The Successful Business Magazine spoke to Christianna Diogenous, CEO of Unicars Ltd, one of the leading companies in the automotive sector in Cyprus.
Christianna, tell us about your professional journey in auto-business.
I was born into this industry as it has been one of our family businesses for the past 70 years. Although I was actively involved with all of our businesses from a young age, I caught the bug early with the automotive industry and it became one of my greatest passions. After my studies and a few years working abroad, I returned to join the family business group P.M. Tseriotis starting with the HR department, and then moving to Marketing in the auto business. I then left the auto business and spent 10 years in the fast-moving Consumer Goods industry and returned in 2017 to lead Unicars from the CEO position.
The auto business doesn’t have a lot of women in the top management. Why is that? Do you think that women are simply not interested in cars or there might be a different reason?
I think the automotive industry was not a business that many women were interested in, in the past. It used to be a more male-dominated profession and people were mostly entering this business sector from the engineering discipline. But over the past decade this has changed, more and more women are taking over top management positions in the industry across the world.
Does a woman get tougher when she deals with a so-called “male” business?
I think any professional gets “tougher” when they work in a challenging industry or a challenging role. It is part of developing and adjusting to the requirements of each situation.
In Cyprus you are one of the most informed people in the automotive industry today. What is the situation in Cyprus? Which cars do people prefer, what parameters they consider, how the attitude has been changed due to the progress and new life realities? Is there any trend towards eco-cars?
Currently there is a downturn in sales, which is expected given the current circumstances with showroom closures, factory supply-chain difficulties and the economic situation. Regarding vehicle preferences, customers have turned towards SUVs which now account for over 70% of our sales. The most important characteristics that people consider when choosing a car are firstly safety, reliability, price, economy and features that fit their needs and more recently connectivity. As for the trend towards eco-cars, yes, people are slowly turning towards electric vehicles which is the trend of the future and we are expecting this to grow in the next years.
I can't help but ask a question - what is a “women's car”, in your opinion? And is there such a car at all? Do women really care more about color and outside look of the car than men do?
I believe there isn’t such a thing as a “women’s car!” As with all people it is all about character, preferences and needs. There are both men and women who love cars, know about cars, read about them and make well researched choices. There are also both men and women that see a car as just a necessary means of transport and might make their choice based more on color and appearance.
Do you think that women are more persuasive in business than men?
I think women usually have different skill sets and thus are persuasive in different ways than men. They may for example be more empathetic or use active listening instead of being direct. This can be more effective as it takes into account the other party.
Can a woman successfully combine career and personal life?
Of course! I would like to think that I am succeeding in this myself. It always requires keeping a balance and asking for help when needed and finally not feeling guilty!
What one aspiring piece of advice would you give to any female business leaders reading this interview?
Be your authentic self and have no fear!