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Trotman invests to win Direct control

Chairman Chris Trotman has pledged "to do business in the right way" after leading a management buy out of Direct Valeting.

Mr Trotman won back control of his car preparation business from Direct Auto Services, two years after he sold it to the group. Neither company changed its name.

Direct Valeting had been struggling with growing debts - a consequence of its policy of growth through rapid acquisition.

"We went from being cash-rich to working with borrowings - it could not be sustained," said Mr Trotman. "Profits went backwards and debts grew. In the end we took the only option, which was to buy back Direct Valeting."

Mr Trotman, who was group managing director of Direct Auto Services, paid more than £1m for Direct Valeting. The other members of the MBO team were Paul Furst (managing director), Phil Taylor (sales director) and Jason Moore (finance director). The MBO included all four DAS divisions - valeting, cosmetics, chemicals and leasing.

"Now we have returned to being a cash-rich company with no borrowings," said Mr Trotman. "Profit is an aim but it is no longer our driving force - we are concerned with doing business in the right way in terms of offering good value and excellent service."

Last month Direct Valeting sold the cosmetics operation - specialising in quick body repairs - "for a six-figure sum" to former sales director Iain Buckley.

He has renamed the company Direct Auto Cosmetics and hopes to increase the number of technicians from 15 to around 50 within 12 months, making the company "a force in the marketplace".

Mr Trotman said: "We aim to support each other's business - wherever a customer requires a one-stop shop approach, we will work to provide this service."

He is considering his options for the remaining two divisions but has not ruled out selling them. Direct Valeting is looking at expanding through organic growth, particularly on the south coast and in the North-east, to give national coverage.

"The industry consists of national chains, we need to match that with our service level," said Mr Trotman.

"Dealers are finding it more and more difficult to control and manage valeting staff in the face of rising customer expectations. Valeting staff are needed in all departments - servicing, LCVs, bodyshops, car hire - which is hard for dealers to control. "Our system can save them thousands of pounds, while enhancing quality and improving management control."

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