Gender doesn’t define you. Women can do anything they put their minds to. Women are phenomenal.
As we observe Women’s History Month, we appreciate this great advice from three of our awesome associates at America’s Car-Mart. We are thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of women around the world, including the women of America’s Car-Mart.
Let’s meet our three females who have made significant contributions to our company:
Cynthia Akin was 23 years old when she joined Car-Mart in the Future Manager program in Fort Smith, Ark. in 2016. As a military veteran, the program details enticed her, and she says it met her expectations. After leadership roles in Altus, Okla. and Malvern, Ark., she became general manager at Car-Mart of Hot Springs, Ark.
Falonda Harris, General Manager, Car-Mart of Florence, Ala., also started her Car-Mart journey as a Future Manager in 2013 in Muscle Shoals, Ala. In 2015, she assumed her present position in Florence. She’s a former member of the company’s Executive Council, and she was selected to participate in the Dale Carnegie Skills for Success training.
When Amy Stephan saw a job ad for a sales associate position at Car-Mart, she said, ‘sure, why not!’ And the rest is history. Amy learned the business in a dealership before serving as a General Manager when she realized she wanted to make a difference for Car-Mart in a different capacity. Now as our Account Resolution Manager, Corporate Office, Rogers, Ark., she’s piloting the centralization of the company’s collections efforts.
Here’s what Cynthia, Falonda and Amy say about being female, and what Women’s History Month means to them.
March 8 is International Women’s Day. Why is this important?
Cynthia – Thank goodness, it’s a thing. But honestly, it’s not something I think about often. I don’t acknowledge someone because of their gender. It’s irrelevant to the job they do. Me being successful has nothing to do with me being female.
Falonda – Celebrating women’s day means so much to me. I have been a single mother for 22 years. I was told I would not succeed, that I needed to find a mate and that was the only way I would become a success. But I have become stronger with every struggle personally and professionally.
In earlier years, women were not taken seriously in the workplace. It was believed their place was in the home and catering to their man. I am a part of changing the mindset and that makes me feel I am on top of the world. I am a woman who managed a household, raised my child, and built my career in a male-driven business. I have set the bar for so many others to do the same. I take pride in my accomplishments and can only pray that I have instilled this into my daughter as she makes her mark on the world.
Amy – Recognizing women in the business sphere is important. But is it a one-day or one-month thing? We need to recognize women all the time. I do appreciate that women are being recognized for the work they do, especially in the used car business. It’s important to show other women they can branch out to our industry.
How will you celebrate Women’s History Month?
Cynthia – I will celebrate for my six-year-old daughter, Adaline. She shines a light on why being a woman is important. I want her to see what success looks like. I was raised by a single mom who made bad decisions. I grew up knowing I wanted to do things differently. So, for my daughter, I want to lead by example.
Amy – I want to show other women that it can be done. I don’t have a college education and look at what I’ve done – in a relatively short time period. With hard work and dedication – and constantly wanting to learn and be a better leader to my people, I have accomplished a lot at Car-Mart.
What makes you most proud to be a female?
Falonda – I have accomplished so much in a male-driven business, and I continue to strive for greater and greater things.
What’s your International Woman’s Day message?
Cynthia – It’s a quote by Sheryl Sandberg – “In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will only be leaders.”
Amy – Keep going. Don’t let one little event stop you from pursuing what you want to do. Don’t give up. Constantly set goals. Hard work and dedication will take you a long way. Also, surround yourself with people who are supportive of you.
Falonda – Maya Angelou is one of my favorites, and I live by her poem, “Phenomenal Woman.” I read this poem daily to remind me who I am and what more I can be. This poem throws away the gender stereotype, and encourages, inspires, and empowers me to know my place in the world despite society. I am a phenomenal woman. Phenomenal woman, that’s me.
Who is an inspirational female who inspires you and why?
Cynthia – I am obsessed with Queen Elizabeth. She was a great leader. I love that she was never supposed to be Queen. I love that she was doubted. Winston Churchill grew to trust her, and he grew to be one of her biggest fans. No one considered the Queen to be any different because of her gender.
Amy – Vickie Judy, our Chief Financial Officer, is a huge inspiration to me. Her career is inspiring. If Vickie can do it, so can I. I try to emulate how she presents herself. My associates know she cares about their careers. She knows people by name. She cares about you as a person first. And she asks challenging awards, which is important.
What career advice do you have for other women, especially in the automotive business?
Cynthia – It’s okay to be the underdog – female or male. It’s okay to be the person doubted, and it’s okay to doubt yourself. It’s what you do with that doubt that is important. While you were being doubted, did it bring you down or bring you to the top. The moments where you lack confidence are game changers. So, soak in the doubt or prevail in them, but it’s what you do in those moments that set you apart.
Also, surround yourself with people you look up to. As a female, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask 1,000 questions. Surround yourself with smart people.
Falonda – Never give up. You are here, needed, and just as important as anyone. If you made to this point you have to shine like the phenomenal woman you are.
Amy – Constantly try and learn new things. Reading is important. Educate yourself in management and/or leadership skills and business ideas. Learning is important for career growth. When you stop learning, you stop growing. Always try to be better than the day before. Constantly broaden your horizons. Sharpen your skills. I want to be the best leader and manager for my team. Don’t let societal norms or expectations stop you from achieving your goals. If you want to be a master mechanic, do it.
Is there anything else you want to share?
Falonda – We need more women in the auto business, because we provide the values that Car-Mart holds dear – compassion, respect, integrity and excellence.
Amy – I’m proud to be part of the progress by women in leadership and positions of power I can do it just as good as anybody else. I’m proud to be in the position I’m in and to show other women who may not feel empowered that they can do it, also.
Thanks to Cynthia, Falonda and Amy for sharing your voices about Women’s History Month. We appreciate your words of wisdom, and we’re thrilled you’re a part of our Car-Mart family.
Join our team!
If you’re awesome and want to work with awesome people like Cynthia, Falonda and Amy, come work at Car-Mart. Go to Car-Mart.com/careers to learn about job opportunities at Car-Mart in our 12-state area.