Leaving behind a legacy of involvement with people

A legacy of teaching and training her staff to the highest standards is what Emma Demmer left behind when she retired after a career spanning over 37 years in the motor industry.

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Emma is one of the four people who received the Volkswagen Achievement of a Lifetime Award at the manufacturer’s recently held Grand Prix Awards ceremony for her contribution to the success of the brand in South Africa.

She has been the Dealer Principal at Bidvest McCarthy Volkswagen Umhlanga since 2008 and has a career with Volkswagen dealerships for the last 29 years although she did interrupt her service of 37 years with the Bidvest McCarthy Group.

Emma, receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from Vinesh Ramchander, Sales Operation Manager at VWSA.

“My successor, Shane Sewpersad, was my protégé for many years. Although he started as a driver, I implemented a succession plan for him, after appointing him as a Parts Manager and then eventually enrolling him in the VWSA DPAP programme,” Emma tells Dealerfloor.

Emma says she started out in different capacities from being the stand-in cashier, and she eventually worked her way up in all the different divisions of a dealership. Asked if women have a more difficult path to the top today, she tells us that the fairer sex still needs to be more decisive to assert their leadership in what is a male-dominated environment.

Emma Demmer and her successor, Shane Sewpersad, the new DP at VW Umhlanga.

“I took the training and preparing of my staff, especially women, at the dealership very seriously. We are very proud of the number of women in different and senior positions doing a stellar job. Our dealership has an excellent gender and ethnicity ratio.

“Another aspect of taking a keen interest in your colleagues’ well-being and aspirations, is the number of people who passed through my hands and who are today in top positions at dealerships all over the country,” Emma says.

And highlights of her career? “There are so many but winning the highly sought-after overall VW Dealer of the Year award in 2009 must surely be one of them. Another highlight is achieving VWSA Top 25 Achievers Club when I was still a New Car Sales Executive. (I personally averaged 22 car sales a month.) The many other awards are also close to my heart and they bear testimony of the hard work we’ve put in.

The newly renovated Volkswagen dealership in Umhlanga.

“The one aspect of my career that is definitely a highlight of my professional life, is developing a team, walking a path with them, teaching and sharing knowledge. The end result is a team of experts who are on top of their game.”

Emma tells us that the complete upgrade and implementation of the new Volkswagen CI at the Umhlanga dealership were recently completed and even with that disruptive process, the dealership managed to achieve better and improved results. “Now that is testimony to a strong team, good leadership and thankfully a great contractor who assisted by keeping the disruptions of such a magnitude to manageable levels.”

And after such an impressive career, what does retirement look like? “First of all, I must say a huge thank you to everyone, especially Volkswagen SA and Bidvest McCarthy. Now I am going to spend quality time with my partner and enjoy my grandchildren,” Emma tells Dealerfloor.

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