Welcome to a new year and a new Women in Powersports profile! In this latest article, we talk to Jessika Häggling, Manager of multi-brand powersports dealership Northbike’s 6000 square-metre store in Umeå in northern Sweden. She is responsible for a team of 30 people, including eight sales people that advise customers on Ski-Doo, Sea-Doo and apparel purchases, as well as leading motorcycle brands.
After a pan-European career in the furniture industry, where she was the only woman in all management-level meetings for several years, Jessika wasn’t worried about joining the male-dominated industry of powersports. She had always believed in her own ability, and had come to see her difference from her male colleagues as her strongest weapon. Intrigued, we wanted to know more.
What’s it like to be a woman in the powersports industry?
I have always worked in male-dominated industries. The fact that I was different from my colleagues made me learn to have a strong voice, to take every opportunity to make a stand, and to never accept being treated differently. Early on in my career, I realized that you don’t have to be somebody else in order to succeed. It’s what you do that defines you, and my results always proved that.
In the BRP world we have a lot of great women and, these days, we mostly judge what women can do with their machines and not how they look on them. This shows things are changing, although I am still concerned after my visit to a huge European vehicle exhibition last year, where most of the companies still had scantily-dressed young women sitting on the vehicles to draw attention. Why is this still going on?
What I am really proud of when it comes to the powersport industry, is that it’s really ok for you to stand out. No one is going to ask you to sit down and be quiet. Racing, riding and high-performance products attract high-performing and crazy-good people. This also means that we’re looking for winners, whatever their gender. It’s passion that counts.
What surprised me when I first joined the powersports industry, and still does today, is that very few women apply for the positions we need to fill. Men apply with no experience at all in this business, just a love for the products. Women tend to think that they need to be experts in the vehicles in order to apply for a job, which of course is not true. It’s not about gender; it’s about the personality the job requires, and all women should really remind themselves of that and just go for it! When I applied for the position of Manager at Northbike, it was because they were looking for a leader, and I was convinced I’m a pretty good one.
How have things changed for women since you started out?
I think it’s going in the right direction, but we still have manufacturers in the industry that think that you can attract female customers just by making a vehicle pink or telling them that the machine is so simple to use even a woman can drive it. Which makes me mad! My opinion is that by not taking female customers seriously, you’re missing out on half the world’s potential market. And that’s a pretty stupid mistake if you want to grow your business.
I have told all the people in my team that the best way to attract female customers is to give them equal respect. Guess what? Women also need to know what the engine is like, how the machine performs in deep snow, and how the gearbox accelerates! And we want clothes that protect us and keep us warm, in our size. We need to give female customers the same service as men. In my team, that’s a rule, not a recommendation. If we expect to have female customers in our stores, we will attract female customers.
Hiring companies also need to make job postings that attract people with the right energy, both women and men. If you have mostly guys in your team, you have to ask yourself why and try to do something about it. I think it´s really necessary to have a good mix of people with different backgrounds to make good decisions. I mean, isn’t it a good thing to have both genders in mind when you design products that you want to sell to as many people as possible? For me it’s a no-brainer.
What’s your role in making powersports and business attractive to women?
I have a huge responsibility as the only female Store Manager in Sweden in our industry. I need to set an example. To friends, customers, colleagues, my kids, competitors and work partners. Every customer that walks into our store is a VIP, and every member of staff is equally important.
My advice to women in general is… Do it! Own it! If you see a job you think would be great, apply! If you never dare to try, you will miss out on so many great opportunities in life. If you go into a new job with a confident and curious attitude from the start, you’ll see people will love to show you. I knew very little about motorcycles, snowmobiles or personal watercraft before I took this job four years ago. Today I love every minute of it, and I have learned so many things I never thought I would learn.
Our motto at Northbike is “Dream it. Live it.” And I would never settle for less.
“You don’t have to be somebody else in order to succeed; it’s what you do that defines you.”