In the fourth installment of our ongoing series on women in the industry, we chat with Nancy Suranyi of Namao Automotive Repair Ltd. in the semi-rural hamlet of Namao in Sturgeon County, Alta., about 7 km north of Edmonton. Nancy and her brothers grew up in the business founded by their father, so you could say motor oil runs in her blood. But Nancy is more than a resourceful entrepreneur; she is also active in many industry boards and councils, including as chair for several of them, and has worked with government on developing industry regulations.
SHOP: Namao Automotive Repair Ltd.
WHERE: Namao (Sturgeon County), Alta.
SIZE: 18,000 square feet, approximately 10 bays (which can be adapted according to need)
STAFF: 7 employees
AFFILIATION: NAPA Autopro
“My parents opened their first tiny repair shop in 1972 on their homestead acreage in the Namao area. Each of us four kids grew up in the business, and in 2003 three of us banded together and bought them out so they could enjoy a good retirement. So I’ve got well over 25 active years in the business, as well as growing up around it.
“We’re located on a highway and there isn’t a lot of local business, so we are continually adapting to change. We started with a lot of agricultural business, but as the city has grown, our business has evolved. We also have licensed techs who work on heavy-duty and large vehicles. So we work on a variety of different types of vehicles.
“When the downturn happened a few years ago, more people started asking for full service work on their RVs, and we saw an opportunity. We already did mechanical repairs on large vehicles such as RVs, but you need special training and licensing to do the full service. We got the needed licenses and training, and adapted a back bay area for RV repair. Today we’re one of a handful of complete coach-and-chassis RV service shops in Alberta. We were also one of the few shops in our area to get into digital inspection technology, and to import the specialized tools; we were very active in the Right to Repair issue.
“I’ve been very active in a number of councils from the beginning. I was the first female chair of the Alberta Motor Vehicle Industry Council, and have been involved with the Alberta Provincial Apprenticeship Committee, Pre-Employment Advisory Committee for NAIT (Northern Alberta Institute of Technology), and many others.
“Of course, being a woman in this industry, you have to prove yourself more than men, but through my board work I’ve become recognized as knowledgeable about this industry, including with government. For me, my biggest concern is the lack of professionalism and training in the industry. There’s too much of a tendency to compete and undercut each other. I feel it’s bringing down the industry as a whole, at a time when we need to come together and face these challenges, both here in Alberta and across the industry.
“One of the reasons we have been successful is we work openly with other shops, which sometimes surprises them! We’re willing to share our knowledge and experience as colleagues, not just as competitors. When all you do is complain and undercut, it teaches the customer to price-shop. And with all the changes ahead – increased operating costs, new regulations, and of course new technologies – that will do us no good.
“I’d emphasize to other shop owners that it’s important for us all to boost each other up, not tear each other down. Get involved; go see what’s going on with other shops and the industry as a whole. Be part of the solution, not just complain. You should see the new technologies coming in as opportunities, not barriers.”
This is the fourth in a series on Women Owners in Auto Service leading up to the 2018 Women’s Leadership Conference in Toronto, Ont., June 13, 14. presented jointly by the AIA of Canada and the Auto Care Association. For more information, visit the Women’s Leadership Conference Registration Page.