Ronnie Gillman – an independent retail automotive trainer and coach – talks to us about doing more with less, how coaching skills stay with you for life and an obsession with cake!
What were your first experiences of the automotive industry?
What struck me was how hard everyone worked. The industry was open to anyone who had a strong work ethic and the ability to get on well with customers; you could achieve anything if you put your mind to it. Whilst it was a busy environment, I do remember having the time to spend with customers and many became friends. At our dealership we worked hard, played hard and spent most of the day laughing (and smoking!).
How has it changed since then?
In many ways it hasn’t! The automotive industry is still open to anyone who is looking for an opportunity, no matter your experience or education. If you have the right attitude then there are no limits. About 10 years ago I facilitated a meeting at a dealer and a member of staff attended from every department. The valeter had a degree in marketing, but had no work experience since leaving university, so he decided to work his way up – just one of many inspiring people I’ve met along the way.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing automotive retailers right now?
Right now – doing more with less. All whilst prioritising their employee’s wellbeing and delivering an outstanding customer experience.
I’ve never been more impressed at the resilience of retailers than I have in 2020. There are experienced retailers and teams out there who are resourceful and will find a way forward to meet the challenges they face today; driving the digital experience, managing costs, developing the customer journey, to name but a few.
What do you think are the biggest opportunities for automotive retailers right now?
I think the biggest opportunity is to develop leadership and management skills to your next level. Experience has shown me that cared for and engaged employees deliver a better customer experience, which in turn leads to business performance.
People are facing some of the biggest challenges in their lifetime. Isolation, loss, anxiety, uncertainty and the whole nation have probably experienced, some, or all of those this year. It’s a privilege to lead others, and updating those skills should be a lifelong quest so we can support them to be at their best.
How do you help automotive retailers?
I work alongside retailers to develop their business performance, using my skills in coaching, mentoring and training to complement their skills and tackle the business challenge together. Maybe they have staff who need to acquire new knowledge, and I can develop bespoke training, or a new manager who would benefit from support to develop their management style and business process and would benefit from coaching and mentoring.
I join them on their journey and take the time to understand what they know about their business, by spending time with the team and becoming an extra member of the team for that day or during the project. I have a particular passion for customer experience which I believe is at the heart of the business. It is of course linked to every aspect of an automotive operation and often leads to a deeper understanding of people in general – great life skills!
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
It’s so rewarding to work alongside people and see them achieve business objectives and develop personally too. I coached a Business Manager a few years ago over a period of 8 months and he sent me a text on the last day saying “I knew coaching could help me become a better manager but I didn’t know it would make me a better Father”. It was his ability to be open to the development and change that was the greatest success, but I felt so happy that our work together impacted his life in this way.
What excited you most about the chance to join Hub365?
Would it be predictable at this point if I said “people”?! The opportunity to collaborate, share and learn with people I’ve either worked with or admired during my own automotive career was too good to miss. Our collective experience and passion for automotive brings a resource to retailers, but most importantly it really does deliver a bespoke service.
What’s the most interesting fact about you?
I’m obsessed with cake – making it and eating it! Growing up in a family of talented artists I could barely draw a recognisable stick man, but I’ve always loved baking and found my creative outlet in decorating cakes. I put aside a whole day just before my children’s birthdays to make their cake request!
My latest creations are a banana illusion cake and a basketball cake in a hoop!