Karen Knight is one of Rainbow Auckland’s longest-standing members and the Managing Director of Crash Management, an award-winning service that manages all the logistics after a car accident. She tells express about her time with Rainbow Auckland and why she values bring part of this rainbow family.
Q | Tell us about your career? Why did you get into it or how did you get into it?
A | When I first joined GABA I owned and operated the largest collision repair facility (panel & paint shop) in NZ. I’d been working in the trade since the 1970s and started my first company with two business partners in 1982 when I was 23. In those days we were working on VJ Valients and HQ Holdens – big, basic, heavy old cars were hard physical work and I loved it! I was a Westie Girl from Massey (all farms in those days!) and cars were definitely my thing. I worked 16hr days for the first few years in business, it kept me very fit and I had a great 6-pack – sadly I haven’t seen it for many years now!
Q | How long have you been with Crash Management? What do you find most rewarding about your career, and What are some key benefits with using Crash Management?
A | Following the sale of my first business, I enrolled at Auckland University to up-skill and fill some knowledge gaps. After that, I was recruited to a national operations role in the vehicle fleet leasing sector. While there I’d spotted a potential opportunity for corporate fleet operators, and the idea grew into an out-source solution for accident management.
I launched Crash Management in 2005, we now serve leasing firms and some of NZ’s largest corporate fleets as well as a number of programmes like the Kia Incident Care service for new Kia buyers. We also serve the general public via a range of other channels.
Crash Management is a 24/7 on-call service that manages all the logistics after a car accident including road-side emergency response, driver repatriation, and co-ordination of replacement vehicles, claims support, assessing and repairs. The offering is focused on saving clients time and inconvenience while maximising efficiencies.
This is supported by a cloud-based portal that improves communications between all the parties, keeps drivers up to date, and delivers great reporting functionality. It’s an extremely cost-effective option for any business fleet. Insurance Brokers are some of our biggest supporters and nominated Crash Management for the prestigious Insurance Awards Innovation of the Year, which we won in 2009.
Q | What did you study at University?
A | After selling my first business in 1997 I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but realised my business experience was narrow at that stage. I’d also left high school at 15 (the standard in the early 70s!) so decided to fund my way through university in order to broaden my thinking. I started with a 2-year Diploma of Business Administration course as a segway to the MBA programme. That involved another 18 months full time, and I graduated in 2002. It was a great experience and certainly broadened my thinking, and I worked with some amazing people.
Q | How long have you been a member of Rainbow Auckland?
A | I joined the Gay Auckland Business Assoc (GABA) back in the mid-‘90s and have seen many changes over time, including the relatively recent re-branding to Rainbow Auckland. My long-term partner Nicky joined in the late ’90s and we met many of our closest friends at GABA so have a lot of fond memories!
Q | Why did you join Rainbow Auckland?
A | GABA’s original focus was as a business networking opportunity and a safe place for gay men to support each other’s businesses and social lives. The potential for business networking appealed to me and there were many promotional opportunities including BA5 (Business After 5) events to showcase member businesses, and also a print member business directory. Later this became website based of course, accessible only by members – it seems crazy now but privacy was a big concern to some people back then.
I’ve met many wonderful women via GABA and some lovely men too, and am lucky to still count them as great friends. The GABA membership was huge then and very active. We had a packed annual calendar of activities, including women-only events like dinners, wine tours and shows. There was so much happening it was hard to keep up with it all!
Q | Since joining up how do you compare the direction in which Rainbow Auckland is heading to what it was like in former years?
A | The organisation’s evolution has been quite cyclic, often driven by the Executive and more particularly by the President at the time. To put it in context, GABA was created shortly after the Homosexual Law Reform Act 1986 – long before some current members were even born!
So Rainbow Auckland is NZ’s oldest LGBTI+ networking group and has adapted to changing needs over time. Initially, GABA was predominantly a gay male membership but within a few years that started to change. One of the earliest lesbian members that I know of is an old friend of mine, Annie Tuck owner of Mayne Automotive. Annie served on the Executive back in the early 1990s.
Dozens of women have served on the Executive since including myself for 10 years or so up until the mid-2000s. We’ve also had two lesbian Presidents, of course, Judith Thompson in the ’90s and Heather Carneigie in more recent years. Heather led the organisational refresh and rebrand to Rainbow Auckland and now serves on the Rainbow NZ Charitable Trust along with me and others from the early GABA days.
Q | Being part of Rainbow New Zealand Charitable Trust and Rainbow Auckland what is your personal vision forward for the two?
A | Originally the GABA Charitable Trust was an off-shoot of the GABA mother-ship and I think it’s really important to retain the close working relationship between the two re-branded entitles – Rainbow Auckland and Rainbow NZ Charitable Trust.
In unity there is strength, and both organisations can continue to leverage each other’s skills and contacts. Each organisation has a unique purpose but a common history including many of the original personalities who are well connected both in the business world and the wider LGBTI+ community throughout NZ.
Q | What are your hopes for the future of Rainbow Auckland and the wider community?
A | It’s great to see the recent re-energising of Rainbow Auckland, led by a fresh young Executive. The monthly Mixer event is again vibrant and interesting, and it would be good to build on that with more new initiatives and events. Adding to the business membership value proposition could help increase that category and also rebuild the financial base, but I know as well as anyone that it’s all a lot of work to ask of a voluntary Executive, and it does take time.
Involving more women has always been challenging and takes focus. It’s great to see the Executive starting to engage directly with Rainbow Tick corporates to encourage more involvement from professional women, including encouraging more women to apply for positions on the Executive.
Engagement with Rainbow Youth and their older membership to create a bridge to Rainbow Auckland and a pipeline of talent and ideas for the future would be another positive.
Q | Finally, would you recommend LGBTI professional to join up to Rainbow Auckland? and what benefits would you say are most valuable to them should they join?
A | Rainbow Auckland has a long legacy of supporting the LGBTI+ community, everyone has a place and it’s like a family to me.
I’ve seen a lot of change over the decades and mostly for the better, with a more integrated LGBTI+ community these days. The irony though is that the rainbow community is now (generally) so well accepted in mainstream society that it sometimes seems that the young generation doesn’t need their LGBTI+ family as much as in the past.
This isn’t unique to NZ of course, the loss of LGBTI+ clubs, bars & venues is a global phenomenon. I think it’s a huge shame. Yes we expect full acceptance and respect BUT we are still the chosen ones and the most fabulous, so we do need to support each other and our identities. Rainbow Auckland is in a unique position to deliver on this and help keep our community together. I met all my most special friends via GABA, and I’d be sad to think future generations could miss out on that. Rainbow Auckland is still fun and it’s still relevant – support those who support us.
You can join Rainbow Auckland by following this link!