At Xero, we use the power of technology to foster innovation, connection and entrepreneurialism. To create beautiful work that makes a difference. This is why each month, we speak to business leaders within our like-minded community – to see how they apply similar values to shape their businesses, and their futures.
This month, we speak to Chris Lee – the founder of national automotive brokerage company, Red Plum Automotive. Chris sought to put the customer at the centre of the motor industry – and has met with year-on-year growth.
Here Chris explains why old-fashioned care and respect still has a place at the heart of business. And how bespoke leadership can strengthen the backbone of your organisation.
“I worked in the prestige motor trade for Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz for over 15 years before I decided to start my own business. I always enjoyed meeting people and helping them with purchases. But I didn’t enjoy negotiating for the highest sale price. I wanted a business that would use relationships to empower the customer instead.
“Now as automotive brokers, we guide people through the often-intimidating vehicle purchasing experience. From the legalities and safety to the very best price and the process, we make sure the customer is protected and valued – and at the centre of everything.”
On scaling your business
“I started the business at my kitchen table, but I was always working to be the biggest and best automotive brokerage business in the country. I knew we could grow with integrity if we took as much care over and gave as much regard as possible to how we did business. Our business model works based on trust, because of strong relationships.
“The key, for us, is to connect with people to create customers for life. Our business has grown exponentially through financial referrals, repeat business and customer referrals.
“That’s the ultimate accolade of success. When people are prepared to put their wives, mates, children or business colleagues forward because they received such positive value out of the experience.”
On creating your backbone
“Hiring the right people has been crucial – and I’m fortunate that my team are both very accomplished and incredibly good people. Coming from the prestige car industry myself, it was important that all my staff had experience at the prestige end of the market. That automatically sets a very high standard of knowledge, care and presentation. And it’s worked – our people are the backbone of our business.
“We all face a diverse range of hurdles in business – and often you’ll have no procedural format in place. That’s when your team’s knowledge and commitment is so vital, because they know what should or shouldn’t be done.
“But it comes back to the way you treat your staff, too. Just because I pay their wages, I don’t think that automatically qualifies me for a certain amount of respect. I have to earn it. When I was an employee, I had my own visions of how I thought staff should be treated. Now I have the opportunity to put that into practice and make a difference.”
On the formula for success
“Everyone needs to make money to grow, but the way I see it, if you deliver a service above and beyond anything else in the marketplace, and really take true care of your staff and customers, the financial end of the business will naturally occur.
“And that success has to be shared. It means an extraordinary amount to me that my staff are succeeding for themselves and their families.”
On personalized leadership
“Motivational drivers can be quite personal and unique. Take one of our sales managers, for example. He didn’t own a jacket, so we organised an incentive where he could earn a tailor-made one. He fought tooth and nail for two or three months to reach his target, but he got there.
“We took him to The Cloak Room – one of Queensland’s leading menswear stores. They’ve fitted the Queensland Reds rugby team and it was incredible to see our man standing there. He picked the lining, buttons, piping and even the colour of the buttonhole stitching. It transformed him immediately; it made him stand taller.”
On constantly innovating
“You have to have the best systems out there to do any job effectively, but you also have to have the right means to communicate as a team. That way, you can refine your systems again and again. For us, everything is about the problem and the solution. ‘Here’s a thing. How can we do it better?’ We get our staff very much involved in those conversations. No one has a monopoly on good ideas, and besides, it’s as much their business as it is mine.”
Check out Red Plum Automotive’s new video.
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