women who are driving growth in Michigan, the nation, and the world.


Published:

(page 2/ of 8)

Terri Harwood // Katie Bowman Coleman // Amy B. Robinson // Monica Martinez
Lilly Epstein Stotland // Christine Sitek // Tricia Ruby // Sara Blackmer


Katie Bowman Coleman

President/Owner • Bowman Auto Group, Clarkston
Employees: 124 • Revenue: $145.7M


Since her father owned a Chevrolet store in Belleville, Katie Bowman (now Coleman) may have been destined for the auto business. Or maybe not.

In 1982, the same year she graduated from high school, her dad closed his dealership due to the early 1980s credit crunch, then “reinvented himself” as a stockbroker — so it seemed as though being part of the auto industry was not in Coleman’s stars, after all.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in speech and communications from Denison University in 1986, and then took off for New York to work in the fashion industry.

“I had always loved fashion and retail,” she says. “I thought it would be great to work in New York City, and I had family there. I wanted to work for a big fashion house, and luckily I got a job at Ralph Lauren and ended up as a buyer for their retail and factory outlet stores. It was a lot of fun, and I got to travel and experience a lot of great things, but (after a while) I was homesick for Michigan.”

Meanwhile, her father had re-entered the car business by acquiring a Chevrolet store in Clarkston in 1984.

“After five years, I came back and worked for Ralph Lauren here in Michigan for a couple of years and then went to Sydney, Australia, for almost a year to work for a Ralph Lauren licensee there. When I returned, there weren’t many jobs here with Ralph Lauren (that were) as exciting as what I had (already) done, and my dad said, ‘Come work for me.’

“I thought I would give that a try, and started there in 1993. It took just a few months to fall in love with it. I saw how diverse, complex, and challenging it was, and how much there was to learn. And I could see the relationship between what I had learned about high-end customer service at Ralph Lauren and how that could be brought to a dealership. That really excited me, because dealerships back then weren’t as focused on customer service. It’s something I’ve felt passionately about ever since, and have strived to create in my store.”

Coleman’s father put her to work in just about every job in every department. She drove a parts truck and spent time as a receptionist, in service, in the business office, as a porter, in finance and insurance, and, of course, in sales. In 1996, she earned a master’s degree in finance from Walsh College in Troy. “I knew I needed more accounting and finance, so I went at night and on weekends for two years,” she says.

When her dad retired in 2011, she was more than ready to take over. Bowman Chevrolet —  the Bowman Auto Group includes Bowman Isuzu Commercial Truck and Bowman Auto Center, all in Clarkston — has been the second-fastest-growing Chevy store in Michigan since 2014, and 124 employees sell some 4,000 vehicles annually.

What's more, Coleman serves as president of the Greater Detroit Chevrolet Dealers’ Association, and is a board member of both the Clarkston Chamber of Commerce and the Clarkston Downtown Retailers’ Association.

Coleman says her leadership style is all about empowerment. “I empower my managers to be self-sufficient, but (they) come to me for guidance. I share our financial statements with them, so they can see the whole picture of what’s going on at the dealership and understand their part of it. I set targets for sales, financial results, and our Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) with General Motors, and modify them if business conditions change.

“We won the highest new-car sales CSI for GM in our region last year, and we’ve won that before. My dad always said (to take) care of the customer. … If you take good care of them, they’ll recommend us to others. I like to be hands-on, meeting customers and being present, because it’s fun and because I think it’s important for people to see that I’m involved.”

Her advice for women in business is to keep moving forward. “If there are times when you feel, either for yourself or your family, that you need to work part time, push yourself until that time, then stay involved so you can come back in. I think that’s our biggest challenge.

“We are as capable as men, but we do tend to get pulled away at times. I did that when my (three) kids were little, but when they went to school full time, I went back to work full time. I believe women can do anything, and if we’re passionate about people, process, and business, the auto business is a terrific place to find a great career.” — Gary Witzenburg'

Edit Module
Edit Module Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Mobility Midway

Ford’s recent acquisition of Michigan Central Station supercharges plans for a $740-million R&D mobility campus in Detroit’s Corktown district, which has already started with the opening of The Factory. How will it all come together?

The Century Club 2018

From banking and construction to education and restaurants, along with the Grand Hotel, DBusiness pays tribute to companies and organizations that are 100 or more years old.

Rising to the Top

After a long ascent, last year Domino’s in Ann Arbor Township became the largest pizza company in the world. Now all eyes are on the CEO transition from Patrick Doyle to Richard Allison.

Change Agent

As the automotive and technology sectors stand at the precipice of a brave new world of autonomous and connected vehicles, Mary Barra, chairman and CEO of General Motors Co., won’t allow the automaker to take a back seat to anyone.

Post-Op

After the historic merger of Beaumont, Oakwood, and Botsford hospitals, John Fox, CEO of the new Beaumont Health, is eyeing growth across the region, developing technology to improve patient outcomes, and embracing transparency — even if it requires admitting mistakes.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Most Popular

  1. Revered Cadieux Café on Detroit’s East Side Sold to Restauranteur Paul Howard and Musician John Rutherford
    The owners of the Cadieux Café on Detroit’s east side today announced that they have sold the...
  2. Farmington Hills’ Plum Market to Open Street Concept Store in Downtown Detroit
    Plum Market, a food and beverage company based in Farmington Hills, will open a street concept...
  3. BESA Detroit Restaurant Opens in the Central Business District
    A new restaurant, lounge, and private dining establishment called BESA Detroit has opened on the...
  4. HTI Cybernetics in Sterling Heights to Invest $20.6M in Expansion
    Sterling Heights-based HTI Cybernetics Inc., a provider of automated and robotic welding systems,...
  5. Bloomfield Hills-Based Sterilogy and Grand Valley Students Develop System to Help Reduce Hospital Infections
    Keeping hands clean and sanitized in hospitals and other medical facilities can be a challenging...
  6. Beaumont Health and Universal Health Services to Build $40M Mental Health Hospital in Dearborn
    Beaumont Health in Southfield and Universal Health Services (UHS) today announced they have...