In this latest instalment of AM’s ‘8 Questions to…’ Q&A article series Bowker BMW head of business Jonathan Rogan reveals how he loves the variety of life in the car retail sector.
What are the main responsibilities of your role?
My role is to give the business direction so we can continue to grow and be profitable. That’s a wide-ranging job and means whatever is required to make the dealership run smoothly and delight our customers. No two days are the same. I love the variety. With Bowker being such a well-known and enduring family business in the north-west there’s an extra dimension to the management team’s responsibilities. We have to remain true to the family name and the legacy it represents. I believe family businesses offer customers a different experience than some of the larger dealer groups. We work hard to protect those unique high standards.
What are the most significant challenges ahead?
We’re working hard on staff recruitment and retention. As a family business we have the edge in terms of loyalty. But we know we can still work harder to create the kind of careers and fulfilling working environment that attracts and retains people with the right skills. Some of my colleagues have been with Bowker for more than 30 years. That kind of continuity is a challenge worth meeting. The industry as a whole is dealing with supply chain issues and then there’s the huge changes that come with ongoing customer experience advances like online retailing and video. Then there’s the move to electric vehicles (EVs). After more than 30 years in the trade, I can’t remember a time when our ability to adapt has been in such sharp focus.
How might these challenges be overcome?
Every member of staff will want something unique from their careers. Our job as an employer is to acknowledge everyone’s unique set of skills and give them the support and encouragement to make the most of them. We invest in training and education. We have scholarship and apprentice programmes with Preston and Blackburn colleges for young people starting out in the automotive industry. It all makes a difference. We must be patient on supply chain issues. We can’t always affect the volume of cars we receive, but we can communicate clearly and often with our customers. By listening to and understanding them we can even discover available used models that meet their needs sooner than they may have had to wait for a new car. Bowker is investing in electric charging infrastructure at our dealerships to meet demand from EV owners. We are also investing in training to help technicians transition from combustion to high voltage engineers. Like I say, it’s about how we all adapt.
What attracted you to this area of expertise and how did you get to your current role?
I was Bowker aftersales director when, earlier this year, the head of business role at Preston presented an exciting new challenge. I’ve always loved cars, I think I have a good way with people and people skills and, after 18 years in the trade, I have discovered a love for the analytical side of the business and the thrill of exceeding targets. It’s a blend I hope suits the role well. Everyone in UK automotive retail knows Bowker. The company is renowned for developing great people, backed up with some of the world’s biggest and best automotive brands. I’m looking forward to this next chapter of the story.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career, and how have you made use of it?
Expertise and skills are important. But I think people, and specifically people skills, are the most important element of any business. I can’t pretend to know everything about the dealership in the same detail as a specialist colleague, but I can surround myself with the best people – then encourage and trust them to work together as a team. I find that, in my career, success follows relationships. A big part of that, in any modern business, is building on those relationships to help everyone grow. And growth comes from the kind of success where we take satisfaction from everyone’s individual achievements.
What drives you?
I get bored easily. I often need a fresh challenge. That’s why the nature of the job as head of business suits me so well. The variety always keeps me thinking and on my toes.
What’s your favourite app?
I love buying and renovating classic cars. So I spend much too long on classic car marketplace apps. It’s a weakness, but I have the happy knack of selling them for more than I spend on them.
How do you relax?
I like bingeing on box sets. Recently, I’ve been watching Billions and Queen of the South on Netflix. I also love walking with my family and our Bernese mountain dogs, ending up in a country pub.