Here at Inchcape, we employ over 5,000 employees in the UK alone, and each and every person has a vital role to play in our success. Our people are an invaluable part of who we are as a company, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without them; that’s why we’d like you to meet them…
Over the coming months, we’ll be introducing you to some friendly faces who will give you an insight into their roles at Inchcape, and also into their own lives and career journeys.
Our first employee to tell all is Sean Bates, Head of Business at Mercedes-Benz of Stratford-upon-Avon.
How long have you been a Head of Business, Sean?
I’ve been in the role just short of 18 months.
Talk us through your career journey, and how you arrived at your current position with Inchcape.
I’m showing my age a little bit here, but alright. Back in the 1980s, I started out as an Apprentice Technician and then progressed to become a Mercedes-Benz Technician in early 1992 at our Loughborough site. I worked there for about 7 years in total, and worked my way up to Master Technician, as it was known then.
In 1999, Mercedes-Benz restructured their network and re-allocated the Loughborough site to another market area. I moved across to a new site, Mercedes-Benz of Lincoln, and worked there as Workshop Controller before I was promoted to Service Manager two years later. In 2003, we won the award for Mercedes-Benz Dealer of the Year, which was a fantastic team effort, and I was also nominated for Aftersales Manager of the Year.
I left Mercedes-Benz of Lincoln in 2004 when I was headhunted by Inchcape to join Mercedes-Benz of Nottingham as Aftersales Manager, and then some two years later, I joined Ferrari in the same role. I was with Ferrari for 8 years, and in that time I had some amazing experiences and met some great VIP customers that I’m still in contact with today.
I returned to Inchcape for a second time in 2014, and worked as Aftersales Director at Mercedes-Benz of Derby for 3 years before moving to one of our largest sites, Mercedes-Benz of Nottingham, as Aftersales Director. To bring us up to the present day, in April 2018, I was approached by my Divisional Director to become their Head of Business at Mercedes-Benz of Stratford-upon-Avon, which is a position that I have always worked extremely hard to achieve.
I’ve worked in almost every role within the motor industry and the majority of my career has been with Mercedes-Benz, so it’s been great to go full-circle from working as a technician, to running a site and becoming a Head of Business. I’m very passionate about working for the brand, and delivering a good customer experience.
Describe your typical working day.
There are no two days that are the same here, and that’s what I enjoy most. I usually start the day by greeting the team and catching up with the technicians in the workshop, which I believe is really important. The rest of the morning is fairly formatted. We have a historical sales meeting, followed by a daily conference call at 9.30am, where we look at the previous day’s performance, establish what we’ve sold, and plan out our activities for the rest of the week.
Afterwards, it’s time to check to my emails. Usually, I try not to look at my inbox before 10am, simply because if I do, it can be very easy to get side-tracked and I need to focus on my morning meetings first. The rest of the day generally consists of managing the rest of the business. By that, I mean reviewing our stock with my Management team, ensuring our used car ads are up to date, checking our prices against the rest of the market to ensure they’re competitive, and repricing stock accordingly.
This afternoon we’re changing the showroom around, which we do typically every 2 weeks to keep things looking fresh, and to stay up date with current campaigns that we run alongside the manufacturer. We always try and have most of our range on display so that customers can really experience our models.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I like that I’m able to make a real difference. Looking back to how this dealership was when I came, from a financial and a staffing point of view, to where it is now - it’s incredible. Seeing improvements in areas such as Google reviews and customer satisfaction ratings make it all worthwhile. There’s always work to do, and improvements to be made, but it’s just about continuous development. I’m very proud to say we’ve currently got a 100% customer satisfaction rate on new car purchases since the beginning of this year, and that’s all down to having such a strong team here.
In your opinion, what’s the best thing about working in the automotive industry?
It’s the people element that I like the most. I enjoy meeting new people every day, and I also enjoy dealing with existing customers. Some customers have become good friends of mine, and followed me in my career, purchasing cars from the sites I’ve worked at, which is very nice.
I was very keen to get into the automotive industry from a young age, and I’m a great believer in the idea that ‘people deal with people’, which is the essence of this industry. To be honest, I’ve never envisaged myself doing anything else apart from working in the automotive industry - and I’m too old to change my mind now anyway.
How do you help and guide a customer looking to buy a new car?
We usually find that people know what they want before they arrive at the site, but we’re always here to advise and support them. We can help them to fine-tune the smaller details, such as the engine type they want, and individual car spec. There’s definitely a Mercedes model for everyone because now we have models like the A-Class and the B-Class that make the brand so much more accessible. We have a great range of cars here and excellent finance options available, so customers can take home a brand new car at an affordable rate.
With customers, I think it’s all about providing a personal service. As we’re a small dealership, we can really build good relationships here. We genuinely care about the customer and we want them to be happy; I take it quite personally if they aren’t.
As you work in a Mercedes-Benz dealership, what’s your favourite model?
I do like the SUV vehicles; they tick a lot of boxes for me. I currently drive a GLE and it’s ideal. It’s comfortable, quiet, and has plenty of room for the kids. However, I would say my favourite model of all would be the C63 Coupé; it would be perfect to take out for a drive around the country lanes on a Sunday afternoon.
The truth is, Mercedes really don’t make a bad model. Technology is at the forefront of everything they do, and that’s why all of their cars are just fantastic.
If you could have any car in the world, what would it be?
I suppose if I won the lottery at the weekend, I’d buy myself a Ferrari. I think we all had a poster of one on our bedroom wall when we were kids.
And finally, what’s your secret to being a great Head of Business?
I think it helps that I’ve been in the industry for a long time because I’ve gained a lot of experience at a variety of levels. I’m also a big believer in not asking someone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself. We recently had a new sales executive start with us, and he looked over and saw me and said: “I can’t believe the General Manager is cleaning that car”, but the fact is, I’m a doer and I lead by example. Sometimes we all have to muck in, and I’m more than happy to pull my weight. I don’t sit alone in my office for 8 hours a day, I like to be in the showroom with the team so I can be a part of things and see what’s going on.
When it comes to my team, I have a lot of empathy and I think that’s very important as a manager. I’ve been in tears with my staff, and I’ve laughed with my staff; I care about them greatly and more than anything, I just want them to be happy.