Management and leadership

Sytner Group’s five ways to iron out inefficiencies

Tristan Young, Editorial Director, Auto Retail Network | 09 Dec 2019

Sytner Group’s five ways to iron out inefficiencies

Tristan Young, Editorial Director, Auto Retail Network | 09 Dec 2019

In this article:

Streamlining your operations could make your business more efficient and more profitable, Sytner Group’s CEO, Darren Edwards, gives his five top tips to achieve it


Selling more cars and carrying out more servicing work is all part of running a profitable business. But unless you’re being ruthless in terms of overheads and the way your business operates, all of that initial gross profit from extra sales could be lost.

One of the UK’s largest dealers, Sytner Group, has a long history of improving its efficiency and maximising not only its profitability but also its business acumen, there’s a lot to learn from the group, and here, Darren Edwards, Sytner’s UK CEO shares what he believes are the keys to success.

1.    Devolve to evolve

“We’re quite a devolved organisation. We do have some services that we run centrally, such as contact centres, property and payroll, but we leave many of the back-end operations such as accounting and admin within our dealerships.

“We find that this approach results in stronger dealership management, and we are able to attract and retain a higher calibre of person running and managing each store.

“They like the fact that they’ve got responsibility for making decisions while operating within clear financial parameters.”

2.     Create positive structures

“Each site has the freedom to create the leadership structure it prefers, rather than having to conform to a set model. I know that not every company shares this view, but when you have too much centralisation, you take away intrapreneurship, which is similar in spirit to entrepreneurship but means being creative in your work within in a company.

“Good independent structures also mean that you rarely have to recruit your senior people from outside the group, because you’re building a level of ownership, a sense of innovation and a culture that everybody understands and enjoys. That enables you to promote from within more easily.
“About 75% of all our management appointments are internal. Management turnover is about 10%. At the Head-of-Business level, it’s less than 5%.”

3.    Communicate clearly

“When we hold our annual conference to share best practice, it’s normally about what people are already doing in dealerships, rather than a new idea that we’ve had to support the dealership teams.

“We use a lot of videos to communicate, and we share those on our internal platform, which is similar in format to Instagram. The dealership teams are constantly posting  examples of best practice at the dealership level. I love reading the daily updates because they’re so inspiring.”

4.    Make targets achievable

Edwards has set a 100% overhead absorption target for each dealership, but he’s letting each site work out its own way of hitting that goal.
“We’ve got quite a few dealerships that have achieved or exceeded that target and quite a number that are very close. It has been a dramatic increase in many cases.”

5.    One last thought…

Sytner prides itself on sharing good ideas, and one that seems to work for the larger dealerships is running a 24-hours-a-day shift pattern in aftersales for servicing. “We try to reduce the lead time down to zero, so that we can always take new work in,” Edwards says.

This final idea neatly sums up the advantages of working on your efficiency, just as much as working on boosting your sales. If you’re truly running efficiently, then you’ll always be able to take on more work. It’s a virtuous circle.


Darren Edwards, Sytner Group’s UK CEO, was talking to Tristan Young

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership

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