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Cover feature: Turnaround specialist ready to grow

The Peter Vardy management story so far could be summed up: “Become a market leader in five simple steps.”

That’s what Vardy, one of Sir Peter Vardy’s two sons, has achieved in his first six months as chief executive at Perth Vauxhall in Scotland.

Vardy acquired the dealership in June. In the previous 12 months it had turned a profit of £89,000 on return of sales of 0.59%. In the four months to October, the business achieved £167,000 profit on return of sales of 3%. The first year budget is to hit profit of £310,000, but Peter Vardy Ltd is on course to exceed £500,000.

The figures give the hard facts: monthly used car sales up from 35 units to 110; new cars running at 190% of the 350-unit annual target; No1 market share for Vauxhall in the UK in July, August and September; total units sold in one week exceeding what the previous owners sold in one month; No1 for parts and accessory sales for July and August.

It’s a startling improvement, and one that the 28-year-old Vardy puts down to focusing on five priority areas: people, process, premises, stock and marketing.

His first action after taking control of the Vauxhall dealership was to sit down with every member of staff for half an hour to talk about his plans for the business. The following week, he took the team out for a meal; the week after that he took staff and their spouses out.

Getting the families involved was a shrewd move: transforming the dealership required long hours, which impacted on home life. It was much easier to convince staff when their partners were already won over.

Vardy built a strong team of ex-Reg Vardy managers – including managing director Jamie Crowther, 17 years with Reg Vardy, and finance director Gary Dreghorn, Reg Vardy’s financial controller for Tyne and Wear –and made them shareholders in the business.

Vardy himself spent several years at his father’s group and was something of a turnaround specialist.

“I went into loss-making basket cases and put them back on track,” he says.

Those experiences enabled him to take best practices from Reg Vardy and add to them. Some of his new ideas, such as the Managing Partners scheme, germinated at Reg Vardy, but the group didn’t get a chance to introduce them.

Vardy handpicks people to join his business. The website attracts 10 job applications per day, which makes the task of “employing only the best” that much easier. He believes more good quality staff will become available due to deficiencies at plc level.

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