10 Minutes with Lina Policaro

Lina Policaro, general manager of the Policaro Automotive Family, on working in a family business, leadership and giving back

Q The Policaro Automotive Family has been a business institution in Brampton for 35 years. How have you managed to stay so successful over the past three decades?
“Customer service, that’s what we pride ourselves on. We want to give the customer the best experience — concierge experience, we like to call it — where they come in and they feel comfortable. We believe in having an owner at every dealership. They’re always at the store; you can always find them. I mean, you’ll find my dad [Paul Policaro, one of the three brothers who founded the Policaro Automotive Family] still on the sales floor selling cars. So we’re very involved. We don’t take a back seat.”

Q What do you enjoy most about working in the family business?
A “Every day is different. You can’t predict it. It’s definitely interesting. I’m a social person so I get to talk with people every day, which I love. And I’ll be honest, I really like working with my dad. It’s nice to get up in the morning and have that quality time with
him and learn from him. He’s a really good teacher.”

Q Who is the most influential person in your life?
“I would say it’s equally my father and my mother. They have a really, really good relationship. I find that hard to find, especially with how successful he’s been. Their marriage is the No. 1 thing and he really taught us all a good balance of work and then personal life.”

Q What are the best qualities in a leader in the automotive industry?
“I think you have to adapt to change. You can’t be afraid of change. The industry’s changed so much. With the Internet and how people are purchasing cars now, it’s completely different. I also think you have to be really positive. Cars are like houses: when a recession hits, houses are the first thing people stop buying and cars are the second. It’s definitely an industry that has a lot of ups and downs, but you have to be positive and you have to be willing to adapt and change.”

Q You also have a deep love of fashion. Where does that come from?
“My mother and my grandmother. My mother worked for Estée Lauder Canada and she was really into esthetics. And then my grandmother was a seamstress. She was a seamstress in Italy and then she was a seamstress when she moved here, and she always taught my mom that even if you couldn’t afford the best clothes, to have one or two pieces and then just wear them all the time. Quality over quantity. [Laughs] So I have to give that to her.”

Q Who are some of your favourite designers?
“I love Eurotrash designers, like Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana, Missoni, Gucci. I love fashion. I like to buy nice pieces of clothes and hold on to them for a long period of time. And I have a sister who’s 15 years younger than me so she gets a lot of my hand-me-downs. They become vintage at that point. [Laughs].”

Q You’re also on the committee of Lunch With Margaret and George and your family supports a number of charities, including the William Osler Health System Foundation. Why is giving back important to you?
“I think I’ve been very fortunate in my life and I think I’ve had a lot of opportunities that most don’t have. My mentality is if you’re able, you should. I’ve always been like that. I’ve always volunteered at stuff. I was out for dinner with Emmanuelle Gattuso and she was telling me about Camp Oochigeas [a camp that gives children with cancer the opportunity to experience fun outdoor activities], so I’m looking to do something like that for the summer.”

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