Stacy and Arielle Conner discuss the challenges—and perks—of bringing business and family together.
By Domenic Olmeda
There’s no shortage of father-son repair operations in the heavy duty service arena. Men represent close to 75 percent of the automotive workforce, but that’s not to say mother and daughter shop relationships don’t exist in the wrench-turning industry. At Equipment Experts, co-owner Stacy Conner and her dispatcher/office manager daughter Arielle work together to run a smooth, trucking-fixing facility.
Founded by Stacy and her husband Greg in 2005, Equipment Experts has flourished into a booming location in Tacoma, Washington. It’s expanded to more than 25 employees, including Arielle and her brother Riley, who’s a field tech.
How has their mother-daughter bond grown along with their business? In celebration of Mother’s Day, we chatted with Stacy and Arielle to get the low-down.
How long has Arielle been in the shop with you, and how did she get started?
Stacy: Arielle has worked here since 2011. She was a teenager and needed a job, and we brought her in as data entry. She’s now an integral part [of our operation]. She runs the front office and is capable of handling [things] if Greg and I are gone. She has a whole team of experienced people, but Arielle knows a lot of the answers as a senior member of our [crew].
Do you ever notice her duties overlapping with your own?
Stacy: Yeah, she’s trying to take over my job! [Both laugh.] She’s only 23 but wants to grow, and she’s got lots of career and opportunity for challenges in front of her—certainly more than Greg and I do since she’s starting so much younger.
What are your hopes for Arielle as the business builds up?
Stacy: I hope that Arielle does whatever makes her happy, and that’s the end-all-be-all. She has good knowledge and control, so the sky is the limit for her. She could, in the next 40 to 50 years, take this place who knows where.
Do you see your mother-daughter roles at play when you work together?
Stacy: What is interesting to me is the level of respect I have for Arielle, not just as my daughter—which is one role—but as a person and professional in her own right. There are occasions when she is tougher than I am, and there are times when I am more educated than she is. So, I think we have developed a [bond] outside of a family one.
Arielle: For the most part, we leave work at work and home and home. The only time it really shows is if [I say], “Hey, I need you to pick up my son or my sister after work or school.”
I think we have developed a [bond] outside of a family one.
Do you think your relationship is an advantage in the workplace?
Stacy: I believe that [our professional association] works because we’re highly capable. If one of us wasn’t contributing or clearly defined in our role, I think it would be more difficult. But, for both of us, we are [qualified], and we have respect for each other’s strengths. Still, we’ve had some rough areas to get over, but you hope that the love you have as a family can get beyond all that.
Arielle: We both know we have the company’s [goals] at heart, [since] it is also in our family’s best interest to have it succeed.
How has working together impacted your bond and the business?
Stacy: I believe that we [recognize] each other’s skillset, and we utilize it. Arielle is tough and very good at puzzles, and, in fact, she’s grown to be [proficient] and capable with other people. I think it’s accelerated our ability to be friends as opposed to mother-daughter. Many are still figuring out the relationship change from being a kid to an independent adult. At this point, we look at each other with [dignity] and professionalism.
Arielle: I think it’s given me so much more respect for my mom. It’s not just me learning how to start out at a company. It’s us growing together and [honoring] one another at work. I [look up to] her, how she handles things and how firm she can hold the line because that’s a hard thing for women to do. If a man does it, he’s dominant or being firm—he’s “the boss.” If a woman does so, it’s a fine line between that and being a nag.
What do you enjoy the most about working with each other?
Stacy: For one, I get to see her. As kids go, sometimes they wander far off, but we have a close relationship and family. You have tough days, so it’s a benefit when you have your mom there and you can talk to her. When I have a daughter I can chat and vent with for a few minutes, [it’s an advantage]. We’ve got each other’s back.
Arielle: We can trust each other. I know that if I come to her with a concern about what’s going on in the company, she takes it seriously.
What do you think is your mom’s greatest strength?
Arielle: Her knowledge and ability to get anything done. There have been times in my life where I couldn’t figure out how to take care of something, and all I can do is [say], “Mom, I don’t know what to do. I need help here.” She can make things happen even when there may be a mile of red tape. I appreciate and admire her tenacity.
I know that if I come to her with a concern about what’s going on in the company, she takes it seriously.
What do you think is your daughter’s best quality?
Stacy: Arielle is tough as hell. She’s got the best of her dad and me. Her father has the ability to put his head down, grind through anything, come up with an answer and keep an up-tone attitude. And, she can think fast, is computer literate and solves problems like I can. So, in my opinion, she’s got the best of the two of us in one person.
What advice would you give other mother-daughter shop teams?
Stacy: You need complete honesty and understanding of the goals. You have to confront, coach and train family members, and they need to receive that [information]. You can’t tolerate miscommunications, and you certainly can’t have a kid working for you who isn’t striving as hard as everybody else.
Arielle: Trust each other and know that you’re working toward the same [mission], even if it’s difficult to let go of something that was said outside of work. [Have] the ability to just put it to the side and say, “Okay, we can deal with this later. Right now, we need to do what’s best for the company.”