Pretoria - Bidvest McCarthy Audi Group Divisional Executive, Phillip Clough deploys the analogy of an athletic race to underscore that success is earned, that it is intentional and that it is planned for. It is all about attaining your personal best – and the rest will take care of itself, he states.
Pretoria News met Phillip and his management team in the immediate aftermath of their runaway success at the Audi Silver Arrow Awards in Johannesburg on the evening of May 23. The dealership and its management personnel proudly took top honours in various award categories, producing a sterling performance on the awards night that will live long in their memory.
Audi Centre Arcadia and its management personnel, who fall under the Bidvest McCarthy Audi Group, re-wrote the Audi Silver Arrow Awards book. Their
winning streak was as follows:
- Macro Dealer Group of the Year Bidvest McCarthy Audi
- Dealer of the Year Audi Centre Arcadia
- Dealer Principal of the Year (1 st place in Category 1) – Phillip Clough
- New Vehicle Sales Manager Award (1 st place in Category 1) – Paul Spruyt
- Pre-owned Sales Manager Award (1 st place in Category 1) – Jean Henderson
- Service Manager Award (1 st place in Category 1) – Garrett Wood
- Parts & Accessories Manager Award (2 nd place) – Jason Victor
- Financial Services Award (2 nd place) – Musa Soko
“What the guys achieved was unprecedented,” says Phillip Clough, humbly wearing his two hats – that of Divisional Executive for the Bidvest McCarthy Audi Group and Dealer Principal for Audi Centre Arcadia – from behind the boardroom table.
As Divisional Executive for the Bidvest McCarthy Audi Group, Phillip has six dealerships under his leadership: Audi Centre Arcadia, Audi Centre Durban, Audi Centre Menlyn, Audi Centre Middelburg, Audi Centre West Rand and Audi Pre owned Wonderboom.
In contextualising Audi Centre Arcadia’s huge success at the Audi Silver Arrow Awards, Phillip emphasises the contribution that all four pillars of the dealership – new car sales, pre-owned car sales, service and parts & accessories – make to its overall achievements. Each department plays a vital role in the smooth running and coherence of the business, which in a sense, is more than the sum of its parts.
“The collective result was winning the Audi Dealer of the Year Award,” notes Phillip, adding: “I do not see it as my award. I received it on behalf of the 60 other people who work here.”
In typical understated fashion, Phillip contends that it was a complete team effort and that everyone who works at Audi Centre Arcadia played a role in the dealership’s achievements.
Putting the customer first
“We have achieved our goals through our people, not at the expense of people,” states Phillip. “One of the [non-negotiable] criteria is customer service. We place a massive premium on that. We fully buy into that principle and we’ve got to look after our customers,” contends Phillip, who firmly believes that repeat custom is pivotal to the growth of a business.
“We’re kind to our people, but tough on results,” says Service Manager, Garrett Wood. He adds that the Dealer Principal is always encouraging staff and constantly monitoring the KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). This ensures that customers get the best quality as any complaints are attended to quickly as possible and targets are focused on to ensure profitability.
In order to fulfill this customer-first pledge, weekly meetings are held to analyse customer feedback, to take stock and focus on priorities. This tradition partly explains the success that was present for Audi Centre Arcadia at the Audi Silver Arrow Awards evening.
Indeed, team spirit is the dynamic that prevails at Audi Centre Arcadia as customers and regular visitors to the dealership will attest. That feeling of family, of encouraging each and every member to do their best and putting heads together to strategise, is what keeps the Audi Centre Arcadia engine ticking over.
Strategising did not happen in the run up to the Audi Silver Arrow awards evening, it was part of the dealership’s action plan and originated back in early 2016 when the premium market within the automotive industry began to show signs of pressure. Due to the political and economic challenges which faced our country, the automotive industry was also caught in the chaos. “The industry had lost double digit volume…month on month,” Phillip recalls.
Sales were tougher to close out regardless of new products being introduced and it was a clear indication that the following years to come would be a challenging environment to operate in.
As it happened, Audi Centre Arcadia rolled with the punches and spent the rest of the year riding out the storm. They then marked out 2016 as the year of correction, one of realignment, characterised by downscaling and consolidating by “natural attrition”, in the words of the Dealer Principal, in order to steady the business and drive progress.
Drive to overcome challenges paid off
“There’s a cliché that says ‘never miss a good crisis’,” Phillip says with a crafty smile, “In 2017 we decided we had to be on the offensive. Somewhere lay opportunities for them to take advantage of. We had to be positive. There were a lot of sales out there and we
wanted a slice of it. Although there was a lot of struggle in the market, we decided to take on the Silver Arrow awards. We challenged ourselves that each one of us would achieve the criteria set out to win the respective awards. It was focus, focus, focus.”
Participating in these awards, which are named after the ‘Silver Arrow’ racing cars that dominated the racing circuits of Europe in the 1930s when Audi imprinted its indelible mark on motorsport history, were also a way of keeping with Audi’s expectations of what it wanted its dealerships to achieve.
Phillip says going on to the stage to receive the Dealer of the Year award was especially a good feeling this time round as doing that alone in previous years, without the rest of the team, had felt somewhat hollow. “It’s a massive award,” Phillip reiterated, adding that it has eluded lots of people who worked hard over the past year to win it.
If practice makes perfect, then Audi Centre Arcadia possesses plenty of experience. The management structure has a collective experience of almost 80 years. The continual training of staff throughout their time at the dealership, a low staff turnover and the recruitment of the right personnel from the start all form part of the setup that underpins their pedigree as an excellent dealership destined for success.
As Parts and Accessories Manager, Jason Victor says, the four interlacing rings of the Audi brand represents “tonnes of tradition”. The knowledge that one works for a superior brand is enough to drive one to excel. The Audi brand and its supporting “Vorsprung” philosophy is an additional motivator for the team to succeed.
“We’re very goal-driven. The automotive industry is very competitive. We may not be the biggest but we certainly can be the best,” says Pre-owned Sales Manager, Jean Henderson.
As Phillip has it, winning the awards entailed “good old graft” and getting the basics right: “Life is like that; if you just stick to the basics, you’ll be successful most of the time. You just do what you believe to be right and proper.”
The Audi Centre Arcadia team take each and every customer as part of their family and see it as an achievement when they keep the customer happy. “We’ve got a role to play in terms of interaction with the customer. It’s a massive, tall order but we strive for it. That’s where we try to achieve,” observes Phillip.
Beginning last year, the dealership has been publishing a quality hard copy newsletter in tabloid format, a handbook containing possibly everything the customer would want to know regarding new Audi model releases, Audi Centre Arcadia personnel, developments in the various departments of the business and other news.
Audi Centre Arcadia also host monthly awards for people who better their personal best achievements. “Have a goal, a dream, vision and having hope,” Phillips intones, “we spent a lot of time in meetings discussing that.”
Phillip’s anecdote of the fifth best athlete romping to the finishing line well after the front-runners is a salutary one, based as it is on the importance of outperforming oneself. For driving personal progress is the true mark of success – and that is what props up Audi Centre Arcadia’s reputation and underwrites its excellence.