This father-daughter team is having its best year in the company’s history
By Carolyn Culbertson
Photographs by Sally Scott
When Nicole Rountree was in college, she went home for a visit, jacked her car up, and learned to do an oil change. Dub Rountree, her dad, says her college friends thought he was “the worst dad in history” because he owned a car dealership and made her change the oil herself. But Dub’s point wasn’t to embarrass Nicole. It was to make sure she knew the basics of the everyday heavy machinery that so many of us take for granted. “I treated her no different than I did my son. I can tell you one thing about Nicole right now,” he says. “She doesn’t need to rely on anybody for anything.”
Dub is the sole owner of Philips Motor Company Inc., a car dealership and service center on Two Notch Road that has been locally owned and operated since 1983. When Dub retires, Nicole will take over ownership of the business. He has complete confidence in her. “If I leave this world this afternoon, I know she’s got this,” he says.
Nicole started in the car business at a franchise dealership on Greystone Boulevard and became the number one salesperson after a year. The company sent her to finance school and moved her to Raleigh, where she worked as finance manager. After a short stint returning to the dealership on Greystone, Nicole was then moved to Alabama where she worked as a used car manager for two and a half years. Nicole spent time honing knowledge and experience in the automotive franchise business so she could circle in on her home base, like a plane making tighter and tighter circles as it prepares to land. She accepted a position selling cars at Philips Auto in 2017.
Females and the auto industry
Even though 85% of all car buying decisions are influenced by women, only 7% of all top dealership positions are held by women, according to a study by CDK Global. This includes front-line dealership management, sales, and service advisor jobs. Nicole faced the gender-specific challenges to be expected by any woman in a field where she is outnumbered by men. In her franchise jobs, her male counterparts made up rumors that she only did well because she smiled to get what she wanted, got special treatment because she was a woman, and slept her way to the top — nasty talk meant to rob Nicole of the accomplishments she had earned on her own merit.
“The fact of the matter was, we didn’t have to be at work till 9 and I was at work at 7:30 walking the service lane, talking to everybody, making sure I did what I needed to, and then I went into my sales manager office and practiced how to talk to people, practiced techniques on how to sell properly. And then I went to the sales meeting that started at 9. So they didn’t see the extras I put in,” Nicole says.
Philips’s owner: there’s plenty of room for women in the automotive industry
As someone who has spent his entire professional career in the automotive industry, Dub says he has seen very few women interested in working on and selling cars. With the nationwide shortage of mechanics widening each year and the knowledge that women can do the same things men can, Dub believes women who take advantage of opportunities in the industry can reap great rewards.
“In this industry, it is a strength to be a woman. You have power,” Dub says. “Whether it’s working the books, whether it’s selling cars, whether it’s buying cars, whether it’s fixing cars, writing up cars, washing cars–every position in this industry is wide open for female occupation.”
So if there are opportunities for the taking, how do you get more women through the garage doors? Nicole thinks it will take one step at a time. “It’s going to take women that are already in the business who can get another woman in the business and another woman in the business. It’s going to be a cycle and a long cycle before you can have more women,” she says.
Philips succeeded in 2020 and and wants to pay it forward
Although few women aspire to work in the car business, those who do tend to be very successful, and Nicole is proof of that. She is smart, self-sufficient, and persistent. Influencing each other’s opinions, she and her dad make a harmonious team alongside the rest of the Philips staff, several of whom have worked for the company for more than 25 years. In 2020 — the year so uniformly devastating that some people carved its digits into pumpkins as a Halloween scare — Philips Automotive is having its best year in company history. “The proof’s in the pudding. Okay, Nicole came in 2017. We’re sitting in 2020. We’re having our best year ever,” Dub says.
Nicole has no time to gloat about her success. She plans to pay her good fortune forward to anyone who is aching to break into the car industry. “I want them to be able to grow as individuals, I want them to grow with their money, I want them to just continue to grow and get better and better,” Nicole says. “That’s the only way to stay successful in this world is to teach the person underneath you that’s willing to learn.”