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New Iberia’s Hebert selected first female chair with Louisiana Automotive Dealers Association

The Louisiana Automotive Dealers Association (LADA) selected third-generation New Iberia car dealer Kristie Hebert, as the organization’s first female chairperson.

LADA is the full service trade association for Louisiana new car dealers. They represent 350 new car and truck dealerships around the state.

Hebert said the journey to becoming chairperson started with getting on the board which required her to outshine and overcome the male-dominated perspective.

“When you think of a car dealer, you think of an older white man. That’s been the culture for years and years, so to break through that and actually get elected onto the board was one hurdle,” Hebert said.

President and CEO of LADA Will Green, said he is proud to have Herbert as chairperson because she doesn’t just represent women, but reflects the rural lifeblood of the Louisiana automotive industry.

“We are incredibly fortunate in Louisiana to have locally owned independent franchised dealers that many are second and third-generation dealers. They live in the communities they serve and they hire from the community they serve. It’s really hard to drive through a community and not see a baseball team or gym with the dealership’s name on it. Kristie Hebert is a third generation dealer, which is incredibly reflective of what we are so proud of. The fact that she’s a female is even more amazing because she’s so respected amongst her peers,” Green said.

Hebert’s appointment as LADA chairperson represented a total shift in the local industry which she realized will not just inspire girls, but the entire younger generation of possible auto dealers.

“To be a female in this realm and position, I’m starting to really understand the impact that it’s going to have, not only for females in the industry, but for my daughter and my nieces and my counterparts daughters and granddaughters. But it’s also starting to represent the next generation of auto dealers. We don’t look the same as we did 10 or 20 years ago. My goal is to really start changing the look and feel of the association because I don’t look and feel like what has been before,” Hebert said.

Hebert was the middle of three kids. She had an older and a younger brother, which constantly forced her to prove herself. Hebert’s father, Thomas McMath never judged her for being a girl, and would always pick the best suited for the job. McMath served as chairman of the LADA board in 1997-98. He currently serves as the chairman of the board for the Workers’ Compensation Self-Insured Fund.

Hebert has 25 years of experience working at her father’s dealership, Arceneaux Ford. After she received a business degree from LSU, Hebert returned to that same store. At that time, Ford began the Blue Oval certification, which required stores to fit a stringent set of customer satisfaction criteria, so Hebert created a handbook on how to handle satisfied and dissatisfied customers. In that time, she familiarized herself with each of the departments at Arceneaux Ford to learn what made everyone tick and to identify areas which needed improvement.

When Hebert first started, they didn’t have computers or internet access in the stores. Everything was done via paper invoice and physical interactions with the car, so when they added computers and started digital sales, Hebert stepped up.

Like most other businesses at the turn of the century, Arceneaux Ford stubbornly viewed the internet through a guarded lens, Hebert explained. Gradually, digital-assisted sales grew in popularity. As the digital side of marketing progressed, they shifted into full digital retailing. This propelled Hebert into a marketing management role, and opened the store up for expansion.

When Arceneaux Ford moved into its current location in 2015, Hebert took over day-to-day operations. When developing the facility, Hebert said she went to the Iberia Development Foundation, which she currently sits chairman of, to address the different challenges of developing the facility.

In working with Iberia Development Foundation, Hebert realized how opportune the local area is for business growth, especially in the automotive sector. It just needed someone to promote it.

“Somebody needs to sit next to these officials and say ‘I built here and this is why I built here. I didn’t leave because we are growing and you need to come too!'” Hebert said.

Before interacting with LADA, Hebert said she didn’t realize how much state legislation and laws affects laws and functions at the Parish level.

This is a common issue among rural, ‘single-point’ dealers. Urban dealers often form smaller associations in their communities which help them stay informed. Rural dealers who only own one dealership (single-point) don’t have the same luxury, and are often limited to communicating with other dealers of the same brand. Hebert said LADA totally flipped the script, and gave her all the resources she needed.

“At rural stores, we don’t get any of that information, so it’s where I started. I thought, let me see what I can do. If I am lucky enough to get on, I can keep bringing this information back.”

Hebert said her work bore fruit as she noticed an increase in participation at events from dealers who never showed before.

Beyond LADA and the automotive world, Hebert is a wife and a mother of two teenagers, so she is always busy. Hebert’s husband, Troy Hebert, was her greatest supporter and cheerleader throughout the election process. Hebert said she hopes her motherhood makes her a better leader and wants other women in the industry to embrace and accept themselves for the tired, busy people they are.

“I think it’s very good that other women see women like myself do it. You don’t have to be perfect at it. It’s okay to mess up and it’s okay to be tired one day. It’s okay to be all those things that we are openly,” Hebert said.

Finally, Hebert said she hoped the story of her rise would instill confidence in her daughters and the other girls in her family.

“For the first time, they got to hear my story and how I developed through the store, and what roles I took on and that not every role fits everyone. My role today doesn’t fit every one of those children, but it doesn’t have to. They can find what fits them and do that very well,” Hebert concluded.

Source: The Daily Iberian