John O’Hanlon on managing Daksh Gupta, building car dealer groups and his secret to success

  • Waylands Automotive CEO talks to the Car Dealer Inspiring Leaders Podcast
  • He speaks about building his business and helping to sell Ridgeway for £107m
  • He also chats about managing his great friend Daksh Gupta and why he thinks the motor trade is a great place to work

Time 9:57 am, August 30, 2023

Waylands Automotive boss John O’Hanlon has spoken about his career and how he learnt bringing great people into your business – like Daksh Gupta – is critical to success.

In our latest Car Dealer Inspiring Leaders Podcast, sponsored by Mann Island Finance, O’Hanlon speaks at length about how he built car dealer group Ridgeway, and laterally Waylands, into respected and profitable businesses.

While he was at Ridgeway, O’Hanlon hired Gupta who would go on to become a great friend. Gupta eventually orchestrated the listed Marshall Motor Group business buying his former employer for £107m when he took over as CEO.

‘Daksh was a phenomenon,’ says O’Hanlon.

‘Sometimes managers need harder, closer management, sometimes you just have to point them to where you want to be and Daksh didn’t need to learn much from me.

‘I learned a lot from watching him. We were lucky to take him on. He was that turbo, but you could tell he was bigger than we were.

‘Managing people is about understanding your team, about knowing when to push and when to just back off and just check in regularly with them.’

Gupta left his role as CEO of Marshall Motor Group in May last year after the listed dealer group was sold to Constellation in a £325m deal. Gupta and his board did not know the deal was taking place.

Many in the motor trade think it’s only a matter of time before Gupta returns to the industry.

On the Podcast, O’Hanlon talks about the £107m sale of Ridgeway to Marshalls and says he ‘applauds’ Daksh for pushing it through.

‘We got the offer for over £100m and at that point David [Newman] said that looked like the number for him,’ O’Hanlon recalls.

‘I couldn’t disagree, you know, that is life changing. That’s not just generational wealth – that’s multi generational wealth.’

O’Hanlon is the second boss to appear on the Car Dealer Inspiring Leaders podcast series which features some of the greatest leaders in the motor trade. Part one saw the Swansway Group’s Smyth brothers talk about their success story.

The Podcast is available on all good Podcast platforms and the recording is also published as a video on YouTube too, which you can watch at the top of this page.

O’Hanlon speaks about building Ridgeway, a firm he joined in 1998 as a financial controller. He worked his way up to brand director and then to CEO in 2007. 

As someone who has worked his way up through a car dealership business he believes anyone can aspire to being the boss.

‘Start off by making sure you’re growing and being pushed in your department,’ he advises aspiring leaders.

‘And then it’s about doing more than one site. The guys that do go further are the ones that can do more than one because that’s the trick – doing two, three sites. If you can do three sites than you’re gonna have a great career.’

After the Ridgeway sale in 2016, O’Hanlon took a year out before starting Waylands Automotive with a partnership with Volvo Cars.

He said ‘partnering with great brands’ has been critical to his success over the years and that the company’s ‘ambition is supported with values’.

These days he represents Volvo, Kia, MG and Polestar with sites in Newbury, Oxford, Bristol, Reading and Swindon.

Last year the firm increased profits by nearly 15 per cent, making £3.1m before tax on revenues of £124.6m.

O’Hanlon explains in the Podcast why he decided to start again after his payday from Ridgeway.

He said: ‘I don’t have many hobbies. So I couldn’t play golf. I was 47,48 and I knew a lot of people – I did have a reputation. So, I think from that perspective, you feel like if there was ever a time that we’re going to go back in and do it it was then.

‘It was probably four or five months where I wasn’t really doing a lot. You know, you start planning, you look for the opportunities, opportunities come and go. And then you find the one that you want to do. And that was with Volvo and Reading in November 2017.’

You can hear O’Hanlon’s advice for setting up a car dealership and why he believes the industry is a great place to work in the full Podcast. Listen now on Spotify or Apple Podcasts, or watch the video on YouTube.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

More stories...

Heycar Advert
Server 108