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Eight questions to... a dealer fleet boss

Sarah Eccles, group fleet director at Swansway Group,

AM: What are the main responsibilities of your role?

Sarah Eccles: I’m responsible for customer/supplier relations, business development and department management, but that only scratches the surface. Having grown Swansway Group Fleet from being the sole team member, I have a unique understanding of the roles within it, as I’ve carried out all elements of the business myself in the past.

Nowadays, my diary will be mostly dedicated to working with our manufacturer partners and clients, ensuring we are not only meeting, but exceeding, our leasing company customer expectations.

 

AM: What are the most significant challenges ahead in your field of work?

Sarah Eccles: The fleet sector is ever-evolving and parameters change frequently. Keeping abreast of how this will impact not only us as a business, but also our manufacturer and leasing company partners and their drivers is paramount.

High on the discussion list at the moment has to be the proposed “ultra-low emissions” zones and EU6d Real Driving Emissions regulations. We know they pose a huge number of questions for individual drivers and fleet managers. Our manufacturer partners rely on us to provide the market with timely and relevant information on both legislation and product that meets with the end user’s requirements.

 

AM: How might these challenges be overcome?

Sarah Eccles: The key is to work with the change, anticipate it and embrace it. It will happen with or without your blessing and you’re better to be prepared than caught off-guard – a competitor will always be waiting to step in. As enormous as these changes and their implications can be, there’s no substitute for preparation.

The recent VED amendment is a prime example. I adopted a very pro-active approach from early 2016 to ensure the only “surprises” our clients had were positive – for example some orders being able to be registered early and escape the £40,000-plus sector increase.

Industry-wide, there seemed to be a significant amount of disruption and confusion in some circles, but I’m proud to say that, with forward planning and a well briefed team, all remained calm for Swansway and, most importantly, our clients.

 

What attracted you to this area of expertise?

Sarah Eccles: In truth, while I was already on the margins of the automotive industry (as a receptionist in a busy Volkswagen retailer) it was the belief of the directors, offering an unexpected opportunity that I couldn’t turn down, that laid the foundations for Swansway Group Fleet. The challenge to start a department single-handed was a daunting one, but the satisfaction of winning business through nothing but hard work, determination and powerful core values coupled with the growth of strong relationships mean I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

 

What’s the most important thing you have learned in your career, and how have you made use of it at your company?

Sarah Eccles: It may sound clichéd, but the Swansway behaviours of ‘caring, honest and proud’ come naturally to me and they really do underpin successful business. It would be foolish to say every day is plain sailing – each day is diverse and has a variety of challenges within it, but, by upholding these behaviours I have yet to meet a challenge that couldn’t be overcome.

 

What drives you?

Sarah Eccles: I have to confess I have a very competitive streak. I want to be the best at everything I do, whether it’s playing Monopoly, or wanting to be top of leasing company SLA rankings. I’m passionate about treating our customers as I’d like my family to be treated and I truly value the respect from our brand partners.

 

What’s your favourite app?

Sarah Eccles: Spotify

 

How do you relax?

Sarah Eccles: I love spending time with my family, friends and my lovely dog.



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