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How to make people count in business

Transforming a regional business into a national company and increasing turnover from £250 million to £1 billion can only succeed if its people are genuinely at its heart, according to Daksh Gupta, CEO of Marshall Motor Group.

The AM top 10 business employs over 2,000 people nationwide and has achieved recognition as a ‘Great Place to Work’, the league of best places to work, and Gupta will share his insights on how the group engaged its employees which has led to the company’s huge gains over the past five years when he speaks at the AM and IMI People Conference on June 12.

Gupta said: “Since 2008 our turnover has grown from an underlying £250 million to over £1 billion, this hasn’t been achieved just though acquisition as our organic turnover per site has moved from £9.7m to £17m over that period.

The only way to achieve such success is with the implementation of the highest levels of engagement with employees.”

Gupta takes to the stage at the conference, an industry-first, at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, prior to the prestigious AM 100 Dinner and will recount the Marshall Motor Group ‘journey’ from an East Anglia business of 41 dealerships, exiting 23 sites, to national automotive player with 70 retailers from Cumbria and Scarborough in the north to Plymouth in the south.

He said: “72% of our portfolio is less than five years old as we have bought and sold over 70 businesses since 2008. We have acquired business from no fewer than 12 different companies almost of all of which were loss making so the people challenge has been significant.

Despite this our employ turnover has always been around 25%, significantly less than industry quoted figures and our staff survey results are exceptional. With the level of change we have gone through unless we engaged with the people in the businesses we would not have achieved half of what we have, I am incredibly proud of them.”

One of the first initiatives Gupta implemented was the ‘Great Place to Work’ survey whereby the views of staff were collated and assessed by employee engagement experts Great Place to Work. The initial survey in 2008 gave the group a score of 55% with only a 47% participation rate. By understanding and acting on the feedback, 2013’s survey scored 77% with 4 of the 5 “Trust index” levers being equal to that of the Top 25 large employers in the UK, over 91% of people completed the survey.

“We had some very loyal employees but we never recognised them until they had worked for us for 30 years,” explained Gupta. “One of the first things we did was send employees who had been with us for five years a bottle of champagne and for those who went on to work with us for 10, 15, 20 and 25 years, we now arrange a weekend away with their partner.

“We also introduced the Marshall CEO Awards and ensured it was open to all staff, particularly those who would have been excluded from traditional incentive schemes. Any employee can nominate a colleague and we have eight winners who also receive a weekend away. We send around 40 colleagues twice a year to all sorts of exciting locations such as Moscow, Iceland and Croatia. Whilst doing all of these things costs the company a very large six figure sum, for me it’s an investment in our people and it has proved to be a vital component of the Marshalls culture.”

Regular and honest communication has also proved to be key and Marshalls distributes twice weekly bulletins as well as quarterly newsletters to home addresses. Training is also a core element and the group has established the Marshalls Academy whilst new recruits are given an induction at the Cambridge head office which is always hosted by one of the group’s directors.

The group has invested over £500,000 in developing its own bespoke leadership development programme. Marshall has also worked closely with Aston University and the IMI to develop its own in house management development tool which links to the AMA competency framework.

Added Gupta: “All employees are given my mobile number on induction and anyone is free to contact me at any time. A lot of companies talk about how important people are but not every company takes it to the level we have so far achieved. As with any organisation you will always get some people who we are not for but when you look at our staff turnover and employee engagement stats, I think it demonstrates that we can wholeheartedly demonstrate that people are at the heart of our business and we can also show it breeds success.”

Tickets are available to dealers, manufacturers and automotive businesses, with a limited number of supplier tickets on sale. To book, please contact Emma-Louise Kinnaird on 01733 395133, email or visit

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