Sue Brownson: If I had to start again..

I have been called the most powerful woman in Britain's motor industry, but I got into the sector very much by chance. While men tend to go into a career, for many women it's different: you pick up what you've been given and turn it into something that appeals to you.

by Sue Brownson, managing director of Blue Bell
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I worked briefly for Terence Conran, before setting up my own exhibitions business, promoting antique and jewellery fairs. My husband was an engineer working for Rootes, and he inherited the site in Cheshire from which we developed our dealership business. When the company got involved with BMW we decided it would be good for me to take a role. I started off in accounts and worked my way up. I'm now managing director of the group, and my husband is chairman.

I would have enjoyed the cut-and-thrust of the City, but I'm happy with what I've achieved in 30 years in this industry. Things have changed so much. The first year we sold 35 new and 100 used cars. Last year we sold around 3,800. There are 157 BMW dealers, all selling the same product you are, so you have to market yourself differently. Ours is very much a family business.

I had a brief stint on the Small Business Council, which taught me a lot about politics - enough to know that running the country is a thankless task. I'm now connected with countless industry bodies. I chaired the BMW dealer council nationally and the retail motor industry federation, and I'm on the elections committee at the RAC.

The job has taken me all over Europe, South Africa and America. Car launches are always very exciting - slightly macho, yes, but that's really not the point. The industry is like a family. I'm also involved with the Coachmakers and Coach Harness Makers, the livery company for the automotive trade. In four years' time I'll be the first female master.

Actually, I've been the first woman on so many things I don't want to hear that any more. I just want to be me.

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