Tell me about your career path and what brought you to BMW Montreal Centre.
As an immigrant, I came to Canada when I was 17 years old. My journey started in finance, after completing my studies as a double major in financial planning.I was one of the youngest in my department. I put everything into my career, as I knew that as an immigrant I needed to prove myself even more. It’s not like we’re born here and we’re connected and we know people. We knew nobody. We didn’t have any government support. It was a cultural shock at first, but I quickly adapted to it. I’m proud to say that my mom worked everything to raise us, three girls in the middle east. She’s a great mom and I owe it all to her.
I went straight into banking, and worked my way up to management. I had strong abilities in building teams, nurturing relationships and product building. That was my thing. I started working in retail banking at TD and BMO and in wealth management. I went from there to VP of wealth development at Nour Private Wealth where one of my contacts approached me from BMW for the position of VP corporate sales. It was a leap of faith that I don’t regret taking. That is why today I really believe in following your intuition. This position has brought me to a new level in my leadership abilities and I am proud to lead the way for other women. It’s not common to have women in this industry not in these positions in particular. In engineering yes, in F&A, even as delivery specialist but not in sales at this level. You need to have lots of contacts, high profile connections. I accepted this challenge as it was the first model in Quebec for this segment of this market. It was the first role of VP corporates sales in any dealership.
What is your role as VP of corporate sales and what does it entail?
Corporate sales is a segment that most big organization such as TD Bank, Royal Bank Canada, AirCanada, Bell Canada, Hydro Quebec, L’Oréal work through with other fleet companies to manage these types of accounts. I work with their fleet managers to provide them with the portfolio of cars that they need in medium to large quantities. Essentially how it works, all those big companies, they have allowances to pay car and maintenance in portfolios for their employees. They’re employee advantages benefits. They want to pay advantages for their employees, so they pay them their car. The employee becomes the driver, but the owner is really the company. There are two types of segments, there’s the segment of the small companies, who are like 5-10 employees and they run 5 cars under their business, or larger companies — like L’oreal — these are big companies who would develop the segment.
My role that comes into this is developing two segments ; the relationship with the fleet company, so I could have contact with the portfolio managers, just like in the banking industry. It’s developing relationship with the client and their account managers. I’m the head of the segment who provide the product and fleet contracts and packages to ensure both are satisfied to deal with my services. I need to make sure that I stick those two together, to make sure that two companies like me because it’s a relationship based system. I need to make sure that I’ve developed the connection on both ends.
BMW Montreal Centre is a unique dealership in the way we build and nurture our relationship with these types of large corporations. We have an advantage, being led by Martin Taillandier who is the dealership co-owner who works strongly with head office to provide excellent support throughout these transactions.
From banking to automotive sales ; how did you integrate those worlds?
Honestly, it’s a different world. It was hard for me for the first month, and adjusting to it. I went from managing teams, offers mortgages and investment too clients to car sales. Both are very important entity in the clients life. The position I took on at BMW was very different from just doing sales. I wanted to develop a segment that was never developed in the automotive industry. That was my main focus. I build on relationships for the future.
How have you grown into your position since?
Having a great team that supported my vision and trusted my abilities has been an asset to my success. Having Martin as my mentor and giving me all the tools that I needed from building products, to efficiently delegating to the right team members who could facilitate me with my needs. That is one of our key strengths at BMW Montreal Centre. With the right team, you can truly do anything. Taking that leap of faith, having a plan and working towards it every single day has proven to be very successful.
Tell me how you developed the confidence in yourself to level up in these types of situations?
It really comes from within. I didn’t have a reputation [at the time]. I didn’t have any network in that industry, so I had to prove myself. My boss knew that I would be good at it, which is why he recruited me in the first place, he believed in me. Having that support system, really helped me strengthen my offerings. It took time and a lot of work to get here, and I am so grateful for all the experienced that shaped my career. I am very proud that through the bank and the finance industry I built huge connections. I am grateful that I got to work with such amazing people throughout my career who have taught me so much. As well through my strong community with the Chamber of Commerce.
Tell us about your position as VP of the Chamber of Commerce of Canada Lebanon.
I’m the only woman VP on board. It’s always been men at the top which is a refreshing new look. My aim with the Chamber of Commerce is to one day become President. To prove foremost that women can get to the top of these Chambers. I want to prove to my daughter, my nieces, my colleagues that women can achieve anything they set their minds to. There’s a lack of female voices in that sector and in leadership positions. I want to actively change that.
Do you think it’s because women haven’t even thought, “Hey I could actually be president?” Is it the confidence level of women that we need to rise as well, or is it because they’re not interested?
I think it’s a component of three things. It’s the trust because they’ve never really been given that chance. When you have a woman who is in a very high role in a bank. I think being in a leadership role in your industry, whatever you’re doing, you need to prove yourself more. You put more effort into that role. Because you have kids, you have to juggle your work-life balance. Especially if you’re a single mom, like me. You need to make sure that you’re there for your kids, for your family, for yourself. At the same time, you need to prove yourself for the bank that you are working for. For the company or organization, you are working for. What happens is that this woman comes and says she only has two mandates and can’t take on a third mandate. “It’s going to take me so much time and I don’t have time. I’ll be missing out on my work and on my family.” I think it’s a result of low confidence that they can do it. It’s the internal fight of some of the men who don’t allow women enough space on boards.
What inspires you to do more?
My children are a big source of inspiration for me. I also like to achieve goals that I set out for myself to improve my development. I want to be an example for my son and daughter, Christopher and Tiffany. My kids are very supportive. Whatever I do in my business, they’re proud. I’m proud of them as well. My son is in University, he’s graduating this year. At the same time, he realized how hard I worked, not only to provide a better living but also instigated by my ambition to win. I want to push the limits of what I can accomplish. I also want to make a difference, especially in the Lebanese community. Whether it’s through the Chamber of Commerce, at my job with BMW Montreal Centre. It gives me fulfilment to be good at what I do.
What is advice you would give yourself looking back?
Honestly, I made mistakes, just like everybody else . I made the wrong choices in my career too but we only learn from that. I would say to listen to your intuition. I really had the problem of not listening to my intuition. Although I’m very satisfied with where I am right now, and I am grateful for each person I have met throughout my career. From baking, to wealth to the automotive industry they have all taught me something that I take and I learn from. Intuition is not only about engaging yourself and wondering “is it true?” Intuition is about, from your experience in any academy or work background or family or cultural background, to take all those ideas and thoughts in your head, what is the first thought that comes? What is your heart telling you? This is something I learnt with time by gaining trust in myself and in my past experiences. I learnt from people around me. learning from my past, confidence in my abilities.
Where do you see your future heading with the company?
My aim is for us, at BMW Montreal Centre to be more visible and more attainable to all our customers at every level. From retail clients to corporate sale ie large organizations. The BMW brand is about heritage, it’s a family owned business which is what makes it stand out from other brands. I believe they are doing an excellent job at building a sustainable quality product with longevity in mind. It’s about reputation. Martin, is very adamant about the importance of a great reputation. He understands the value of building relationships and nurturing them which is what I believe in foremost.
I hope that, just as I had a man support me in this in industry, that other women who are also in this industry will lift other women up. It’s important that women here would help others shine. If you are the only woman at the table, you should empower other women to join you.
What is coming up on your segment?
They sky is the limit! As the saying goes ” the day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit” I have a good team that is prepared – even with all the restriction and limitations we faced this year, we have managed te exceed customer expectation and we will continue to do so.
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