ROBERT Forrester was recently described as a "relentless optimist" after saying his customers were largely immune to the recession.
His company’s hunger for acquisitions at a time when the market for new cars is hardly robust certainly seems bold.
Yet they’re the kind of observations that are likely to be met with a shrug of the shoulders from the plain-speaking Lancastrian. “I think we’ve been pretty conservative,” is how he describes Vertu’s four-year history to date.
His company’s rivals would be advised to take note. Vertu might not be planning to splash the cash on a string of purchases for a few months, but there’s plenty going on behind the scenes at the firm’s new Team Valley headquarters to keep them on their toes.
Call centre staff are booking appointments for customers all over the UK. It’s part of a centralisation process which will help cut costs across the 79-strong network – while ensuring quality standards are maintained.
In the boardroom, Forrester shows off data systems which provide real-time information on cars sold and by whom. He can tell you the name of the group’s hottest salesperson and the best-performing outlet. It helps him assess which sites to prioritise in his visits to ensure staff have bought in to the company vision.
If you ask Forrester what makes a successful dealership, he will tell you “it’s all about people”. All companies talk the talk on this subject, of course, but I’d be surprised if many other car dealerships fly in gurus from the US or are developing a graduate training scheme.
Vertu is carrying on a proud tradition of car retailing in the North East but in an impressively forward-thinking manner. And the prospect of delivering £1bn of sales in 12 months just four years after the business was formed shows it’s paying off.
:: Andrew Hebden - The Voice of nebusiness