Devonshire Motors has launched a unique Excellence Academy to focus on essential skills that “aren’t taught particularly well anywhere else” as it makes employee development a priority in 2022.
The Devonshire Motors Excellence Academy will sit alongside a five-day working week and other industry-leading initiatives to help the Barnstaple-based car retailer address the automotive skills shortage, dealer principal Nathan Tomlinson told AM.
The launch of the new training programme will follow a £1 million 2021 dealership redevelopment to integrate new franchisees Hyundai and Isuzu which he hopes to see employees enrol voluntarily on “because they genuinely want to improve themselves”.
“The DMEA will be our vessel to provide the business with unique learning”, Tomlinson told AM.
“My hope is that it builds a stronger team, with a better understanding of the power they have locked up inside to become better at everything they do. At work, but also in life outside work too.”
During his decade at the helm of Devonshire Motors, Tomlinson has transformed the car retailer from a business which suffered six-figure losses, despite 100% overhead absorption, into an operation that has grown its profits consistently and delivered almost 6.5% return on sales in 2021.
But after years of “micromanagement”, he is now keen to ensure that the business develops and empowers its workforce to deliver a stronger operational structure as it continues a period of growth with new brands Hyundai and Isuzu.
Devonshire’s 2022 priorities include: talent acquisition and retention; a focus on culture and employee welfare; and a blending of elements of the business to achieve a better customer experience and realise efficiencies.
Through a partnership with training provider Profit Box its new academy programme will help to deliver this using short, off-site training to Devonshire Motors’ 50-strong workforce.
The focus of the academy will be ‘relationship and rapport building’ and sales, through a better understanding of emotional intelligence and critical thinking Tomlinson said.
Stating that a focus should be on transferring the psychology of relationships to digital rapport building via email, live chat and telephone, Tomlinson said: “Whether outbound or internally it’s important to understand the benefits of, and how to, build rapport.
“Rapport and long-lasting relationships build customer loyalty like nothing else, equally it’s essential to put the same amount of focus on internal relationships.”
Meanwhile, the sales element of the learning will focus on recognition that in many of our daily tasks we are to a greater or lesser degree selling something, Tomlinson said.
He added: “Sales are often thought of as product or service specific, the exchange of money, but ‘sales’ can also be a conversation where we are (often without realising) selling a benefit, our reputation, an idea, or even our position in a dispute.
“Fundamentally, being excellent in any of these situations involves more or less the same skill-set but actually most people just follow along blindly without realising that they can have control over what happens next.”
'Moral imperative to develop talent'
Devonshire Motors was the top-ranked business in the AM Best UK Dealerships To Work For employee satisfaction survey 2019.
This followed success as a winner of the AM Awards’ Best Dealership (2018), Best Aftersales Performance (2018), Excellence in Customer Service (2016) and as Mitsubishi Motors in the UK’s dealer of the year five times.
Last year Devonshire created a £30,000 'pot of gold' to reward staff for their hard work during the COVID-19 pandemic and deliver an added boost ahead of its expansion with its new brand partners.
Commenting on the launch of its new Academy scheme in 2022, Profit Box founder Nick Horton said: “There is a business imperative as well as a moral imperative to develop talent. Therefore, Profit Box is delighted to have been appointed by Nathan and looks forward to working with the Devonshire Motors team to build an Academy that illuminates the development path for all participants.
“It is a path that will provide the knowledge, skill, confidence and belief to enable progression within the business and in life generally.
“Ultimately, we are marrying our renowned creativity with the renowned Devonshire Motors leadership team to create a series of unique learning experiences which empower and accelerate talent development.”