What prompted Greenhous to take on the Ford franchise?
Greenhous has long been a fan of Ford and this centre was local to the group’s core in Shrewsbury but not too close to existing Ford centres.
It’s a large area, stretching around 60 miles north into Snowdonia, 40 miles west to Aberystwyth and 90 miles south to Newquay.
When Greenhous acquired the Newtown outlet it also purchased a pair of cottages that adjoined one end of the dealership. Demolishing these created the space for the new Transit Centre and an extended car park. We have added a commercial ramp and we are upgrading our MoT ramp to enable us to do class 4, 5 and 7 tests.
How are you targeting new customers for sales?
We undertook a number of local marketing exercises to get our name out. We sponsored the Christmas lights in Welshpool and Newtown and we ensured we had a presence at other local events such as the Welshpool Air Show. We also used more traditional marketing methods, such as advertising in the local press.
We always want to play a major role in our local community. For example we sponsor Newtown FC, and a local cricket club. When Greenhous celebrated its 100th anniversary the management asked our staff to suggest local good causes they would like us to invest in. We contributed to a number of them.
How did you integrate new staff?
When Greenhous took over, an event was held at a Newtown hotel, attended by senior staff from Shrewsbury, to introduce everyone to each other. Some of our staff knew about the company, others didn’t. There are people in this area who will travel far into Wales but never cross the border, and therefore will not realise that we are quite a big company.
How does Greenhous handle in-house communication?
Dealer principals and senior managers have regular meetings and one-to-ones with the CEO, but keeping the dealership staff informed is equally vital. I’m very informal for a dealer principal.
I have regular meetings with my management staff but I consider it just as important to go out into the showroom, stand next to one of my staff and just have a chat with them, keeping myself informed across the business.
I like people to consider my office an open door, I want anyone to come in and have a chat, from the valeters to the managers. All the staff here know that no one person is more important than another.
Do you have difficulties recruiting staff?
Our average retention across the group is very high. We had one of our staff retire recently having joined the Welshpool outlet when he was just 16.
Recruiting sales staff was difficult. Ideally you need experience, and there is not a great deal of that in the area. Staff tend to be loyal and stay where they are.
We initially employed two sales executives and a sales manager in the Transit Centre. Finding people with light commercial experience was very difficult and our current two sales executives were previously in car sales. They have been on a steep learning curve. Ford understood that I needed to build the centre from scratch, but we still have targets to meet.
What marketing channels do you use?
We use social media, have an e-marketing team at head office and of course there’s the website, which is very important but I’m remaining with local newspapers for now as this is a traditional environment and we need to build awareness of the centre.
We use email to send out MoT and service reminders, notification of events and campaigns. Our staff appreciate the importance of customer data capture. We currently receive fewer emails than I would like but it’s work in progress. Some of our customers are simply not on email.
How important are fleet sales to the business?
We are getting some fleet work. It’s not massive at present but we are talking to customers and we might not see the results for a couple of years until they need their next vehicles.
We are also tendering for work with Powys Council. The commercial side will be the likely fleet growth area. We have had some small success so far and hopefully that will translate to larger business down the line. We also recognise, however, that there is a significant potential retail market out there and we are not forgetting the agricultural community.
Ford runs an offer scheme with the National Farmers Union, so it’s very important to get out to that market that we are now here.
How’s business and what’s in store for 2017?
We always want more but we are doing well, especially in the Transit Centre where business is picking up. There are no main commercial dealers locally, only used outlets, the new customers previously went to Shrewsbury. So it is important that our business is growing.
It’s difficult to predict future sales. The coming VED changes on 1 April will have an effect. We predict a spike in March and then a slip back in April, so we need to take advantage of the business while it’s there.
We now have something to attract people into the showroom and the existence of our new Transit Centre will help offset any possible difficulties in the market as a whole.
I’m very positive – all the construction work is behind us. We will have been in the district two years in 2017, and word is starting to get out now. I’m very confident that this year we will be able to offer an efficient, customer-friendly one-stop shop.