John Stone, HR Owen, on balancing the demands of Bentley customers, stakeholders and staff, and the joy of fulfilling a childhood dream
What are the main responsibilities of your role?
STONE: I manage everything Bentley-related for HR Owen, which includes the Jack Barclay Bentley showroom in Mayfair, our London Bentley Service Centre and dealerships in Hertfordshire, Surrey and Berkshire.
Recently I managed the refurbishment of the world’s oldest Bentley retailer, Jack Barclay, combining heritage with modern design, which was a huge challenge as we remained open throughout. HR Owen and Bentley are long-term partners – it’s an honour to be the custodian of the relationship as we enter a new era.
What are the most significant challenges ahead in your field of work?
STONE: I have to satisfy the high demands of my stakeholders and customers, whose priorities can often differ. Keeping the balance is an art. I have a fantastic, professional team behind me and a strong leadership team in support, but this business is high-momentum and ever-changing. We have to be ultra-flexible to the needs of our client base as their demands change, the global economy fluctuates and the automotive world begins to offer new levels of technology and power train advances. Bentley is attracting a younger client base each year, these buyers expect a different level of care to that of a more traditional Bentley customer, we have to evolve and adapt to suit everyone who walks through our doors.
How might these challenges be overcome?
STONE: Working as closely as we do with Bentley Motors means we have very effective communication with the factory, giving us the ability to react to any situation with speed and focus.
HR Owen Bentley spends time to ensure we are at least two steps ahead of where our customers will be six months down the line. By doing this, we are always ready to satisfy, can have the right product available and be briefed on the latest tech advances.
What attracted you to this area of expertise?
STONE: Having worked with Bentley for a number of years, it was always a personal goal of mine to reach the pinnacle, to lead Jack Barclay and all of the other HR Owen Bentley locations. Working with cars was a childhood dream, I simply couldn’t believe you could be around great cars all day and get paid to do so.
I’ve worked in ‘the trade’ for a number of years now, and have always strived to represent Bentley, a brand I’ve always had a passion for. The love is still as strong today, and while my position comes with the stresses you get in any senior management role, I am still stupidly excited to come to work.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your career, and how have you made use of it?
STONE: I learnt very early on in my career to always do what you say you will. Too many talk the talk, but fail to deliver. For me, it is important to deliver on my promises. I will always encourage those around me to go the extra mile, as that’s what sets us apart from our competitors. I like to stretch myself and my team, but always with an eye on reality. There’s a fine line between giving all you can and being pushed too hard. My role is to support and manage the views and opinions of my team – keeping that balance is very important. It’s important to have the support of HR Owen chief executive, Ken Choo, and that of the wider board of directors – to do that you need effective, tight communications and an open-door policy whenever you are needed.
What drives you?
I’m passionate about continuous improvement and always look for the positives in everything I do.
What’s your favourite app?
It has to be WhatsApp, great for personal communication and business, too.
How do you relax?
Quality time with friends and family is most important to me. I also enjoy walking the dog, listening to music and, of course, a holiday when I can get away… not always easy in this game!
Matt De Prez