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Biography of Diana Fawcett

By Shamdai Sukhan

"I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship." - Louisa May Alcott

This quotation certainly summarizes Diana Fawcett's rise in the male-dominated auto body industry. Her husband's sudden death in 1988 forced a major decision upon Diana regarding the family business, Fawcett Auto body: to keep the business going or sell out. Jerry Fawcett had been a successful, hands-on businessman - many customer dealt exclusively with him - and it would be tough to fill his shoes.

Diana chose to keep Fawcett Auto body and, together with her son Rick, learn the "how-to's" of running the shop. Both had part-time experience working in the business: Diana in the front office, and Rick in the back shop. While Diana addressed legal matters and emersed herself in learning to run a business, Rick returned to Red River Community College to complete the auto body technician training he started earlier, and eventually became an auto body specialist. To make Fawcett Auto body continued success, Diana had to overcome three challenges. First, to accept the fact that the business belonged to her, not to her late husband. Second, to prove she was as capable as Jerry Fawcett had been. Third, to establish her worth in the eyes of the auto body industry.

In 1988 Diana knew she was taking a gamble, but it paid off. Today Fawcett Auto body is an 8700 square-foot shop. Profits are put back into the shop, for the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment. Diana has a shop staff of 9, all of which are kept busy with a steady flow of work - the shop completes 18 vehicles weekly.

Aware that her richest resource is her staff, Diana invests in them accordingly. Team spirit is important - all are important and work together to solve problems. Diana also insists on cleanliness, courtesy, and training to keep up with changes in the industry. Staff training, together with a focus on customer service, are key to the achievement and maintenance of success for Fawcett Auto body. Says Diana "We have achieved the respect and trust of our customers, who in turn send us many referrals. We have proved we have real staying power." Her advice to others? " Take the time to achieve a balance in your life."

Diana Fawcett won the Federal Business Development Bank's award for fastest turnaround from the recession in 1994, and she was also a finalist for the Financial Post's Canadian Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In the words of Cicely Tyson "challenges make you discover things about yourself that you never really knew. They're what make the instrument stretch - what make you go beyond the norm."