How internet provides the drive that sends Richard's car-finding business into top gear
Could you please describe your business to us?
In addition to the usual car servicing, MOT preparation and repair work, I offer a bespoke car-sourcing and car inspection service for individual customers, finding them exactly what they want within their budget.
What are the most interesting things you are doing at present?
I am currently sourcing a BMW M3 CS — an extremely rare car, as most of these have been crashed or used on the track.
If the latter has happened, it is unlikely to be recorded on standard insurance checks.
This is where my mechanical and inspection experience comes into play, to find if there is a worrying hidden history.
I am currently completing a specialist restoration project on a race and hill climb Renault Alpine GTA.
When and why did you set the company up?
After 20 years in the industry, I realised that what was missing was a quality personal service tailored to each customer's individual needs. I set up my business in 2006.
What was the biggest challenge?
I needed advice on business management and I went to the Start a Business programme run by Invest NI, which gave me the necessary knowledge and skills.
As the company has expanded, I have also sought specialist help on tax, VAT and marketing.
What are your greatest day-to-day challenges?
Working on my own brings constant challenges to make sure I meet customer requirements and use my time effectively.
What plans do you have to develop the company?
To grow the business I really need to find someone to work with me, but it is vital to find the right person, who could share my passion for |excellence and customer |satisfaction, coupled with a deep knowledge of all cars, both classic and current.
How do you market your business?
Word of mouth referrals, networking through the smallbusinesscan, and on my website, www.goodbuycarsourcing.co.uk.
How do you use the internet for marketing?
Through my website. I am keen to harness the power of the internet as a business networking tool via bespoke sites such as smallbusinesscan and also social networks such as Facebook. The internet is also crucial to my business for me to source rare cars from all over the world.
Has the recession changed your business?
The recession has made customers much more carbon dioxide savvy in their car selection, and my specialist knowledge helps in choosing the latest technology — Volkswagen BlueMotion, Ford Econetic — or choosing a manual car which produces less carbon dioxide than an equivalent automatic car, and so is in a lower tax bracket.
Is cashflow an issue?
No, but I keep my overheads to a minimum to remain competitive.
Have you adjusted your prices in the recession?
My business is price sensitive and my pricing reflects current market conditions.
However, customers looking for something very special accept that top quality comes at a price.
Are you doing anything to improve energy efficiency or to develop more energy efficient products or services?
I am excited by new technologies offered by car manufacturers and for my customers to benefit from these developments — improved miles per gallon and lower car tax from lower carbon dioxide emissions.
How do you keep yourself motivated?
Providing a high-quality service |motivates me.
Cars have always been my passion, and I get a real kick seeing the smile on a customer's face when they take delivery of their special car.
Which entrepreneur do you most admire?
Ferruccio Lamborghini started off building tractors, and to reward his hard work he wanted to buy a Ferrari.
After many disappointments with the car he decided to build his own supercar, and the rest is history.
What is your favourite gadget?
My Lenser torch is invaluable for inspecting cars. My new iPhone4 provides internet on the move — vital when sourcing cars.
If you could do any job, what would it be?
From a very young age I have always been around cars, be it in garages, attending rallies, or working on engines. My ideal job would be to build specialist cars to a very high standard.
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