On a journey through the eye of the storm “the automotive digital revolution in South Africa”. An architect of change and the driving force behind AutoTrader’s successful transition from a traditional print business into a digital giant and clear market leader in its category, being at its helm since 2007.
Being instrumental in the sale of AutoTrader twice over the last decade and a half, including the orchestration of a management buy-out and then the eventual sale of the business to the Naspers Group. AutoTrader is now 20 times bigger as a digital business than it ever was in print.
An active thought-leader and experienced communicator and speaker, who has been published in a number of prominent online publications, magazines, newspapers, and has appeared as a guest on numerous television shows and podcasts in South Africa.
A solid social media presence on all major social networks (Linked-In, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram), reaches and influences the automotive industry with insights pushing the envelope and driving the motoring economy of South Africa forward.
- Hosts #AutoCentral, a fortnightly motoring and tech podcast sharing insights to a digital audience
- A guest on the GarethCliff show every Friday at 7:45am hosted by CliffCentral.com
After successfully transitioning AutoTrader into a fully online marketing and technology business while continuing to grow revenue and profits, it was time to find more efficient ways for the automotive industry and car dealerships to buy and sell cars online.
Product & Technology
Data is moving ever closer to the heart of every businesses decision making. Gaining online momentum as a car dealership means accepting and operating in a world where the internet drives more transparency across both car dealer, OEM and car buying consumer.
Realising that the internet will eventually commoditise all car prices in South Africa, creating a world where car pricing is no longer a strategic competitive advantage, it was important to lead the charge to this new future world. The underlying problem in the way of South Africa moving forward in this area however was the badly managed vehicle meta-data (VIN# database accuracy and integrity).
South Africa suffered from badly managed VIN# databases with SA companies ill equipped to solve what essentially should be a government department process with these databases being made available at minimal cost to drive the automotive online industry forward to support online capabilities. This still remains the biggest stumbling block to online success outside AutoTrader.
Once again spearheading another first in South Africa to help move the industry forward, 11 million vehicle VIN# records were cleaned over a period of 5 years and now AutoTrader has the biggest, cleanest VIN# database SA has ever seen. This has enabled:
- Car dealers to gain accurate minute by minute demand, supply and pricing data – just like the stock market. The SA automotive industry now has all the market data at their fingertips, to make buying, selling and stocking decisions using “live-market-data”. This brand new concept to the South African automotive market has been given life through the Fuzion product.
- Car buying consumers (in-market-car shoppers) to search down to not only car make, but model and more critically variant level on AutoTrader. (Try searching for a single list of VW Golf GTI’s anywhere else and you’ll see what this means).
Sales & Marketing
Over the years, having built a formidable sales team of strategic advisors with strong underlying diagnostic sales processes and management skills, has created the environment for an efficient print to digital transition while growing revenue’s. Having closed the print magazines in 2007, the sales skills, capability and people have focused on purely the communication of online value.
Believing that sales people are not born, and that sales is a process and can be taught, people are still at the core of the sales process. Understanding that every business sales process is different, even in businesses in the same market selling the same product, there are core sales fundamentals that are business and product agnostic. We have moved into a digital world where 1980s “order-taking” or “feature-selling” salespeople are less useful than an ordering app.
Through this focus and effort, the sales teams are now the best digital strategic advisors to the South African automotive industry working for the biggest, most known online automotive brand in SA, and perhaps the world, AutoTrader.
It’s also taken 10 years to build the most competent marketing team South Africa has ever seen in the automotive industry. Having steadily built in-house teams, skills and capability across both online and offline marketing communication channels to capture, keep and convert car buying consumer attention into value to car dealers, sellers and OEMs.
Believing that there is a clear distinction between marketing and advertising efforts, with advertising being a component of marketing, advertising draws attention to products whether paid for or not. Car sellers today do too much “selling” (advertising) and not enough “marketing”.
There is therefore a drive and passion to help car dealers and sellers understand this distinction and build their brands, because, in the end, when all prices are commoditised by the internet because of price transparency, the last man standing (ultimate competitive advantage) will not be your product or price point as these will all be copied and commoditised, it will be your brand.
People Leadership & Psychology
People leadership and mentorship are a passion because – people most often leave their bosses not their companies. Focusing on influence as a central leadership style, allergic to dictators, invests heavily in growing people, giving back, trying to open doors for those who show grit, determination and passion, all to pay-it-forward. Having opened doors over the last 15 years for the senior executive team to grow and thrive in their careers but more importantly enjoy coming to work while having fun and making positive change to the South African automotive industry. Because at the end of the day, the world is made up of people, where computers, bytes and bits are merely enablers.
All relationships succeed or fail on effective communication. An important part of being a leader is understanding communication and behavioural psychology (understanding the connection between our minds and behaviour as well as discovering patterns of behaviour). Understanding why people do and say what they do and say. Having read countless books on psychology and communication, and having 20+ years practical experience as a people leader, this passion helps the people he leads realise their full potential and ultimately do meaningful work because they want to, not because they have to…