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Parts and distribution: Helping hand to success

Moving from IT into the factoring industry isn’t an obvious career move, particularly given the seemingly endless demand for staff in IT-related companies.

But that is exactly what Paul Hutchens did in August 2002 after 13 years working for global software companies QAD, Adexa and then SSA, which included two years working in South Africa.

Hutchens’ CV makes for interesting reading, but isn’t one that automatically points to a future as a motor factor. After gaining a degree in law, he worked as a trainee chartered accountant, before moving into insurance and then IT sales.

Two and a half years on and he runs two successful Motaquip factors in Worcester on the supplier’s Partnership Programme. South Africa it ain’t, but Hutchens is happy to be doing something he loves.

“I’ve always had an interest in cars since I was a boy and had my first car at 16. But as you get older and get into corporate life you lose that passion,” he says.

“Company cars replace private ones and you find yourself taking less interest.”

New career move

When the IT bubble burst in early 2001, following the Y2K panic and the Dotcom revolution, Hutchens realised it was time to pursue a new career. His passion for racing prompted him to think about setting himself up as a factor.

He had started racing heavily modified MG Midgets and discovered a different world, one where dealing with parts suppliers was crucial if you wanted to be racing and competing on a regular basis.

“I sat down with a friend of mine, Gil Duffy, who was previously development director for Halfords and someone I had met through racing. In one afternoon we mapped out what the possibilities were and what we needed to do to achieve these.”

It was through Duffy that Hutchens made his first contact with Motaquip and learnt about the Partnership Programme (then called Factor Start-Up). Motaquip set up the scheme in 1999 to offer individuals financial support in starting up and building their own factor business.

The company provides a tailored support programme and helps to develop a business plan, together with supplying heavily subsidised Peugeot delivery vans, providing full marketing support and a MAM Autopart computer system. This support was the big appeal for Hutchens.

“I came to the conclusion that Motaquip had the best opening offer. They usually want people who have experience in the trade, but I had business experience and was used to managing people and projects, plus I had knowledge about cars and parts. In the end it took just four months from me leaving my job in IT to opening our first site in December 2002.”

Brand image is crucial

Hutchens believes it is not just the physical support such as subsidised vans that is important, but also the brand image of Motaquip is crucial to success.

“The brand image was important, especially with us going fresh into the local market. It gave us credibility from day one and also gave us a huge range of stock, about 70% to 80% of what we needed to get started,” he says.

“On top of this the big advantage of Motaquip is the ‘no-quibble warranty’ we can offer our customers, which is strong selling point. We may not always be the cheapest, but if a part is the wrong one, we will replace it with no questions asked.”

The business experienced immediate success from launch. Last year it turned over £375,000. In November last year, Hutchens acquired his second site, in Droitwich, which has a retail shop at the front selling car care products and accessories such as tools, handbooks and stereo’s.

He also recently added exhausts to the range of products, which has proved another success. This year, the combined turnover should exceed £650,000 and the business is still looking for further growth and expansion.

This year Motaquip will expand the range of parts it offers and it intends to add new items such as wiper blades and timing belts – so many in fact, that it needs to introduce new catalogues to cover them.

Right part at a fair price

“The ever expanding range of parts and products, plus the rebate scheme Motaquip offers means it is able to compete with the buying groups,” says Hutchens. “I’m not a big fan of these groups as they tend to put pressure on price while sacrificing quality. Motaquip is not like that – it’s about getting the right quality part to our customers quickly and at a fair price.”

The support from Peugeot-Citroen group owned Motaquip doesn’t just stop once a business is up on its feet, it continues for as long as necessary, including new delivery vans when needed, and help with business plans, marketing and advertising.

No limits – apart from imagination<

“I had a vision when I started out that I would have a nice little business in Kidderminster. That turned out to be naïve as I now realise I’d actually like a big business and would like to grow what we already have,” says Hutchens.

“I don’t think there is a limit to how far we can take the business. Obviously there are cashflow and practical limits, but there is no reason why we cannot take on new suppliers and ranges, such as diagnostic tools for example. There are no limits apart from your imagination.”

Like much of the automotive aftermarket, Hutchens believes that diagnostics is a sector with massive potential that is set to grow. Garages that do not invest in this equipment will be left behind as modern cars filter can only be repaired using diagnostics systems.

Equally, those factors that do not begin to stock diagnostics equipment will be missing out on a big opportunity.

“It’s an attitude thing. Garages aren’t addressing technology in cars and still think it is just about changing brake pads. It is still a limited market but it shouldn’t be. It’s all about putting something on the market that is accessible,” he says.

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