People Power: The Secret to Success at Lookers

Recent interim results from motor retailer Lookers shows a business very much still on track and continuing to grow successfully in a very competitive marketplace. And while investing in its nation-wide portfolio of sites, with the right brands in the right locations, is a key contributor to the company’s ongoing success, it’s investment in people and the strong leadership of its much celebrated CEO Andy Bruce that have made a real difference.

Last month saw the Manchester headquartered retailer post an impressive set of interim results for the first half of 2017, defying much of the current negativity surrounding some areas of the wider economy.

The retailer saw strong business growth across new and used car sales, as well as aftersales, with adjusted Profits Before Tax increasing by 18% and revenues up by 11% on a continuing business basis.


While market forces will always be an ever present factor, Lookers has been able to continue its upward trajectory by investing in the right areas, helping it record an impressive seven years of successive growth.  A happy accident this definitely isn’t. The strategy of the ‘Rights Brands, in the Right Locations’ is certainly paying dividends. Today Lookers delivers over 210,000 vehicles a year to its customers from a national network of 157 motor retail outlets.

So, what has been the Lookers secret? It’s simple really. It’s people.

Backing Apprenticeships

One of these key areas of investment is the recruitment of technical apprentices. While many technical professions struggle to find the right talent, Lookers has been keen to ensure that its customers continue to receive the very best repair and maintenance support, all carried out by world class technicians that come manufacturer trained and ready to take on the most complex of motoring malfunctions.

Lookers’ apprenticeship intake in 2016 totalled 78, all of which are working across the retailer’s strong dealership network to complete their training, indoctrinate themselves in the culture of their prospective brands and prepare themselves for a successful career in the motor industry.

It’s a programme that has already caught the imagination of aspiring technicians, with this year’s intake expected to more than double to over 160 between September and October this year, a number that Lookers expects to increase further as the programme gains momentum and apprenticeships continue to play an important part in the UK’s employment agenda.

Recent figures show that between 2015-16 there were 509,400 new apprenticeships in England, more than 9,500 more than the previous year. And while many may not expect many of those to be female motor technicians, Lookers is already defying perceived gender stereotypes by having seven on their books. One of which is Rebecca Brown who is based at Lookers Vauxhall Selly Oak, Birmingham.

Rebecca, who will soon be entering the second year of her apprenticeship, said: “I’ve loved my first year as an apprentice at LookersVauxhall. Everybody has been so helpful and made me feel instantly part of the team. I think it’s great that there are more women wanting to get into the motor industry as it’s incredibly rewarding and has already given me a lot of confidence and encouragement to challenge myself in other areas of my life.”

Benefits

As well as training its people on the ground, whether that be through the recruitment of apprentices, the roll out of its industry approved sales courses or the company-wide VESPA programme, the Lookers benefits package has also been well received by its people, helping to retain and attract the right talent in equal measure.

It’s a package that has been enhanced recently by the addition of critical illness cover, enhanced holiday entitlement and even a full year’s, fully paid, maternity leave, something that was previously unheard of in the motor industry. It’s these benefits that also helped Lookers to receive certification by the Top Employers Institute, a badge it now wears with honour.

Lookers’ decision to increase maternity entitlement is also helping it create a truly diverse and gender balanced workforce, an ambition that is backed up by the group’s aim to have 20% of its senior management team represented by women as part of the 2020 Women on Boards agenda.

 

The Man at the Top

While ensuring that it’s people are happy and rewarded for success are vital to the success of Lookers, the group also takes immense pride in its strong leadership.

It’s leading by example that recently saw Lookers CEO Andy Bruce coming 12th in the Glassdoor Highest Rated CEOs in the UK for 2017, a placing that put him ahead of  Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Lloyd Blankfein (Goldman Sachs) and Paul Polman (Unilever).Impressive company indeed.

The placing comes hot on the heels of his CEO of the Year award at the Motor Trader Industry Awards 2016, the same year thatLookers won the Dealer Group of the Year Award.

And while he’s proud of his achievements at the helm of one of the country’s biggest retailers, Andy is keen to stress that it’s the peopleand teams around him that have really helped to keep the company’s wheels turning as it continues its impressive growth.

On being ranked so highly, Andy said: “I actually think it’s more a reflection of the culture of the business than me as an individual. That culture, and the strategy that goes along with it, is the product of a much wider senior management team as well as the many people within the business that have shown such enthusiasm in adopting it into their day to day roles. I think the rating for the CEO really applies to them.

“We ran a series of events across the business with the theme of ‘succeeding together’, by working with our people, commercial partners and motor manufacturers I believe we are meaningful and noticeability different in our marketplace and this is reflected by the way we treat our customers.

“I genuinely believe that it’s the talented people that we have here that have ensured that we’ve continued our pattern of growth andhave protected us from many of the current adverse market pressures that are currently being experienced elsewhere. By investing in skills, whether that’s supporting the next generation of technicians through the apprenticeship programme or improving our sales culture, we are taking control of the future of our business and ensuring that we continue to make the right decisions and give our customers the best service and experience possible. All of this will help us to continue with our growth strategy.”

With a stable management team, the support of over 8,500 Lookers people and continued investment into highly valued apprentices the future of the business looks to be in good hands with Andy Bruce at the helm.