Karen Konecny wanted to be a social worker, not work in business. “But back then I couldn’t afford a four-year college degree, so I earned an associate’s degree in administrative science,” she said. “In 1976, I took a job as the assistant to the plant manager for the Parts Distribution Center at Bendix Heavy Vehicle Systems Group.
“Learning the parts business from a component manufacturer’s perspective developed my interest in communications,” Konecny continued. “I soon realized it was the most creative side of business I could pursue, and I fell in love with the industry, so here I am 42 years later.”
Konecny has been with Rush Enterprises since 2006. Rush is the operator of Rush Truck Centers, the largest network of commercial vehicle dealerships in the U.S. Her path has been both a professional and a personal journey. Along the way, she earned a bachelor’s degree in business management.
“I worked full-time while working on my degree, so I had great on-the-ground training,” Konecny said. “While my career has been focused on marketing and communications, my degree gave me management training. Don’t let the focus of your degree stop you if you have an interest in another area. Strong skills will translate into virtually any area of your work.”
For more than 37 years, Konecny has applied her skills in communications and marketing roles with some of the industry’s best-known companies. At Bendix in Ohio, she worked in human resources where she gained experience with internal and external communications, events, and advertising. Konecny then went to Allied Signal as director of global internal communications responsible for company-wide communications. She returned to the trucking industry in 1995 as director of communications at Peterbilt, charged with brand leadership, advertising, public relations, events, and marketing collateral.
“When I joined Rush, I was asked to help create a national brand image,” Konecny said. “I’ve seen the marketing and communications function here grow from one person into a department, which now has responsibility for public relations, internal communications, advertising and marketing, trade shows, events and meetings, customer hospitality, digital marketing, and e-commerce.
“As a dealer organization, we’re also facing the shortage of skilled service technicians, so we’re focused on working with our operations group to build recruiting campaigns,” Konecny continued. “We even have a little fun with it and use our NASCAR partnership to help promote the industry and attract technicians.”
Konecny also values industry involvement at trade shows, events, and meetings as a great way to gain knowledge and foster relationships. “I’ve had an opportunity to work with customers in all areas at component manufacturers, OEMs, and on the dealer side of the industry,” she stated. “That’s helped me build rewarding relationships that have lasted my entire career.
“My goal from now on is to continue to move the needle, to strengthen our brand, drive awareness, and build and promote programs and services that support our customers,” Konecny continued. “I also want to transfer my knowledge to my team and continue to help them develop their career paths.
“I’ve learned not to look at my role from a gender perspective, but instead to look at my career and what I want to achieve,” Konecny added. “If you never limit yourself, are always passionate about your work, stay focused on what you want to achieve and work hard, you will go as far as you want.”