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What’s on the mind of an automotive CEO in 2020?
Chief Executive Neil Williamson shared his thoughts about the year ahead and how as we have introduced a new vision across the Group to ensure our teams continue to thrive.
“This is my third CEO role and I don’t think there has ever been a more pertinent or exciting time to be in my role in the automotive industry. Why’s that? Because there has never been so much change and opportunity.
“I spend a lot of time out on the road talking and listening to colleagues, hearing their ideas, views and concerns, as well as speaking with thought-leaders outside our business. And while it’s necessary to have one eye on the future, it’s also important not to get too distracted by it all and instead focus on the here and now. As CEO I believe it’s my job to help our teams control and navigate what’s within our influence.
“So, here’s a bit of insight into the top four things I’m thinking about right now as we go into a new year with a new business strategy to launch.”
1. Embrace the change and collaborate to find solutions.
We can’t know what the future will throw at us but the rate of technological advancement means that the fastest way for an industry to fail is to stand still. We need to be ready for the future of mobility and cooperation between organisations will be key. Fearing change – or simply not understanding it – won’t protect an organisation against the changing needs and motivations of our customers or employees.
And I don’t believe that one organisation has all the answers. We’re certainly taking more and more of a collaborative approach as we review our business strategy, looking at where we may need partners in our ecosystem to help deliver change.
2. Look at what’s happening outside the industry for inspiration
The sands of customer expectation are shifting around us. Everywhere customers and businesses interact, those interactions are being subverted. At every touchpoint – browsing, buying, collecting and servicing, just for starters – car buyers now have not only the option to shop elsewhere but the ability to shop in an entirely different way.
So, disruption in the customer experience is no longer about what we do as an industry, but the experiences customers are receiving elsewhere. Giving our customers the types of interactions they want is a real challenge – streamlined, more efficient processes across the new, more nebulous journey will help us meet it.
3. Approach transformation in a scalable way to take everyone on the journey
As a business representing multiple luxury and premium brands across locations geographically spread out, we’ve got a lot of work to do to build stronger foundations in our digital infrastructure to help prepare for future changes. Part of this is streamlining the tech stack down from over 170 disparate systems. In doing this, some of the changes will impact on the way we deliver experiences to customers, some will change the way our colleagues work but also how we integrate with the systems and processes provided by our OEM partners.
I’ve learnt that trying new approaches can have varying results in terms of business impact and return on investment. So, what’s important for me is that we test, learn and refine in our approach to ensure we’re taking the 3,000+ colleagues on the journey with us and that it’s the right thing to do.
4. Don’t lose sight of the here and now.
With one eye on the future, the other is firmly focused on what’s right in front of us; and there is plenty to be dealing with. I don’t get too bogged down in the news that surrounds our industry or the current political climate.
Instead what I see is there’s still a latent demand where we are today and whilst we have seen a decline in the industry, it still makes us one of the largest automotive markets in the world. On top of that, we also have other income streams to focus on such as used cars, servicing and helping customers keep their cars on the road when they need fixing.