Ruth Saunders gives a customer a big hug.
Her father Bob, jumps in next, her brother and former Colwood mayor Dave Saunders shortly thereafter. After 36 years in the family business, the entire family is clearly well respected and well liked.
Ruth however, has earned a different accolade of late, becoming the first female to sit on Subaru Canada’s national advisory board in the history of the company.
“It’s a male industry, so I felt honoured that they respected me for what I have done for so many years,” she said.
“I felt more respected for my knowledge and what I have done for the last 34 years, than (for) being a female.”
Saunders, who manages the service side of Saunders Subaru after starting off washing cars on the lot as a teenager, has seen her service station’s national customer satisfaction index scores serve as impressive barometer for more than a decade.
“At the dealership level we have a good success rating in sales and services,” she said. “We’re recognized continually as one of the top achievers for service for our customers across Canada. We are always in the top 10, quite often we are number one.”
Reluctant to give up these credentials while preferring to stay humble behind the scenes, Ruth has continually proven that their family-style attitude, coupled with her steadfast work ethic, has been a recipe for success. That success eventually drew the eye of one of Subaru’s senior executives, who even brought her with him to Japan to take in the Tokyo Auto Show and meet some of Subaru’s top executives.
“Most dealerships are more interested in sales and new cars and products, and Ruth has the ability to talk about that and also about services and parts,” said Subaru Canada senior vice-president Don Durst. “It has been a valuable insight.”
While the appointment was a little late coming, Durst said, it had nothing to do with gender and everything to do with her abilities, which blossomed from the days when her parents Bob and Norma Saunders started one of Subaru’s original dealerships back in 1978.
“(She has) that culture, that never give up attitude. Right now we are doing extremely well and at times it wasn’t (so positive in the industry),” Durst said. “She remembers those times and how to prevent (it from happening again).”
Ruth comes to work five days a week, with the same routine of yoga at 6 a.m., into the office by 8 a.m., with the occasional hockey game in the evening.
She believes this latest honour is all about performance.
“I don’t think it is a (gender) role, I think it is a qualification role,” she said. “You (have to) go into anything you do and do it the best you can, with a passion.”