Having been in the Automotive industry since leaving school, it’s safe to say I’ve been with it through a fair share of highs and lows. Two recessions and some of the lowest used car sales the industry has ever experienced. There have been some really tough times. I think most of us that endured and survived those tough times don’t forget them in a hurry. It does leave a lasting impression. When so many thousands of people’s jobs rest on the success of the business, the prospect of failure is a situation nobody wants to see play out and you take every measure to avoid. It’s a situation that unfortunately our industry experienced first-hand of late with the collapse of Car Craft, where around 500 people lost their jobs and it really does hammer home the importance of resilience.
We recently released our interim management statement and it sparked quite a lively debate when posted on LinkedIn. We are certainly in a much stronger position now than perhaps ever before but still face criticism. Yes a certain element is people who like to rain on a parade, who don’t like to celebrate the success of others but it makes me wonder if a big business can ever be in the right? If outgoings are high its overspending and lavish. If it seeks to cost save and reduce overheads it is penny pinching and stingy. This is why when we see success communicated, we often hear cautious optimism. Optimism and positivity is essential to promote to team members and consumers alike but by being too flippant and throwing too much caution to the wind, you risk the ability to remain resilient so caution is equally as important.
Although it’s not the most sexy verb, Pendragon PLC is resilient, and it’s actually one of the traits of the business that I’m most proud of. Because it’s not actually the company that is resilient, it's the people who make up the company that are. We have survived the toughest of times, but not only that, we have learnt from them. We don’t make decisions lightly and a great deal of thought and deliberation goes into every decision to ensure it is measured, strategic and for the good of the whole business. At the same time deliberation ensures we are negating the risks that are just too high when 10,000 livelihoods need to be considered. I mentioned tough times and in 2008 Pendragon PLC, like many other businesses, had a tough time but it was the resolve of our people that made us resilient. At the time I was emailed a poem from an industry leader that inspired me so much, I framed it and gave a copy to the key leaders in our team;
If, by Rudyard Kipling
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the will which says to them: "Hold on!"
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a man, my son!
What have the tough times taught you?