I recently talked with my Bank Manager, naturally a very important person for us. After we had talked about us, we talked about the changes in his industry and in ours. And he explained the revolution in retail banking, and especially in banking for small businesses, over the past fifteen years or so.

At the start the banks’ main focus was on pure short-term profit. The advent of call centres and of Internet banking meant the personal touch was no longer necessary. So people were moved around very quickly, promotions were often rapid and talent was sought in every other sector of the economy to boost the banking talent pool.

And the customer became a number. I remember his frustration, as he couldn’t get close to his customers. Equally customer loyalty wasn’t valued so we got much better deals by moving, first away and then back.

He felt that banks had forgotten that banking wasn’t just about numbers, it was about people. About ten years ago, after the crash, Business Bank Managers took back control of local areas. And they were kept in those areas for a time, developing local relationships, understanding their customers properly.

But then internet banking technology got better, and more relied upon.  And then it was the customer who took the lead, deciding that it was quicker to go on line than to phone. It was faster to rely on a machine driven decision than to wait for a human.

So now there are fewer business banking teams, covering more people.  And banking has moved out of branches, less cash, fewer cheques, and is carried out more remotely. And branches are closing.

Banking is a huge business and its model has changed several times since the start of this century. I am not sure automotive retailing has changed much in that time, but it’s about to.

You can bank on it.

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Understand that in interview situations, as in any other form of communication, when you are asked a question what is genuinely required is an honest response.

Don’t spend your time worrying about “interview technique” or second guessing your interviewer, telling them what they want to hear. Do that very well and they will end up employing the wrong person, do it badly and they will simply be put off you from the start.

Genuine employers with real career opportunities will respect far more those that handle well the unpleasant truth (maybe you were sacked by making a really silly mistake that you would never repeat, or maybe you failed all your A ‘Levels because you hated your school and were in with the wrong group of friends) than somebody who lies or deliberately misleads to hide the truth.

Most interviewers realise that people have problems with their careers and their lives. But what we look for in capable Managers are people who recognise problems, who handle them and deal with them logically and effectively. What we are not looking for are people who refuse to acknowledge that problems exist and try and sweep them under the carpet.

So next time you are in an interview situation, beware of the bull. Talk straight, admit your mistakes and show how you dealt with them positively and you will impress.

You will certainly impress far more than those who tell you they have so much talent that it is difficult to understand why they were not Prime Minister by the age of 35.

But then I have never met Pitt the Younger.

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THIS WEEK

Whenever I start to write this newsletter, I always dial into the Financial Times for inspiration. They generally carry the most up-to-date news and articles about the automotive industry. None more so than this week.
To begin with, everybody is talking about the fall in sales in China. October is down 12% year on year. And while we have suffered similar drops in past years in the UK, one month of China’s sales equals approximately one year of UK sales. So it’s effect on the global market is massive. Last year they sold 28.8 million units. A pathetic sales penetration in the face of 1.5 billion inhabitants I will admit, but still very significant, and one that worries many European manufacturers, especially the Germans, who have up until now done extremely well over there.
Their second headline “Brexit isn’t the UK car industry’s biggest problem” is very appropriate. And in fact it ties in well with the launch of a new service called Turo which was announced in AM-online today. Because the gist of the FT article is that young urban dwellers are just not into car ownership any more, and consequently car sales are going to fall off a cliff over the next few years. Well Turo claims to have launched the “Airbnb of cars”. They claim that the average car spends just 9 hours a week being driven, sitting idle for the remaining 159. And if we could only rent the thing out for a fair proportion of those we could earn, on average, £6000 a year. And I am guessing, we could take another seven or eight cars off the road. They claim to have sorted out insurance issues and the technology platform, which is good news for car owners, consumers and the green lobby, but not great for car manufacturers. I suspect that many of us looked sceptically at Uber, Airbnb and even Amazon when they launched. Who knows how Turo will do, because we take the others very seriously now.
Their final headline highlights the new chairman of Tesla. The person who will finally rein  in their headstrong chief executive, Elon Musk. It has to be said that many are sceptical that Robyn Denholm will have the necessary toughness and authority to control her charge. Others, however, say that she has managed it successfully elsewhere, especially in the telecoms industry from where she originates. You have to say that the company needs it, and in fact the appointment of the chairman was at the insistence of the US authorities after recent controversies over their share price and production figures. But whatever the outcome, Tesla is here to stay, like many of the other new big players on the world stage.
Have a great weekend, at least you won’t be woken by fireworks this week.
THIS WEEK’S JOBS

Here are some jobs from the past ten days. Check these out and see if there is anything tempting. Click on the link to apply immediately through our site. The situation is changing the whole time and if any link refuses to work, it is probably because it has already been filled and removed. Check out all our jobs at on our Jobs Page
Latest Jobs
QUOTE OF THE WEEK

The aging process has you firmly in its grasp if you never get the urge to throw a snowball.
Doug Larson
Anybody can win unless there happens to be a second entry.
George Ade (1866 – 1944)
The older I grow, the less important the comma becomes. Let the reader catch his own breath.
Elizabeth Clarkson Zwart
You know that children are growing up when they start asking questions that have answers.
John J. Plomp

Building a career is not for everybody, but we all have different priorities. For those that are very career minded many want to be in control from the start.  Moving up the ladder naturally involves promotion, taking the next step towards the top of your profession.

The problem is that with today’s flat structures there are far fewer vacancies in retail than willing volunteers to fill them.  So instead of the lottery of career progression “it could be you”, make absolutely certain you are the next in line.

If you study the most successful people in your company, or the very successful people within your industry, then you realise it probably isn’t luck.  They are the sort of people who were always destined for the top because they make things happen.

Building a career is a bit like a round of golf.  It is a mixture of good planning and skill and plain old luck. But you know that the very best will ride their luck and will always be better than the average. And not just because they are better players, but because they have the skill and mindset to put things right when they go wrong.

The market used to place much more premium on employees who were loyal and who learned their trade over a period of time.  Today the market is much more results orientated and just by sitting in an organisation will not guarantee promotion.

So instead of waiting for your dream vacancy to appear, you need to make something happen for yourself.

What will that be?

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Sitting where we are, in the middle, we can tell that it is a difficult automotive market.

You get to know the signs – sales managers need to replace key staff quickly, sales staff like to “keep their options open”, senior directors tell you it could be a good time to develop their careers.  Oh, and the honest ones tell you it is hard work.

But there are bright spots, regionally, by franchise, by department.  As a rule though, we know the market is tough. Falling production and falling sales, Brexit, diesel dying – all are conspiring to make people nervous.

And nervous people make bad decisions, or at least different decisions to the ones they make in good times. Which is my message this week – to quote The Hitchikers Guide to The Galaxy “Don’t Panic!”.

Or rather don’t throw away all the good practices you have learnt in rather more benign times, especially when it comes to recruitment.  Because the mistakes you make in haste and under pressure now will only come back to haunt you, and in today’s litigious environment they could cost you a lot.

Take these examples of panic measures from the past couple of weeks, both from reputable, well respected employers.  A manager needed a service advisor quickly, meets a young candidate from a stable background and offers the job almost on the spot, he confirms with an offer letter.  

As soon as notice has been handed in the contract is issued, asking him to break his current contract of a month’s notice and start within a week.  It is made clear that if he cannot agree the offer will be withdrawn.

Another client needs a manger and briefs us on a basic salary – let us say of £50,000.  We put up several candidates, but one in particular we know is strong and emphasise that he is only interested if the offer is indeed the full 50.  Long process, lots of meetings and a call is made to this candidate – would he consider £35-40,000?

You and I know the answer, something unprintable followed by “Why have I wasted the last 3 weeks?”.  The client relents, and offers the full package. Except by now the candidate has lost interest and trust.

In both cases the recruitment was unsuccessful and left both parties feeling aggrieved.  The employers were upset because they felt they had offered what was required and had been rejected – the candidates because they knew there had an attempt to “tuck them up”.

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“I thought it would be easier to look for a new job with time on my hands, so I resigned”

“We had a major policy disagreement, so I resigned”

“I am not prepared to discuss the reasons for leaving as I will not betray my old employer’s confidentiality”

“They discovered that I was looking for another job and sacked me”

Many recruitment consultants, HR Managers and regular interviewers will be smiling at the above. We have heard them all a hundred times and will them again just as often. Sometimes they are true, but you had better be ready to prove it.

Most candidates have nothing to hide, they answer our questions candidly and frankly. With such people we generally have very productive and thoroughly enjoyable meetings, and genuinely feel that we are able to help.

The problem comes with a small percentage who feel that they can bluff their way through any meeting by giving bland and, in their mind, original answers to questions which they would rather you hadn’t asked.

Over the years I have met and interviewed thousands of candidates. During that time I have heard every excuse for dodging a question and the bluffers simply do not impress, they irritate and waste your time. Not only do they waste our time they waste our clients if we put them in front of them.

As a result, we rarely do.

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Lessons learnt in sport, it is a results orientated business after all, can generally translate quite well into business.

For example, Team Sky cycling, and indeed the British Olympic team, have worked on continual improvement for many years. Small incremental gains that put together as a whole give their team a significant advantage. Very transferable.

The concept of team in football, or rugby, the idea of defined, clear roles. The idea of a group of people walking working together towards a common goal. All of these things learnt in sport translate well into business.

And what about lessons learnt in business? I heard the other day that a number of coaches, in this case in rugby, were looking at the way business itself recruits. It was not just enough for them to study athletic performance, fitness levels, playing record. They wanted to look at decision-making, especially under pressure. And to this they were turning to personality profiling.

Now my experience of recruitment in business is mixed. Some companies do it really well, some continue to do it appallingly. In addition the use of personality profiling can, at times, be questionable. Not because the idea of a personality profile is wrong, it is just that candidates can learn how to answer them the way that pleases an audience, and that some tests are way better than others, especially in recruitment terms.

So I wondered really whether personality profiling was the best way to watch people under pressure. After all, the selection process itself is surely pressure enough. Watch people’s decision-making in that environment and it should give you a good idea of how they will cope in a tight game. A game when everything is on the line, just like during the selection process.

I have no idea whether recruitment in sport will change, it will be interesting to see how this is adopted long-term, and whether the ideas stick.

But you cannot deny that it is a two-way street – sport and business are very similar.

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THIS WEEK

One of the biggest challenges facing dealers today is WLTP. But if you read AM-online this week, that will pale into insignificance compared to Brexit. Some, like Robert Forrester, CEO of Vertu, are quite sanguine about the problems – “The sun will still come up the next morning” and liken it to the hysteria surrounding the millennium bug. Others, on the other hand, are fearful of a no deal scenario, they reckon it will add 10-15% to the cost of a car and put thousands of suppliers out of business. The bad news is that the government only has a few months to sort it out, the good news is that we only have a few months to find out what’s going to happen.
And we only have a couple of months left in 2018. Which I am certain will come as a relief to a few people, not least Pendragon. Their report on Q3 was as downbeat as anything else this year, as revenues slipped a further 7.2%. Blaming most of it on WLTP, Trevor Finn nevertheless predicts that the rest of the year is going to remain challenging. He was encouraged, however, by used-car performance. And talking around the industry, it is clear that the lack of new car supply has forced a spike in demand for used, especially in fashionable franchises. However, this still makes used-car trading difficult, as you rarely outperform the market in terms of margin, unless you have the guts foresight to buy forward and stockpile used cars. And anyone in this business will tell you that is a very risky strategy. Predicting full-year 2018 profits of around £50 million, 2019 looks like it will be a crunch year for the group. Their move away from premium franchises means that a reliance on used cars will exaggerate any miscalculations in that sector.
If a continuing decline in the UK retail market was predictable, I bet many of you wished you had bought Tesla shares at the beginning of the week. Reporting their first quarterly profit in car manufacturing since they began, a healthy $377 million, meant their shares shot up by 11%. So I predict that Elon Musk, now chairman and no longer CEO, is not missing that extra bit of salary too much. And he is hopefully looking forward to continued growth for the rest of this year and into next. No WLTP considerations for electric vehicles.
Have a great weekend, winter is coming.
THIS WEEK’S JOBS

Here are some jobs from the past ten days. Check these out and see if there is anything tempting. Click on the link to apply immediately through our site. The situation is changing the whole time and if any link refuses to work, it is probably because it has already been filled and removed. Check out all our jobs at on our Jobs Page
Latest Jobs
QUOTE OF THE WEEK

The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards.
Arthur Koestler (1905 – 1983)
An opinion should be the result of thought, not a substitute for it.
Jef Mallett, Frazz, 04-04-07
No one has ever had an idea in a dress suit.
Sir Frederick G. Banting (1891 – 1941)
Making duplicate copies and computer printouts of things no one wanted even one of in the first place is giving America a new sense of purpose.
Andy Rooney (1919 – )

I am all for short and sweet, especially where CVs are concerned. The more impact you can make the better as far as I’m concerned. But you can take it too far.

Take the CV we received yesterday. I have just done a word count – 122 words! And if you take out the tags the gentleman added at the bottom, like “auctioneer, sales, commission etc”, it comes down to 108 words. And some of that is his address and interests.

While you do not want to bore your prospective readership, if the only thing you can say about your career (and his was over 30 years long) is about 60 words, then you either not got much to say and shout about, or you can’t be bothered. In either case you are not going to impress an employer.

I suspect this CV was cut-and-paste from a LinkedIn profile. And even on LinkedIn I would say that 100 words was way too short. Remember, your CV should be neatly laid out, well ordered and easy to read. But it should contain some content.

For example, I have no idea how many people this gentleman has managed, the sorts of volumes his dealerships were responsible for, even the franchises involved. These are basic bits of information that are essential for any employer to make a decision about you. It would also be nice to know if he had been consistently profitable over the years, if he had hit targets, if he had grown any of his businesses.

Less information is generally good, no information is useless.

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I ran a blog recently about difficult questions in interview. You know the type, they have no right or wrong answer but they make you think. Things like “How many windows are there in London?” or “How many cats are there in Cornwall?”

Unless you are amazingly lucky, and you have just read the stats the night before, you’re going to have to work it out or say “I have no clue”, which is not the answer they are looking for.

Well it turns out, according to a study in Applied Psychology, that the use of such questions actually provides no useful feedback. In fact they are absolutely useless in deciding whether somebody is right for your job or not.

But interestingly, they say much about the interviewer themselves. So they are a useful guide for applicants, because such interviewers tend to be control freaks, and potentially psychopaths. At best narcissists and sadists. In other words they love to see people squirm in discomfort trying to work out how best to answer an impossible question.

So you have been warned. Such gimmicks have very little place in the interview process and provide almost no useful information – learn how to interview properly and you will get much better results.

But they do have their uses, they do say that you are not a great person to work for.

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