Tales from the workshop floor – In conjunction with Hayley Pells of Aviations Autos, from Bridgend South Wales, Iain Robertson gains an understanding of a ‘lift as you climb’ philosophy that she practices with as much vigour as developing an effective future for the family firm.
With racing in the blood and race preparation central to Avia’s existence (Hayley’s engineer father, Andy Murdoch, having set- up the original business, fresh out of the Army, in the 1970s), being a specialist that has expanded into garage services and MOTs has been an organic experience. Ironically, Hayley left the RAF as a cartographer (mapmaker) some years prior to the notional end of her service contract. Yet, she can reflect on a systematic education that lent her myriad talents ideally to the family business.
It is moderately rare to encounter a woman in the male- dominated garage business but Hayley is one of the nation’s leading MOT Testers, who does more than dabble in journalism, which is an intriguing side-line that provides a vehicle beyond the more current social media mindset. “We are a forward-looking small business in a traditional environment,” she outlines. “Our motorists are a cradle-to-grave responsibility. Meeting their demands and satisfying their needs is only possible by retaining high transparency and relying on reputational word-of-mouth to maintain our buoyancy.”
Well, it is a buoyancy that is supported by success and recognition, Avia Autos having been declared UK AutoMechanika Garage of the Year 2019, a fitting tribute for a business that cares intensely. Without seeking awards, both Hayley and her business have received several, both poignant and warranted, from educational establishments (Gower College) and industry (IMI) alike. Yet, every aspect comes back to her customers, her motorists, and, while the pandemic led to her father being ‘shielded’ for various reasons, not even its impact has diminished a concerted pursuit of excellence for the second generation.
“I am not alone in our industry in comprehending the value of ongoing training,” Hayley explains, “as I would not be in my current role without undertaking loads of it! Even my father, as part of his ‘reintroduction’ to the post-lockdown business, has been required to undertake training and I dedicate at least two hours weekly to satisfy his needs.”She does take this very seriously, but she also makes time for her husband, also an engineer/metallurgist, and their young family. However, formal education is supported by intuitive self-improvement that Hayley absorbs from constant communication, building her network of knowledgeable contacts and collaboration around the industry.
It is this latter aspect that is singularly fascinating, as Hayley believes staunchly in the future development potential of the UK’s small firms but not unless they are also prepared to go the extra mile. “While providing regular insights to our industry through website, social media activities and writing for several highly regarded publishers has become intrinsic to my profiling of our business,” she highlights, “acting as a voice for certain elements of our industry has been crucial and critically well- received.” Hayley believes that groups of specialists working in collaboration, liaising, resolving issues, all while avoiding conflict is where the future lies.
As stated earlier, Hayley is an intriguing individual and she recognises the enhancements that she can add to diversity, not as a ‘political cause’ but as a raison d’etre for the entire industry. After all, she is a first-hand practitioner: “Our industry can benefit hugely through avoiding sexism, ageism and both colour and creed negative issues. When my father went back to college to learn about hybrid/electrified vehicle maintenance and repairs in his late-60s, the sometime age barrier had been removed, fortunately. He was capable and is now skilled and that’s the way it should be.”
Yet, if there is one spinal aspect to Avia Autos, it lies in communicating with its motorists. “Treating but not demanding that our motorists are our finest advocates,” Hayley states categorically, “is what our business is all about. In some cases, this may involve mutual backscratching. Yet, in the main, it is honesty and a sense of purpose that allows such heady aims to be achieved.” I get the impression that Mrs Hayley Pells MSc CAE FIMI knows her onions, probably better than many purported rivals do!