Simon Griffin was recruited as the Dealer Principal at Watts Truck & Van Limited at the end of 2012, but has been involved in the industry for most of his life. He recently spoke to Commercial Motor magazine about his life in the industry.
Simon started out in the family firm of Griffin Mill Garages in Pontypridd which became the UK’s third Volvo truck dealer in 1968 and was eventually incorporated into the Volvo Wales & West region.
Despite qualifying as a French teacher at Oxford University, truck sales was in the blood and Simon returned to the truck industry, working for Griffin Mill then Volvo Wales & West until 2005, before spending eight years at Isuzu Truck UK becoming General Manager, responsible for retail sales and new dealer recruitment.
When asked about his memories of the first item he ever sold, surprisingly the answer was not a truck! “The first item I ever sold, well there were two actually: Welsh cakes and second hand books at the church jumble sale.” His first truck sale came 10 years later when working at the family run business in the school holidays. “I sold a Scania 111 to a timber haulier in mid-Wales that had been taken in as a part exchange,” he said.
Watts Truck & Van is also a family-owned business and started life as an ironmongery in the Forest of Dean in the 1880s. It can trace a line of selling what are now DAF products directly back to taking on the Albion franchise in 1922. The company has gone from strength to strength, this year winning the UK DAF Dealer of the Year Award. In addition, the MOT First Time Pass rate scores across all 3 depots in Swansea, Newport and Cardiff are outstanding, and for the 3rd year running all three depots have achieved the highest DAF Category A standard.
Investment in staff and premises as well as maintaining excellent customer relationships are big factors in the success of Simon’s team at Watts Truck & Van. When asked, “What is the secret to building a good relationship with customers and ensuring repeat business?” Simon said:
“By looking after customers – clearly if you want repeat business you’ve got to do it properly. You need to be a careful listener, be helpful, and if you make promises, you’ve got to keep them. You need to do what you say you’re going to do and whenever customers have serious problems you have to show you care. So acting on those problems to find a solution with urgency is very important.”
Despite being a busy Dealer Principal, there are times when Simon still gets involved in individual deals. As he explains, “I have worked in South Wales for many years and know several customers very well, but we have a very professional sales team with great in-depth technical knowledge and good customer relationships. So where there is a customer that I know very well, we work as a team to try to win as much business as possible.”
That care that Simon is clearly so passionate about does not stop once a sale has been made either. The after sales experience is just as important. He has a friendly, efficient, well trained team who have attended all the DAF training programmes. That, combined with technical staff who know the product really well means that customers get all the assistance they need to get the best operational performance and value from their vehicles. This level of expertise was recognised by DAF at its national awards last year. “We won the aftersales DAF Sword of Excellence for scoring maximum points in our service and parts targets, and this year we have been named UK Dealer of the Year” said Simon.
What does the future hold?
As a family business Watts is very much focussed on the future in terms of staff and premises.
“We make sure that everybody has a personal training programme and has a clear career path in the business. Up to six apprentices are taken on each year; one service and one parts in each of the three depots.” The DAF Trucks National Dealer Apprentice Programme has been running for 22 years and produces technicians who form part of a highly skilled workforce committed to quality.
In terms of premises, the new truck centre in Swansea has just opened and the Cardiff site has just been purchased from the existing landlord which will be the next project to invest in.
Future truck industry challenges involving lower emissions mean there will be more electric and hybrid vehicles on the road. DAF themselves currently have all electric and hybrid vehicles in live testing with customers. To meet those challenges Watts Truck & Van are installing 4 charging points at their new Swansea depot and will also do the same at their Cardiff and Newport depots in the coming years.
“We are a very forward-thinking company offering the best facilities for staff and customers,” said Simon.
When asked to summarise in 10 seconds why someone should buy a truck from Watts Truck & Van, Simon said “With a DAF from Watts you buy a top quality product for the driver and the company boss, which will be handed over in a professional manner so that both can get the best out of it.”