Management Gurus, benevolent entrepreneurs and business consultants would say that a company is as good as its people and that the success of an organisation, including those not-for-profit, would be judged on the joy and contentment of those employed.
Staff motivation is a part of corporate responsibility and a company that provides opportunities for its staff to advance in their careers is always judged as the ideal place to work. Even large organisations, including multinationals, suffer from a lack of personal touch with employees feeling out of place.
The Car Clearance Centre may be small in terms of its staff complement but the fact that its employees feel that they are a part of a family makes it an inimitable enterprise. The company’s Chief Executive Jack Dube believes that professionals, who are adept at their jobs, would move the organisation forward.
“We do not employ people; we just include new members into our family. They are not just a part of our success but its main instrument. I am gratified that each of them feels responsible for the success of the company over the years. At The Car Clearance Centre, we have a high turnover of vehicles but a low turnover of people. Those joining our family stay, unless of course, there are reasons for their departure,” he said.
Leading the team of highly motivated staff, each of who has a sense of belonging is Dalip Singh, Business Manager, who has been at the helm of its affairs since 2003. Mr Dube has accorded him parental status, while everyone in the company and many customers affectionately address him as ‘Uncle D.’
Mr Singh was a friend of the late Maharaj Dube (Jack’s father), who was running his own trucking business in Fiji.
“As an employee of Carpenters Motors (a member of the Carpenters Group), I had occasions to deal with him for over 30 years. I had known Jack and his brother Rakesh during their younger days but lost contact with the family after I migrated to New Zealand in 2001,” he said.
A chance meeting of the two young brothers at a social gathering in North Shore City sometime in 2002 brought back not only memories of those glorious days in Fiji but also Mr Singh to the family.
“That is our uncle!” exclaimed Rakesh to his older brother at the party. The meeting proved to be propitious.
Following an invitation from Mr Dube, Mr Singh joined the company in 2003.
That was yet another milestone in his career as well as in the journey of The Car Clearance Centre.
Bringing with him years of expertise and experience in retailing cars, Mr Singh became the single most important instrument of change.
“After a thorough study of the market, one of the first decisions that we made was to open the showroom on all days of the week, without affecting the work-life balance of employees. The decision to open the showroom on Sundays proved to be strategic, since it was convenient for customers and their families,” he said.
Mr Singh realised that ‘being at the right place at the right time and making the right decisions with the right people’ was critical to any business, more so in used cars enterprise. Japan became a regular country of visit and with 600 cars imported every year, there was need to sharpen negotiating skills.
Mr Singh said a major development occurred in 2005 when a larger property to accommodate the growing number of cars to cater to an increasing number of customers became available at 41 Saleyards Road, just across the road in Otahuhu. The need to provide more space for customers to walk around and the expanding business activities prompted Mr Dube to approve the move.
“Uncle had had a progressive career in Fiji. He progressed from the role of a warranty clerk to new motor sales and later became Sales Manager dealing with Nissan Diesel, Ford Farm Tractors and Howard Farm Equipment (all at the Carpenters Group). His sound knowledge of the cars in the yard and the market conditions has been vital to the progress of the company,” Mr Dube said.
Being the brother of the Chief Executive was not the reason for Rakesh Dube to join The Car Clearance Centre in 1998. It was the challenge of meeting the growing and exacting demands of customers that prompted him to relinquish a successful career at an Auckland company dealing in Ford cars.
“Those were the years of economic recession, more so in the used cars market. I had heard of many dealers quitting their business. As they say, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going,’ I was confident that I would be able to add value to the company,” he said.
A rare combination
Rakesh has a rare combination of courage of conviction and a soft heart to rise up to the needs of customers. He would not sell a car unless he was convinced of its use to the potential buyer.
“All cars imported by us are tested for their roadworthiness but tastes, preferences and needs differ. What is the point in selling a seven-seater to a family of two persons, unless there is a need to carry passengers?”
Rakesh said that a majority of customers in the late 1990s were from the Pacific Island community.
“They have always been good customers, many of them sure of their need. But we have always tried to assist them in their choice. Now a majority of our customers are from the Indian community,” he said.
He became a frequent visitor to Japan to meet used car dealers, negotiate the price, arrange for shipment of the chosen cars and return home to prepare for their arrival.
Mr Dube said nothing escapes his brother’s eyes.
“Selling a car which is on the road most of the time is a major responsibility. Rakesh would check every car thoroughly and ensure that they conform to the standards that we have set. We carefully go through the history of each vehicle and ensure that it has not been involved in any major accident. Even after their arrival, they are examined in our garage before being placed for customers’ view,” he said.
An experienced hardware sales executive (from the Carpenters Group in Fiji), he shifted his trade to switchgear equipment and prior to joining The Car Clearance Centre, the only experience he had in cars was when he bought one.
“I never wanted to be a person selling cars,” Peter Chand said.
But driving along Saleyards Road, he was not only intrigued by the cars in ‘showroom condition’ at The Car Clearance Centre but was also overtaken by the desire to ‘drop in and see.’
“I was delighted to meet Dalip Singh. I had known his elder brother well during my days in Fiji. I learnt that the company was in need of a sales executive and decided to try because I believed that it was a great place to work,” he said.
Peter was right.
As a member of the team, he understands the needs of customers and shows them the cars that may be suitable to them. He also arranges finance through the facility available within the company.
“New Zealand needs good and reliable cars on its roads. The Car Clearance Centre offers a variety of services under one roof, which our customers believe is a major advantage. We care for every car sold and help the customers maintain their vehicle in good condition,” he said.
Peter remembers the first car that he sold soon after joining the company.
“It was a Nissan Bluebird. It was a low mileage, well-maintained vehicle. The customer who purchased it returned to say that he was happy. That was one of the most satisfying moments in my life,” he said.
He finds comfort in working for this company, which he says affords the atmosphere of a family.
“We are not a fly-by-night operator. We do not tell lies to push a car out of our showroom, because we do not sell ‘rubbish’ cars. Every sale is significant and every customer is important to us,” Peter said.
After sales service is the most important factor that fosters customer satisfaction and retains customer-dealer relationship, says Vinod Kumar, who joined The Car Clearance Centre last year, after being an employee at Mitre 10 Mega stores.
Like many others in the retail market, he too experiences challenges in his tasks but “unlike some competitors, customer trust is gratifying.’
“I meet a number of customers who tell me that they have found the after-sales service here to be of a very high standard. People buy cars but most of them would not be aware of the need to maintain them properly. We suggest to them to have their cars checked regularly, not only at the time of renewing their warrant of fitness but also whenever they feel the need,” Vinod said.
“There are times when a customer would have a strong preference for a model that would be unavailable at The Car Clearance Centre but we do not turn the customer away. Instead, we assure them that we would try to obtain the model of their choice given the requisite time. We then inform Mr Singh or Mr Dube and they would do their best to import the vehicle from Japan.”
Vinod said Toyota cars are by far the most preferred by the members of the Indian community, although some people also like Nissan vehicles.
“There are cars at varying prices but a majority of customers ask for Toyota cars in the $10,000 to $12,000 price range,” Vinod said.
He said that he and his team keep abreast of the evolving trends in the market.
“Our people travel to Japan to handpick vehicles that would keep our customers happy. With a wide range of cars and models, we have something for everyone’s need and budget.”