Annette (Smith) Sykora started her career in the automotive industry in 1982 as title clerk at Smith Ford Mercury. By 1989, she had been the Finance manager and took over as General Manager. Shortly thereafter she purchased controlling interest in the family dealership.
Annette has been active on many factory committees, such as chairing the Ford Dealers Advertising Fund for Greater Texas, and serving on many other Ford committees as well.
Currently she serves her fellow dealers as the National Automobile Dealers Association Director for Northern Texas, a position she has held since 1999. On the NADA board she has held many committee positions, most currently serving as Chairman of the ATAE committee, member of Executive committee, Trustee for the National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation, and as Industry Relations Ford Chairman. As Chairwoman of the NADA Public Affairs committee in 2000 and 2001, the Code of Ethics was written and adopted by a number of state associations and was also well received by the dealer body. During her tenure the NADA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration partnership on National Child Booster Seat Campaign was also formed.
Mrs. Sykora has served on the Slaton Chamber of Commerce Board and was named Chamber Member of the Year, 2005. She and her husband Patrick also have another dealership, Smith South Plains Ford Lincoln Mercury Dodge Chrysler Jeep in Levelland Texas, which is one of Ask Patty’s Certified Female Friendly dealers! We chatted with Annette about her position as Chairwoman with NADA and working day-to-day in a dealership!
ASK PATTY: How did you get into the automotive industry as a career?
Annette: My family owned a Ford Mercury dealership (Smith Ford Mercury) growing up. I worked in the dealership as a teenager with my father and grandfather. I realized in my early twenties that I LOVED the car business. I like the interactions with customers and employees; this is really a people business. Customers use their vehicles to make their living, take their kids to school and a host of other destinations.
ASK PATTY: What motivated you to work with cars and trucks?
Annette: I love being part of the American dream and playing a role in customers transportation needs is a huge part of the American economy.
ASK PATTY: Tell us a little bit about your job at Smith South Plains. What is the toughest part about being a woman and working in the automotive industry?
Annette: I have never thought that gender or race determines a person’s success. I am sure I could tell some stories, but what I would really like to say is that this is a great business and the opportunities are there for anyone who works hard, saves their money, and believes in themselves. There is no substitute for self confidence.
ASK PATTY: Tell us about what you do as a member of the board of NADA.
Annette: As a member of the NADA board, I have been elected by my peers to represent the franchise dealers of Northern Texas. The scope of the board’s function is very broad. NADA provides training and education to dealers(NADA Convention, 20 Group, Management Education seminars, Dealer Candidate Academy and more,) member services for dealers (Dealer Life Insurance, 401k, Used Car Guide Book, to name a few,) we also have regulatory, legislative and industry relations committees. We also have a National Automobile Dealers Charitable Foundation (NADCF,) of which I am a trustee.
ASK PATTY: What if any big changes have you seen in how cars are being marketed to women?
Annette: I think manufacturers and retailers recognize the huge role women play in purchasing cars and trucks but have not fully tapped into marketing to women.
ASK PATTY: What if any big changes have you seen in how automotive companies are recruiting women into careers?
Annette: I can’t say I know of any big changes, but I know that the automotive companies value the perspectives a diverse employee field can deliver.
ASK PATTY: Tell us about your most recent personal car purchase. What did you buy and why?
Annette: I haven’t bought anything for myself in sometime (I drive a demo, perk of the job) But I did buy my 16-year-old daughter a used 2002 Explorer Sport this summer. It has lots of standard safety features and she thinks it is sporty looking. It fits our needs for dependability, safety, and functionality.
ASK PATTY: What is one piece of advice you would give a woman who was interested in starting a career in the automotive industry and a dealership specifically?
Annette: Learn all you can about how the business works; it is exciting, challenging and NEVER boring. You must have a tremendous confidence level and love people.