LSH Auto UK appointed its new operations director, Tracey Ellam, in November 2021.
Here, AM discussed everything from the use of data to drive the AM100 car retail group profitability to the benefits of walks with her pet cockapoo for the latest of our monthly ‘8 Questions to…’ Q&A article series.
What are the main responsibilities of your role?
I’m mainly responsible for finance, sales administration, CXC (customer experience centre) and group marketing at LSH Auto, which has Mercedes-Benz dealerships across the north-west and the Midlands. Fundamentally, my role is about using data from within the business to benchmark success, drive profitability and ensure the finance team provides reliable financial information. I also look at our systems to find ways to use them more efficiently and make the data from them easily accessible to our managers so they can focus on delivering an excellent customer experience. Working closely with the managing director and our dealer principals, I look at each area of the business to make sure we’re tracking performance and seizing every opportunity available while maintaining a consistent message and focus.
What are the most significant challenges ahead in your field of work?
A key challenge for the industry is around recruitment. There’s currently a shortage of technicians, so becoming an employer of choice is more important than ever. We need to attract a wider talent pool and to continue to invest in ongoing training and development for our existing colleagues. I’m passionate about championing diversity and that’s something the whole LSH Auto team supports. The automotive industry has traditionally seen a much higher percentage of male colleagues than female. We have a desire and appetite to change this. We’re also working towards our transition to the agency model that will be introduced from January 1, 2023. This is more of an opportunity than a challenge, as we introduce a fresh approach to become even more customer-centric.
How might these challenges be overcome?
If we want to attract more people to careers in automotive, we need to reach young people who might not have considered it as an option. With that in mind, we’re partnering with a number of local schools and colleges to run a series of careers events this year. We hope to educate young people about the variety of careers available in the automotive industry and to introduce more diverse role models to them. We have also significantly increased our apprentice intake this year in partnership with the Mercedes-Benz Apprenticeship Scheme. Ahead of the transition to the agency model, we’re working closely with Mercedes-Benz UK to prepare our systems and processes, while also looking at ways to deliver the best possible customer experience by tailoring it to individual preferences.
What attracted you to this area of expertise?
I have a very process-driven mentality, so I started my career as an auditor. I then worked with the Mercedes-Benz divisions of three different dealership groups as a regional financial controller, which gave me an excellent understanding of automotive retail and the Mercedes-Benz brand. After that, I moved into business intelligence and technology, first as a director with ASE, and later with Mazepoint, working with a variety of automotive brands and retail groups. The combined experience I gained from working in automotive retail, with the Mercedes-Benz brand, and then providing business intelligence to automotive clients, gave me a unique skillset. I’ve been putting everything I’ve learned over the years to good use with LSH Auto, since I joined the business in November 2021.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career, and how have you made use of it?
I’ve had the opportunity to move outside of retail and ‘look in’ to gain a slightly different perspective. With that experience, I now recognise just how challenging the job of our operational managers is on a day-to-day basis. When I was first in a financial role in retail, I didn’t really appreciate how many plates our management teams have to spin. With that understanding and insight, I know how important it is to provide them with the tools they need to be able to easily see the areas of their business that need focus.
What drives you?
Making a difference to the people and the businesses I work with. I also have a real passion for the industry and want to instil that in other people, especially in women.
What’s your favourite app?
It has to be the Mercedes me app, of course.
How do you relax?
I enjoy running and going for walks with Harley, our cockapoo.