Donna Smith, CFSP and Director of Content, just celebrated her 20th anniversary at AutoQuotes. This makes her one of the longest-serving employees at our 28-year-old company. She and her staff are responsible for the data that drives the heart of the AQ Software, our online Catalog. We stopped by Donna’s office to learn more about her time in the FES industry.
1) How did you get into the FES industry?
Interestingly, I started as a waitress in my hometown of Barstow, California. Then life took me to Jacksonville, Florida where I answered an ad in the newspaper for the E.H. Thompson Company. Most people in the industry know the dealership, it’s now part of Louis Wohl. At the time, the Motes family owned the company. I worked there for five years, moving from order processing, through accounts payable and finally to purchasing.
It’s funny – at that time Thompson did not have AutoQuotes for the purchasing department. So, I was part of life before AQ – I had file cabinets full of price lists, purchase orders and quotes. I’d fill out forms by hand and spend hours at a fax machine. Projects took forever.
2) How did you get to AutoQuotes?
Just before I started with E. H. Thompson, Kent Motes had left the company to start AutoQuotes. While I was at Thompson, a coworker also left and went to AutoQuotes and suggested I go with her. I was a single mother and the thought of going to a start-up was scary. So initially I left Thompson for what I thought would be a better job at a mortgage company, but it wasn’t. That’s what made me realize I was ready to take the chance. I joined AutoQuotes as the company’s eighth employee. I was very happy to be at a company that I knew would make a difference in people’s lives and it’s great to know that today it still does.
3) What do you remember about AutoQuotes’ early years?
I worked with the catalog content from the beginning – entering product information into a DOS-based program. We would all pitch in to do whatever was needed to get something done, like helping to package the stacks of floppy disks that contained the program to send to customers. I remember very specific milestones, like when we hit 100 manufacturers or when we had 100,000 products and accessories in the Catalog. That’s a long way from the 900,000 products and accessories we have now.
4) How has the concept of catalog content changed over the years?
It’s certainly evolved. It had to keep up with the industry needs. AutoQuotes started as a digital compilation of paper catalogs. Now we provide data and information that includes multiple images and documents; CAD and Revit; utility schedules; certifications; and all sorts of materials and videos.
5) What’s the most important thing you’re working on right now?
Finding more ways to serve our manufacturers better. I’ve restructured the content department so that there are Content Account Managers dedicated to manufacturers within categories for greater product familiarity and efficiency. I’m also working with my team and others in the company to implement manufacturer workshops. So far, participating manufacturers are telling us that these really help them maximize their presence in the AQ Catalog. And I have to tell you, my staff is really amazing. Most of them have CFSP designations and more are studying for the next exam as we speak.
6) What’s impressed you the most about AutoQuotes?
The company is very family focused. It started that way under Kent Motes in the beginning and has continued to be that way. He built a great culture here. AutoQuotes is a company where you and your opinion are valued.
7) When you’re not at work, you are…
Being with my family. We enjoy traveling. Our household is my husband and all boys so there’s a lot of sports and sporting events.