Heather Barnes

Heather Barnes

Strategic Marketing Manager for the Automotive Group | GreatAmerica Financial Services Corp | Age: 27

What was your first job in the industry?

I entered the automotive world as a strategic marketing manager for GreatAmerica Financial Services. I align our strategies with our customers to provide the best programs, promotions, and support.

What attracted you to the industry?

While I was working in a different industry prior to the automotive world, one thing stayed the same: the industry is populated by and run by men. I knew from my past experiences that this type of environment would pose unique challenges that I welcomed in helping shape myself professionally. While it may be hard to stand out initially, being one of a few women in the industry gives me a great opportunity to really break out and be known for my work.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?

I originally worked in chemical manufacturing, so learning a new industry, customer set, and how to effectively market to customers was a challenge. I currently hold a position that didn't exist prior to my employment so it required me to hit the ground running and adapt quickly in order to get up to speed supporting our customers.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career?

My boss, Steve, is an information warehouse. He has an excellent track record and has moved up through the ranks at an accelerated rate. He has been a key factor in shaping my role in our company. His cooperative leadership style has helped force me out of my comfort zone. In general GreatAmerica has a philosophy that is surrounded by excellent customer service. Being there to support our customers starts with supporting each other internally. This foundation has enabled me to reach the highest levels of customer support and service, and professional development, and has integrated me into our industry.

What is your biggest accomplishment in the industry?

Less than 90 days from my start date we had a once-per-10-year trade show to support one of our largest, long-standing customers. It was my job to get fully integrated with key members within their company and work with them to provide the best support, everything from the nitty-gritty to full scale promotions and themes for the show. It ended up being our most successful show with them, and I was recognized with a High Achiever award that is presented by our founder and CEO. To this day I'm still an integral part of that relationship and it really helped catapult our relationship to the next level. I keep my award on my desk to remind me of the great work I can accomplish under such pressure and time-constraints, and I constantly strive for that same customer support level with every one of our partners.

What do you expect to be doing 20 years from now?

I’d like to be the marketing director for all our hard-asset business units (similar go-to-market strategies), but I’m sure that will change over time. The great thing about where I work is we don’t have a structured, hierarchical organizational chart, meaning you can create the job you want as you grow.

What’s the biggest issue facing the industry today?

Changing technology is always a risk. We can only provide our customers with the GreatAmerica experience by keeping up to date with technology, making sure our integrations into their systems are seamless, and that our offerings make their lives easier. One risk specific to our financing segment of the automotive industry is the way our customers price their products and services. I see a trend where our customers are lowering the options we have to finance. This can be through lowering or completely discarding the one time, upfront fees, or by switching to a monthly, in-house contract. As more of these changes are made, we need to be quick to adapt to make sure we’re still providing something that benefits our customers as well as the end-user.

What’s the one thing you wish someone would have told you before you entered the industry?

How different our brand of financing would be from a lot of the players in the industry. It was easy to assume that financing would be closer to my experience financing my car or my mortgage. GreatAmerica is so much more than a finance company, and we seek to be full-service consultants to our partners. It makes marketing less about the actual financing and more about the relationships and value-adds. It’s a unique way of marketing business-to-business services and provides its own unique challenges and opportunities along the way.

How do you encourage others to enter the industry?

None of your customers are the same so you get to meet a lot of really interesting people at all levels. Whether it’s a repair shop owner or a multi-location dealership manager, everyone wants something a little different and they interact with their customers in unique ways. It’s great practice for strategically listening to your customers and coming up with possible solutions for each situation. No matter what industry you’re coming from, the automotive industry is a great place to improve your skills, and it helps that our customers are fun.

Tell us about your family.                                     

My younger brother and I were born and raised (for 19 years) in Hong Kong, China. My parents moved there from Connecticut roughly 30 years ago. I’m often referred to as a “Third Culture Kid” or a “TCK.” I was raised by American parents in a Chinese country that was under British rule until 1997. I gained a lot of up-close exposure to many different cultures all at once. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

What’s your favorite weekend activity?

Anything outdoors, whether it’s hiking, paddleboarding, cycling, running, or music or food festivals. I love to be outside.

What keeps you up at night?

Thinking about the future. I have great aspirations for myself both professionally and personally and I want to achieve them all. And sometimes it’s my snoring boyfriend!

Tell us something about yourself others might not know.

Not a lot of people know I’m originally from Hong Kong. Fewer know I play the piano at a level seven (almost professionally), but still fewer know that I play the harp. I have a lot of random talents when it comes to instruments, chess, speaking languages, origami, knitting/crocheting, mountaineering, random animal facts, etc. I’m great on a trivia team! I’ve always loved experiencing and trying new things and never hesitate to learn.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Binge-watching TV shows. I’m picky about the shows I watch, but when I find a good one, I love when a whole season is available. Anyone that knows me knows I love to talk through movies and TV shows guessing where the story is going and how it’s going to end. I’ve become really good at guessing the end of movies in the first 15 minutes!

Name a talent you wish you had.

I wish I could sing well. Don’t get me wrong, I sing all the time, sometimes not to the liking of others, but I love to sing. Music can really move people and be empowering. I wish I had the kind of voice that could give people chills. But I guess I can settle for jamming out during rush hour and playing my steering wheel drum solos!

What’s your favorite food?

Dim sum! It’s a lot of small snack-sized dumplings that you can share. They’re delicious and definitely a treat since it’s hard to find good dim sum in Georgia.

If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

Condoleezza Rice. I’ve always had great respect for her professional career and how she handles herself. I’ve always thought she would make a great president of the U.S., but she’s smart enough to know most of the great work she does happens behind the scenes. I would love the chance to have dinner with her, pick her brain, and hopefully gain some great advice from a powerful woman leader.

If we took your cell phone away and said it would cost you $1,000 to get it back, how long would you survive until you paid the ransom?

I could probably last the weekend. I like to be outdoors and technology can sometimes distract from the beauty around us. I will say this though: I could get a new phone for less than $1,000, so I’d rather do that than pay the ransom!

More Profiles

Neil Bockrath

Neil Bockrath

Master Black Belt | Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. | Age: 36

Justin Cogdill

Justin Cogdill

Managing Director | Border Tire LLC | Age: 30

Ron Cottrell

Ron Cottrell

Installation Coordinator | Simple Tire LLC | Age: 37

James Crouch

James Crouch

National Product Manager — Agriculture | Alliance Tire Group | Age: 31

Patrice Fitte

Patrice Fitte

Manager, Distribution & Operations Planning | Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. | Age: 36

Chuck Flannagan

Chuck Flannagan

Manager of Marketing and Events | Continental Tire the Americas LLC | Age: 37

Nick Fox

Nick Fox

Vice President | JMH Inc. dba Point S Capital City Tire & Auto Point S J&J Tire & Auto | Age: 32

Natalie Griffin

Natalie Griffin

President | Best-One Tire of Crossville Inc. | Age: 33

Richie Howard

Richie Howard

General Manager | Bruce's Tire Inc. | Age: 27

Jeremy James

Jeremy James

Owner | Tires to Your Spot | Age: 37

Brandon Johnson

Brandon Johnson

Chief Operating Officer | Eagle Tire Pros | Age: 24

Riley Kentfield

Riley Kentfield

Owner | Take Off Tire LLC | Age: 22

Jarret Kruse

Jarret Kruse

Vice President | Belle Tire Distributors Inc. | Age: 36

Dave Miller

Dave Miller

Director Of Sales | K&M Tire Inc. | Age: 37

Hayley Milne

Hayley Milne

Marketing Manager | American Kenda Rubber | Age: 27

Robert Pritchett

Robert Pritchett

Region General Manager Consumer Replacement Tire Sales | Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC | Age: 32

Laura Richards

Laura Richards

Category Manager — Tires | Icahn Automotive Group LLC — Pep Boys | Age: 30

Michael Shivers

Michael Shivers

Production Systems Manager | Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. | Age: 29

Boris Shtamm

Boris Shtamm

Vendor Specialist | Myers Tire Supply | Age: 30

Joshua Singer

Joshua Singer

Warehouse Manager | K&M Tire Inc. | Age: 33

Cari Solano

Cari Solano

Chief Operations Officer | Route 66 Tire and Rubber LLC | Age: 32

Andrew Svenson

Andrew Svenson

Chief Engineer Truck & Bus Tire Development | Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC | Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC

Mitch Tate

Mitch Tate

Director of Operations | Tate Boys Tire & Service LLC | Age: 26

Seth Ten Broeke

Seth Ten Broeke

Account manager | RHD Tire Inc. | Age: 35

Trula Womack

Trula Womack

Director of Marketing & Brand Excellence | Indy Tire Centers Inc. dba Best-One of Indy | Age: 39

Fausto Astudillo

Fausto Astudillo

Service Advisor | Lenharts Service Center | Age: 26

Jeremy Burt

Jeremy Burt

Operations & Marketing Manager | Burt Brothers Tire and Service | Age: 35

Steve Campanella

Steve Campanella

Director of Business Solutions | Alliance Tire Americas| Age: 28

Jason Cieslinski

Jason Cieslinski

Regional Retail Business Consultant | Tire Pros/American Tire Distributors Inc. | Age: 39

Braden Crockett

Braden Crockett

Director of Auto Service/ Partner | Matthews Real Estate Investment Services | Age: 24

Cody Diemer

Cody Diemer

Maintenance Scheduler | Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. | Age: 27

Thomas Dobson

Thomas Dobson

Owner | Woodstock Repair and Services LLC and Pomfret Tire | Age: 34

Nick Dougherty

Nick Dougherty

Regional Retail Business Consultant | Tire Pros/American Tire Distributors Inc. | Age: 32

Wade Eaves

Wade Eaves

Engineer | Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. | Age: 36

Erin Edminister

Erin Edminister

Assistant Marketing Manager | BKT USA Inc. | Age: 27

Alex Feliz

Alex Feliz

Service Advisor | Redwood General Tire Service Co. | Age: 29

Loudan Hammersmith

Loudan Hammersmith

Regional Sales Manager - Central USA | BKT USA Inc. | Age: 31

Vahe Michaelian

Vahe Michaelian

Warehouse Manager | 1-800EveryRim.com | Age:25

Josh Penfold

Josh Penfold

E-commerce Manager | Carlstar Group LLC | Age: 38

Roger Strider

Roger Strider

Automotive technician | Thomas Tire & Automotive | Age: 23

Kelly Sumner

Kelly Sumner

Northeast Marketing Manager | Tire Pros/American Tire Distributors Inc. | Age: 35

Dale Vaughn

Dale Vaughn

Quality Engineer | Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. | Age: 30

Brian Wright

Brian Wright

General manager | Tire Network Group | Age: 27

Josh Wright

Josh Wright

Owner and operator | The Tire Shop | Age: 31

Matt Wilson

Matt Wilson

Sales manager and shop technician | Wilson’s Direct Inc. dba Wilson’s Direct Motors & Tires | Age: 31

Jennifer Wiens

Jennifer Wiens

Brand manager and safety coordinator | Ted Wiens Tire & Auto Service Centers | Age: 31

Brian Wheeler

Brian Wheeler

Corporate marketing and communications manager | Dayco Products LLC | Age: 33

Dan Trzeciak

Dan Trzeciak

Marketing and information technology manager | Levin Tire Center Inc. dba Levin Tire & Service Center | Age: 30

Geoffrey Tolley

Geoffrey Tolley

Senior category manager | Advance Auto Parts Inc.| Age: 39

Aaron Telle

Aaron Telle

CEO and president | Telle Tire & Auto Service Inc. | Age: 33

William Taulbee

William Taulbee

Owner and head technician | Brogan & Folz dba Brogan & Folz Firestone | Age: 38

Aaron Sweitz

Aaron Sweitz

Auto technician | Autco Inc. dba Autco Tire Pros | Age: 29

Jason Roth

Jason Roth

Sales account specialist | Myers Tire Supply Co. | Age: 35

Michael Rose

Michael Rose

Product manager | Bartec USA LLC | Age: 36

Kyle Roberts

Kyle Roberts

Director of marketing | Nexen Tire America Inc. | Age: 40

Carlos Ramirez

Carlos Ramirez

Manager | C & G Auto Center Inc. | Age: 29

Stephen Panzera

Stephen Panzera

Commercial sales representative | Service Tire Truck Centers Inc. | Age: 33

Luis Navarro

Luis Navarro

Vice president of operations and sales for Central Mexico | Tersa Corp. | Age: 33

Kyle Melvin

Kyle Melvin

Store manager | Palumbo's Car Care Center Inc. | Age: 27

Roy Littlefield IV

Roy Littlefield IV

Director of government affairs | Tire Industry Association | Age: 25

Christine Linder

Christine Linder

Manufacturing Services Manager for Tire Assembly | Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.| Age: 34

Christy Lewis

Christy Lewis

Outside account manager | American Tire Distributors Inc. | Age: 30

Nick Lenhart

Nick Lenhart

Owner and partner | Lenhart's Service Center Tire Pros LLC | Age: 32

Zeb Lee

Zeb Lee

Store manager | Purcell Tire and Rubber Co. dba Purcell Tire and Service Centers | Age: 37

Nicholas Larose

Nicholas Larose

Supply chain planning director | Nokian Tyres Inc. | Age: 37

DareRick Krufchinski

DareRick Krufchinski

New York regional sales manager | McCarthy Tire Service Inc. | Age: 31

Matthew King

Matthew King

Operations manager | RNR Tire Express and Custom Wheel | Age: 33

Jacquie Hower

Jacquie Hower

Director of operations | Zimmerman's Automotive Service Inc. | Age: 30

Justin Hayes

Justin Hayes

Consumer tire product manager | Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC | Age: 33

Brian Harris

Brian Harris

Location manager | McCarthy Tire Service Inc. | Age: 37

Erin Halicki

Erin Halicki

Southeast regional account manager | GreatAmerica Financial Services Corp. | Age: 27

Nick Gutierrez

Nick Gutierrez

Western region sales manager | Sentury Tire Americas | Age: 33

Matt Glauber

Matt Glauber

President and chief operating officer | Meridian Rack & Pinion Inc., dba Buyautoparts.com | Age: 35

Chris Gaudioso

Chris Gaudioso

Owner and technician | Driven Automotive Service | Age: 39

Christian Garcia

Christian Garcia

Manager | Freedom Tire Distributing Inc. | Age: 29

Colin Gallagher

Colin Gallagher

Regional sales director | American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD) | Age: 34

Darryl Fraley

Darryl Fraley

Service writer, technician, and sales and marketing representative | Golden Rule Auto Care and Autotext.Me | Age: 21

Brian Finkelstein

Brian Finkelstein

Vice president of sales | Max Finkelstein Inc. | Age: 28

Melissa Fairman

Melissa Fairman

Senior manager human resources | Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels | Age: 35

Justin Crosby

Justin Crosby

Northwest product service manager | Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. | Age: 33

Joel Clark

Joel Clark

Store manager | Clark Tire Co. Inc. | Age: 36

Carter Clark

Carter Clark

Mobile tire tech | Clark Tire Center Inc. dba Clark Tire Pros | Age: 20

Taryn Chmielowicz

Taryn Chmielowicz

Director of marketing | Myers Tire Supply Co. | Age: 38

Cameron Chernikow

Cameron Chernikow

National program manager for Tire Pros marketing and communications | American Tire Distributors Inc. | Age: 30

Jeff Cheek

Jeff Cheek

Owner and manager | Countryside Tire and Auto Service Inc. | Age: 37

Quick Chadwick

Quick Chadwick

Director of marketing for Tire Pros | American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD) | Age: 40

Brandon Burns

Brandon Burns

Store manager | Firestone Complete Auto Care | Age: 28

Marshall Bullard

Marshall Bullard

Wholesale and wheel specialist | BTS Tire & Wheel Distributors, a division of Black’s Tire Service Inc. | Age: 36

Steve Bourassa

Steve Bourassa

Director of products and pricing | Nokian Tyres Inc. | Age: 37

Marisa Blank

Marisa Blank

Director of OE account management | Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC | Age: 38

Linda Bassitt

Linda Bassitt

President | Latin Expo Group LLC | Age: 30

Raymond Turner Jr.

Raymond Turner Jr.

Advantage One Tire Network | Distribution Center Manager | Age: 33

Jill Richter

Jill Richter

RHD Tire Inc. | Auto Dealer Account Manager | Age: 33

Tom Eisenberg

Tom Eisenberg

West Coast Tire and Service | General Manager | Age: 26

Josh Chalofsky

Josh Chalofsky

Simple Tire LLC | Chief Operating Officer | Age: 33

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from MTD delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the tire industry and don't miss a thing!