“I’ll try my hardest to try to talk to everybody when I’m going round our sites. Over the years, I’ve worked with people that just walked past you and you’re left with the feeling ‘do they care? Am I just a number?”
Despite the strong customer ethic, the business has been unable to overcome the economic pressures some customers are feeling. The past five years have been such a competitive environment for aftersales; competing against independent garages, with lower labour rates, lower overheads and regular supply of non-OE parts is a challenge.
Grzesinski has also noticed that more customers are not looking towards long-term maintenance, but are choosing just-in-time fixes when a problem arises. And some of the cars that come back to the group from finance deals have a lot of wear-and-tear issues, which previously the owner would have had fixed.
All car buyers are offered a service plan and vehicle health checks are standard in all group dealerships. However, convincing people that amber work should be booked in is challenging, he said. To combat this, Macrae & Dick has devised its own technical training for its service receptionists.
What the future holds
Although Macrae & Dick is well known in the north of Scotland, the marketing team has more of a challenge in promoting its brand in Aberdeen and the south, including its BMW and Mini dealership in Stirling, which continues to operate under its original brand Menzies, a name known since 1912. As the group expands further, Grzesinski might consider using Menzies for its premium franchises and Macrae & Dick for its mainstream businesses.
Since the 1990s, Macrae & Dick has slowly expanded outside Inverness, most recently adding Honda at Aberdeen last year. Grzesinski said there is certainly more opportunity in southern Scotland, and the group has the funds to invest in the right options.
“But we don’t do it by the heart, we do it by the head. Before we embark on any acquisition or franchise opportunity the business plan has got to be robust. Because in our industry it is easy to gather franchises, isn’t it? The hardest part is making the return. We’ve got to make sure that by year four we’re seeing money coming in.”
There is also the challenge of having big rivals such as Arnold Clark Automobiles, Vertu’s Macklin Motors and Lookers’ Taggarts to contend with. His view on such competition?
“Having any PLC on your doorstep gives you challenges. It’s very difficult to be competitive on price, which is why it is so important to have a good reputation and make people feel you’re a bit different, with empowered staff and a good culture. I think people do want to feel that they’re not dealing with a huge company, that they can talk to the general manager, can ring the MD.
“Certainly part of our success is that we have the same members of staff dealing with the same customers within a reasonable period of time.”