Tailpipe – Tales from the workshop floor. In conjunction with Gareth Davies, of Euro Performance, Llantrisant, South Wales, Iain Robertson gains an understanding of brand speciality and not just managing success but meeting demands, handling expectations and ensuring ace service delivery.
Location for any business is an essential consideration. Yet, geography can play a cruel hand, especially in South Wales, where each of its several valleys constitutes a different community that warrants self-service. One means around potential obstacles is specialisation. Gareth Davies, a time- served VW exponent, made a brave break, when he was barely out of his indentures, by opening his own enterprise under a broad-brush banner of German brands.
Although he might now describe it as ‘cwtch’ (pro. ‘kutch’, to rhyme with ‘butch’, but meaning ‘cosy’, or ‘comfortable’), it was a risk, in 2004, but one that continues to pay off today. As he recalls: “Without being specific, I could see fault-lines running through main dealer offerings and believed that I could not just meet requirements but ensure that the customer went away happy and would return for more again, without complaints!”
It is a not dissimilar situation for any garage start-up, which begs serious questions about the integrity of main dealerships. “Within the next two years,” he outlines, “I had registered my business as a limited firm. However, I was also starting to build an enterprise with like-minded specialists, who shared my ethos but could bring specific skills to our table. It has been non-stop for the past 17 years but I have never ceased in my overarching desire to make visiting our garage the best possible experience for the customer, which is essential for building as close to a bulletproof reputation as possible.”
Now operating from 5,000sq ft premises, complete with nine service bays, including one specifically for MOTs, another for light commercials and one for the Hunter chassis alignment gear, Gareth is aware that specialising has meant that he turns away some business but the excellent repute he has fostered means that his garage is never empty. “The German brands are good by reputation, which ensures that we must also deliver to those expectations, without exception”, he states. “However, Mini is part of BMW, for which we are a recognised service centre. Skoda, Seat, Audi and VW also share a lot of technology to make the task more elementary. While Mercedes-Benz was a little more problematic, aided by resolving the servicing issues for a client operating a fleet of light vans, both Porsche and Bentley are fortunate supplements to our German portfolio.”
Yet, Gareth’s well organised team of nine personnel is more than up to the tasks demanded of it. “We take training very seriously,” he emphasises, “but not without sharing information among the team. Our regular ten-minute ‘pow-wows’ are a highlight of collaborative communication skills and, having adopted a stance on continuous improvement, the benefits are abundant. We have a cheerful and willing atmosphere that is almost as infectious as the pandemic! Yet, apart from a period of nine weeks during the first ‘lockdown’, we have almost never been busier, while also meeting all of the restrictions placed upon us.”
Naturally, the company’s presentation is helped by an uncomplicated and professional website and Gareth ensures that online critique is responded to and nurtured, as dictated. “If anything,” he admits, “while appreciating that I have to manage the business, as well as being involved as a Master Technician, I am aware that I spend too much time in the workshop and not enough in the back-shop. Yet, it is a balance that I am addressing, notably as we employ experienced new people to build the strength of the team, to the benefit of our customers.”
However, I was intrigued to discover the ways by which Gareth can switch-off to his business. “In truth, I seldom do so,” he says, “but, with a young family, our business only works five days a week. I am immensely happy with my family and my life and, even in these trying times, getting that balance right is probably the most important part of a flexible ethos.” For that, I would raise a glass of beer (‘cwrw’) in celebration, because that is what the Welsh call every alcoholic beverage.