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Rising Stars: Broaden the challenges

No other industry offers more variety of job opportunities to aspiring young managers than the automotive sector. Take Adrian Joseph, for instance.

He started, like so many before him, at Ford in the early 1990s before joining consultancy firm AT Kearney in 1998.

Now group sales and marketing director at Trafficmaster, Joseph has accumulated a broad range of industry skills and experiences. He calls it a way to test “your creative, intellectual and emotional capability”, but also believes companies need to better encourage cross-function sharing.

“The industry covers the gamut of disciplines from design and fashion all the way through to engineering,” Joseph says.

“You’ve got finance, human resource, supply management, public relations – but the problem is that often we specialise in, and are channelled in, one particular function, like sales or marketing, and we don’t always get the benefit of cross functional expertise and experience.

People need to challenge their leaders and their managers to provide a broader cross-functional perspective; it’s not sufficient to have a perspective solely in your own area.”

Ford was a case in point. The UK’s biggest selling carmaker has left an indelible impression on the automotive landscape through its outstanding MBA training programmes during the 1980s and 1990s. Joseph spent six years there but “reluctantly” left due to the limited opportunities for cross-department promotion.

“I loved what I was doing but I was stuck in a sales and marketing silo. There were other areas and functions that had an impact that I didn’t feel I knew enough about,” he says.

“There wasn’t an opportunity to take on a new challenge at Ford – it’s a big company issue and perhaps happens because you are brought in and sponsored by a particular department so if you are any good they want to hang on to you. It’s a little bit about protecting your turf and self-interests.”

Joseph took with him extensive knowledge of the retail business following two years as a zone manager for Ford of Britain – knowledge that was build up from zero.

“I knew nothing about Ford, and nothing about the automotive industry, but I came with a passion and knowledge about sales and marketing. And it’s a people business with relationships built on trust and mutual respect.

“If you are managing a team you’re trying to influence individuals who ultimately you have no direct control over. So you have to bring together the intelligent side with the emotional side.

There is a lot more than can be done not only to improve technical competencies but also on the softer side like people management and motivation. Emotional intelligence plays right into the heart of those two points.”

Trafficmaster has enjoyed huge growth in recent years as manufacturers and the public catch up with the SmartNav navigation, Trackstar stolen vehicle tracking and traffic information technologies. Joseph has been group sales and marketing director for 15 months and has seen the number of manufacturer approvals rise from eight to 22 at the end of last year. Eleven models now fit SmartNav as standard, up from two at the start of 2004, while 4,000 franchised dealers sell the product, a rise of 2,500.

“It’s fantastic to be in a growth market with some really sexy products,” says Joseph. “In the first half of last year we trebled our volume and we’ve turned the company around from just breaking even in 2003 to very profitable in 2004.

“My view on the navigation market is that in perhaps two to five years we may get to a point where it will provide other services such as off-board diagnostics. We have the technology and the capability all we are limited by is the imagination in the car manufacturers’ sales and marketing departments and a desire to push ahead in a cost-effective way. But it will happen over time.”

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