After 37 years in the automotive sector Steve Bridge took on the role of managing director at eStar Truck & Van at a transformative period for the commercial vehicle sector.
AM had a chat, as part of our regular ‘8 questions to…’ interview series, to gain a little insight into the man and his new role.
What are the main responsibilities of your role?
My responsibility is to manage and direct a commercial vehicle business for Mercedes-Benz in the north-west of England and north Wales across five sites ranging from Stoke-on-Trent through Merseyside, north Wales, Liverpool, Warrington and Manchester. This includes developing a strategic direction for eStar, and steering the board of management and the leadership team. Day-to-day, when not in meetings, I enjoy walking round the sites, speaking to the team, listening to them, understanding what’s working well and what needs improvement. Too many senior leaders shut themselves away in an office and miss the reality of their businesses, so I’m always happy to walk around, find people I’ve not previously met, and ensure that I’m approachable, not least because when I was in their roles, I would have appreciated the same.
What are the most significant challenges ahead?
The automotive industry is changing literally by the day and will change more in the next five years than it has in the past 50. The obvious changes in propulsion methods, diesel to electric and diesel to hydrogen, will keep us occupied for the next 10 years and we have to plan and implement the relevant infrastructure solutions to keep our all-important customers moving. It’s not like the launch of a new model; electric and hydrogen are complete societal changes, requiring huge amounts of education, complete redesigns of towns and cities, overhauling the infrastructure in every aspect, and even rethinking how we live and interact with each other.
How might these challenges be overcome?
The only way to meet these challenges is to embrace them and to work with the customer base to help them understand how to overcome them. Together, we can ensure the footprint of aftersales locations and the infrastructure associated with them is as future-proofed as can be. Clearly, the sales aspect is a little easier to deal with. However, even that needs to change as we embrace the increasing trend for online sales in certain market segments. There is no room to stand still, but to be excited by the future and want to play a major part in bringing it to life, and supporting the customer every step of the way, means that it becomes one huge opportunity and something that I’m actually very proud to be involved in.
What attracted you to this area of expertise and how did you get to your current role?
I have been in the industry for 37 years. I started my career in a dealership, before moving into heavy commercial contract hire and rental, then subsequently OEM positions for Mercedes-Benz UK – the latter of which I was with part of for 20 years. The opportunity to run a commercial vehicle dealership, make a difference and implement some of the changes highlighted was, therefore, something I couldn’t refuse. I wanted to be able to give something back to the industry and leave it in a better place than when I joined, and I feel like this role will absolutely enable me to do this.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career, and how have you made use of it?
In any business, the most important thing is the people, closely followed by the process. Looking after the people and ensuring that they follow the right process is essential in any organisation. So, while often overlooked, these are always the two areas I make it a priority to invest in. In addition, listening to the customers, especially those that are dissatisfied, is probably my most important source of learning, and something which I have always taken with me wherever I’ve been.
What drives you?
Seeing people develop and watching them grow into roles is something I find satisfying. But the industry itself provides me with the drive. After 37 years, I still have the same energy to make a difference as I did all those years ago.
What’s your favourite app?
Currently, its LinkedIn. At first I thought it was just a business Facebook, but actually if you want to understand anything about anything, you will find someone who knows someone who knows someone! Once you get your head around that, it’s a good source of information.
How do you relax?
Golf, eating out (when allowed) and I have two 65-inch TVs at home that keep me entertained.