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Mitchell beats the gloom to hit record high

Attention to detail is important to Mark Mitchell. Walking around his 4.5-acre retail site near Chester, he constantly stoops to pull out stray weeds, or swoops on a bit of discarded paper.

Then he stops to have a five-minute chat with a long-standing customer, asking about her family and making sure she is being properly looked after.

“Retail’s detail,” says the group managing director and majority shareholder. In the current economic downturn, nothing could be truer.

Few dealers could boast return on sales nudging 4% last year. Fewer still have topped 3% for the past four years.

Mitchell Group has and for two key reasons: staff and financial control.

Mitchell takes an almost obsessive approach to recruitment. Following an initial interview, any prospective employee is mystery shopped in their current role on video.

“We look at body language, clarity and appearance. Only if they pass will they get a second interview. It whittles out 75% of candidates,” Mitchell says.

He is similarly fervent when selecting apprentices. He receives 100 applications a year for three places.

Parents are interviewed to make sure they understand the investment that will be made in their children.

Staff come first, not the customer, says Mitchell. He has an open-door policy on staff problems and encounters a lot of pastoral opportunities – marriage breakdowns, debt counselling, ill heath or bereavement. 

“There’s always time at the end of the day for 10 minutes with a member of staff,” he says. “It’s our people that make the difference.”

The company

Turnover: £35 million
Return on sales: “nudging 4%”
No of sites: one (4.5 acres)
No of employees: 108
New car sales: 730 (down 21% YOY)
Used car sales: 1,500 (up 22% YOY)
Aftersales absorption: 108% (2007: 81%)
Franchises: Lexus, Skoda, Mazda

  • Read this story in full in the 9 Jan 09 issue of AM. To subscribe to AM magazine click here or call 01733 468659.

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