In the latest instalment of AM's ‘Eight Questions to…’ series of industry profiles JCT600 group property director Mark Taylor gives an insight into the tough decisions needed to help “future-proof” car retail.
What are the main responsibilities of your role?
I’m an operational board director at JCT600, having been here 24 years. I head the property department and have ultimate responsibility for new developments, refurbishments, site acquisition and disposal, facilities management (including energy monitoring and management), building maintenance, property investment advice, property management, security plus health and safety. My fantastic, experienced team deals with the day-to-day running of the business, while I look after the longer-term property strategy and seek opportunities to develop and improve the business. Our maintenance division of qualified building engineers covers our 54 sites for reactive maintenance issues and we’re constantly looking to expand and improve this important part of the service we offer to our sites. We also have an active property development/investment side to the business, which keeps me busy.
What are the most significant challenges ahead?
One key issue is the increasing and evolving requirements of our manufacturer partners regarding EV infrastructure. While we have multiple power upgrade applications in with electricity companies, predicting what will be needed in five years’ time is a real headache. If we underinvest now, the business could suffer a power bottleneck; if we overinvest, we could be wasting thousands. We are having to make difficult decisions about what power supply, charging hardware and back office platforms will be required to meet future needs. There are also questions around what the long-term future holds for traditional motor trade facilities as motor retailing adopts a more blended model. Will we need our mega-dealerships in 10 years’ time or will manufacturers accept a shift towards smaller or shared sites to protect dealer profitability?
How might these challenges be overcome?
I think the Government has a part to play in making sure policy keeps up with the real needs of industry and drives a unilaterally agreed direction. We all need to plan ahead wisely to avoid unnecessary duplication or over-investment. There are likely to be times when the local network capacity is stretched to the limit as DC car charging becomes the norm, but innovation in technology will have a huge part to play in balancing the network. It’s important that manufacturers look at all options to keep the retail network profitable and, therefore, viable. This will almost certainly involve the strategic review of the size and location of dealerships, with an increased use of technology resulting in smaller site requirements.
What attracted you to this area of expertise and how did you get to your current role?
I’d worked in various architectural practices for a number years prior to joining JCT600. Already knowing the directors at the company, I only really stepped into the role to ‘help out’ while a permanent solution was sought to looking after its increasing property needs. I ended up being that permanent solution. I’d previously worked on many large-scale retail projects, so motor retailing was a perfect fit. I joined the board in 2016.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned and how have you made use of it at your company?
Recruit and surround yourself with great people and give them the freedom to make decisions. There have been times when due to the sheer workload, my team has been given the autonomy to ‘just get on with it’ – and they continue to amaze me with what they achieve. This develops people at a great pace and gives them the confidence to tackle greater challenges. As the business has grown during my time, from less than 20 to more than 50 sites, it’s become impossible to be involved in everything, so staff development and delegation is key.
What drives you?
Striving to improve what we do, both at home and at work.
What’s your favourite app?
Teamer – you have to be involved in grassroots football to understand! So simple, yet saves hours of admin.
How do you relax?
I’m a coach, committee member and trustee of a local junior football club that has more than 550 members – not exactly relaxing.