If they could turn back time: Advice car industry leaders would give themselves when starting out in business

Time 1 year ago

Winding back the clock to cure all those mistakes made earlier in life is a superpower many would like.

But what if you could go back in time and give yourself some advice when starting your first business?

Well, that’s the question we often ask our Car Dealer Live guests and their answers are always interesting – but more often than not, brutally honest.

Here, we’ve rounded up the best answers to ‘If you could go back in time to when you were starting your business and give yourself one piece of advice, what would it be?’

I should have brought technology in-house sooner

Andy Alderson, Vanarama CEO

We took our technology in-house in 2017 and I should have done that five years earlier. The advances we have made in the last three years have been pretty huge; I should have focused on that earlier – the clues were there. Also, I should have brought in a bigger top team sooner. I’ve done pretty much all the roles in the business, but because I was so focused on sales and marketing – which is where my key strengths are – I didn’t pay enough attention to the other areas.

Have a mentor

Peter Quinn, Emerald House of Cars CEO

My advice? Hold on tight! Actually, if I had known a lot more or had a mentor in the business, we would have got a lot further faster. In the last seven years I’ve become a much better leader and problem-solver. But would I go back and do it all again knowing what I know now? I’m not actually sure. This is a very difficult industry to come in and do a good job – you’re selling high-value items that will go wrong at some point. It’s hard keeping customers’ and staff plates all spinning at once.


Don’t sweat the small stuff

Tony Roberts, Horizon Magna Motor Group CEO

Somebody once told me that if you’re the same man at 50 that you are at 20, you’d wasted 30 years. So I would say don’t sweat the small stuff and remember to talk to your people.

Don’t rush decisions

Anton Khan, SW Car Supermarket CEO and chairman

Don’t rush things when making decisions. When I started my business I was just over 20 years old. I made some bad decisions and you learn from them. I’ve made plenty of good decisions but if I could go back it would be that – don’t rush decisions.

Tell the truth

Sheikh Amari, Amari Supercars GB CEO

Tell the truth, be honest and have good intentions. Buy the right cars and present them properly. These are just a few key things and if anyone does that they’ll have no worries – customers will buy.

Treat people like people

Tom Blackmore, Divine Automotive owner

Know your audience and know who you’re dealing with. I’m a normal person and I work with normal people so just treat people like people – some people take life too seriously. Smile and do the job.

Get real experience

Scott Sibley, Redgate Lodge owner

If I went right back it would probably be stay at school more! I didn’t get any experience in the motor trade before I came into it and I have made some mistakes. In the motor trade in the north-east, a lot of things like help and advice don’t get shared – it’s quite a tight industry. My advice is to work at a main dealer or a few years at an independent – I didn’t do that and if I had I would have got on a lot faster.

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James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer.

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