JB: What are the typical reasons for a failure or a need for turnaround?
BG: In most cases it’s down to a quality of management, leadership and direction. When we bought Blakes in Prescot, it had bought out Skyway in Speke. But they hadn’t amalgamated the staff or the systems or anything else so they were still running two entities.
Then we, as competitors, were all over them like a rash. So they hadn’t integrated, they didn’t have their systems correct, their marketing was all over the place and they had brought in people to get a hold on it who, frankly, just couldn’t cut it.
The first thing we did was join the businesses. We then had to take out a million of cost a year out of the three entities, including the original business we had in Bootle. We had to take out quite a few people and ancillary costs.
Once you’ve got the scale working for you, then you can move the turnover up and down within the scale. That’s been the biggest dynamic.
JB: You would hope to make an acquisition this year – and that you would be tackling the same issues in your acquired business?
BG: Yes. We would continue to evolve our thinking in terms of our digital offering right at the top level and at the local level.
JB: What’s the difference?
BG: We have a headline brand, which is Peoples, and a sub brand which is called Car Deal People, which is selling cars under £5,000. It is the local element, started in February in Liverpool and now in Scotland too.
We’re a natural choice for people who want Ford, but we have to work hard to get consumers’ attention on other brands.
JB: You said at the end of 2010 that you’d taken out about 7% of your head count. Has that 7% crept back in again? Are you re-employing?
BG: Yes, it has. Having been made redundant a long time ago I don’t put people out of a job easily. If we’re looking to cost save, we don’t go to the head count first because I spend a lot of time getting people to where I want them to be in performance terms.
And we do not pay minimum wage, we pay a living wage. We pay at least 110% of the minimum.
JB: And what do you get back from that commitment?
BG: We would hope that they would recognise we have that stance. It’s not because I’m St Brian. I expect an employee to do their job well.
The minimum wage to me snaps of the days when my father was an upholsterer on the ships in Glasgow and he had to tolerate that sort of thing and I just don’t like the thought of it. I don’t like the thought of being associated with it.