Prestige’s ‘Empowered Women’ series dive into the world of strong women who are leading by example in their own ways. Here, Kittarin “Mink” Limbrabreun shares her inspiration and managing her time as the Managing Director of MB Sukhumvit, Director of Suanluang Autohaus and Mercedes-Benz dealer for Mercedes-Benz (Thailand).
Head towards the city’s Phrakhanong and On Nut area and you’ll see the glittering façade of MB Sukhumvit, the just-launched Mercedes-Benz authorised service-only centre. It is the first of its kind in Thailand, covering over 1,200 square metres, and includes a parking lot capable of holding 170 vehicles in line to be serviced.
Kittarin “Mink” Limbrabreun, who has helmed Suanluang Autohaus for 14 years, points out that this particular expansion was two years in the making. She had to find the right location, hire staff, and conduct intensive training for 60 new personnel to be at the ready from day one. Of course, being the Managing Director of MB Sukhumvit isn’t the only executive role for Mink, as the 40-year-old Bangkok native is also the Director of the aforementioned Suanluang Autohaus.
She goes on to relate how her latest business venture certainly came with a few unforeseen challenges. “We were trusted to extend the first service-only center in MB Sukhumvit because Mercedes-Benz saw how we’ve been able to take care of our customers,” she explains. “When the pandemic hit, I had to keep everything under control, keep all our employees on, be a source of dependability, and keep everyone safe.”
Her leadership in 2021 is as essential as it was when she first started. Over a decade ago, customer service – after sales service, digital technologies, and customer relationship management (CRM) – were suddenly seen as key competencies for Mercedes-Benz distributors. Kittarin suddenly realised she was needed, even though she had been working at a different company in a branding and marketing capacity at the time.
“My parents’ generation was more of a ‘retailer and wholesaler’ generation. They didn’t know about technology, marketing, branding and CRM. So, it was great timing for me, having worked for two years, to come back.”
She points out how she had to build every customer-service framework from the ground up when she joined. “The first day I began at Suanluang Authaus, I started at zero. The corporate culture didn’t make service a high priority.”
The team had to set their own KPIs and determine their own path, eventually earning the company a sterling reputation for service. It was a daunting task to remake a decades-old business, but Kittarin was well prepared. She had received a BS in Business Administration (Marketing) from Srinakharinwirot University, then later earned an MS in International Business from Boston University. And since Harvard University was nearby, she decided to continue with a Graduate Certificate in General Management at Harvard University Extension School as well.
To this day, her staff constantly play “catchup with technology”, she says. Expectations for service in her target market continue to skyrocket, so she sees her task as ensuring that she and her teams continue to meet those desires. Interestingly, she sees her work as being the ideal blend of creativity and business development.
“Once I set that target, I move towards it, otherwise you’re just living day by day. success is the result of always taking steps towards a goal”
“It’s where art and science meet. Marketing asks what consumers like, but we use our creativity to increase our sales and create gimmicks we can use. It’s not routine work. It’s not numbers. It’s full of creativity,” she says. She expands on the idea later on. “I took what I like about marketing with my business, and I brought my love for CRM to help the company.”
When asked what success means to her, she readily shares her insights. “Success is my motivation every day, to do my best. I have a grand vision I want to achieve as well as small little goals along the way. Once I set that target, I move towards it, otherwise you’re just living day by day. Success is the result of always taking steps towards a goal.”
The pandemic has changed many things for Kittarin and her family, but not her forward-thinking outlook. In fact, she plans to launch another service center on Ramintra Road within the next year. As for her personal life, she also divies up the day effectively, spending ample time with her son Micky, who is studying Year 6 at Shrewsbury International School online, and awaiting the day when travel restrictions ease and they can take trips to Scandinavia – their favourite destination – once again.
“We can’t really go outdoors, and I have to stay home, and bake, and draw,” she says, adding that she’s joined online courses and learned some new skills, including working with watercolours and acrylics. Looking to the future, Kittarin sees the companies continuing to expand and becoming more digitally fluent. She also envisions a new work-life balance that can be a permanent reality in 10 years.
“I would like to be able to work from home 80 percent of the time, even though we are a service and people industry. I can set a system where I can monitor what’s going on without being there in person. I want to spend time equally with my son, myself, and work.”
Jewellery: Gems Pavilion
Photographer: Vatcharasith Wichyanrat
Photographer’s Assistant: Somboonkiat Wonghom & Kiattisak Janprai
Stylist: Chittawatr Buramyakorn
Stylist’s Assistant: Thitikorn Homnaul
Makeup Artist: Nontalee Wongpeng
Hair Stylist: Kitphisuth Kanchanakawinphong
Editorial Coordinator: Kanyaphat Somwong
Location: Alexander And James
This story was first published in the August 2021 issue of Prestige Thailand.
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