Spotlight: Service Manager Karen Cooper
KAREN COOPER COMPANY: MERCEDES-BENZ OF KNOXVILLE LOCATION: KNOXVILLE, TENN. POSITION: SERVICE MANAGER YEARS AT COMPANY: 16 YEARS
Karen Cooper started her career in the auto industry by doing a favor for her mother-in-law. Cooper, who was a stay-at-home mom at the time, agreed to help her mother-in-law (a controller at a dealership) and fill in for someone who had just quit. The owner asked her to stay on and the rest is history. Before becoming the service manager at Mercedes-Benz of Knoxville, Cooper worked as a service and parts cashier, learned all about warranty administration, worked in the office and eventually found the opportunity to move into service as an advisor—an area she had always enjoyed, at a number of different locations. She’s been with Mercedes-Benz of Knoxville since 2003 and started her career with Mercedes-Benz in Pompano, Fla., in 1998.
The Right Motivation
Cooper credits her success as a leader to her experience as a mother.
“Honestly, I have five children. It [running the department] takes a lot of parenting,” Cooper says. “Different people are motivated by different things. I mother every one of them. You have to parent each of them differently.”
Cooper understands that every member of her team learns at a different speed and has a different skill level, so she adapts her leadership approach to fit the individual.
“I think being a mom helps me with that,” Cooper says. “I multitask better and take the human aspect into consideration.”
Open to Anything
Mercedes-Benz of Knoxville was named Best of the Best Mercedes-Benz for 2018, a fact of which Cooper is extremely proud. The dealership also won Sprinter Van Dealer of the Year in 2017, which is a new offering from Mercedes about which the dealership was excited.
“A lot of people are afraid to try new things,” Cooper says. “But we raise our hands for things like mobile van care.”
Embrace Learning Opportunities
“My dad raised me to treat every day at work as if you’re getting paid to go to school,” Cooper says.
Cooper says she embraces every opportunity she has to learn because it helps make her a more valuable employee. If she’s in the accounting department, for example, she’ll take the time to see how things are done and share her tips for improving processes when she has them.
“Every decision I make, I think, ‘If I owned a dealership, how would I want it done?’” Cooper says.
A Voice for Service
Cooper has been an officer of the Mercedes-Benz Southern Region Parts and Service Club since 2010 and has served as its president for the past five years.
“We are the voice of the dealer to the manufacturer,” Cooper explains. “Being the president, I have access to who is who. I am in contact with all of the other service and parts managers of the regions and I hear the issues that they’ve all had.”
Using her platform, Cooper is able to bring issues up to the manufacturer and work for the greater good.