Back in 1998 our Owner and Managing Director, Jonathan Bischoff, had worked his way up to being a Sales & Brand Manager in the local car industry, but was thinking, "I want to do things differently". Jonathan contacted Volkswagen, a brand he most respected, and put forward his case. In December 1998 he was selected to become one of the first Volkswagen Sponsored Retailers, and at 28 years old, the youngest. Thus the JCB Group was born with just one showroom, which is now our Head Office, at JCB Medway in Gillingham Business Park.
Over the following years, additional brands, buildings and businesses have been added to the group, expanding it from one brand, one branch to 14 manufacturers, 2 used car and van outlets, car and van rental sites, corporate fleet sales, a van modification collaboration and trade parts centres at over 20 sites in Kent, Sussex and Essex.
Jonathan remains at the head of the company, very much hands on with day-to-day business - and still with a passion for the joy of driving!
You can buy one of our brands of cars or vans anywhere around the UK - but what is different about the JCB Group's approach?
Jonathan said he wanted to do things differently - he meant he wanted to focus on customer centred business, not just product sales. We don't deal in cheap vehicles, we don't over-price our used vehicles, we just want to supply cars and vans that delight our customers and offer good quality and good value backed by excellent customer relationships. We work to maintain good relationships with the manufacturers we represent and our mission is to excite people about the joy of driving. Customer handovers are exciting moments and seeing customers returning for their first service is a happy experience.
To realise his vision, Jonathan needed a trusted, reliable and hard-working team that could share his vision and make it happen. Many of those key players are still working for the business today and form the firm foundations on which the business is built and continues to grow.
What's the key to the team's success? Jonathan is very visible to his staff. He regularly visits all the branches and takes time to know all managers and staff and what makes them tick. Everyone calls him by his first name. By being very approachable and open to fresh ideas, Jonathan is not short of staff suggesting ways to improve and grow the business. He is aware that some managers favour staying with their favourite brand and others relish the challenge of working with a variety of brands within the group. Through regular discussions on career satisfaction the management team move up through the ranks, move brand or location, or stay where they feel most happy. Happy and fulfilled management team = team stability!
There are many long-serving members of staff who value the relaxed but professional working atmosphere of the JCB Group. All share the same work ethic that the team is more important than the individual need and the working day is always focussed on helping others as well as getting your own job done. Customer satisfaction is central to everyone in the team. Many of our Sales and Service teams have customers they know well and keep returning for their next new car, or bringing a relative to introduce, or recommending a friend to the service department.
The family ethos feels very real.
Jonathan also realises that to sustain a thriving and vibrant business, new ideas and young people are key to the JCB Group's success. There are formal and informal apprenticeships in place across the group, with technicians, sales staff, service advisors, parts advisors, accountants, administrators and marketeers all learning the job and bringing their own fresh ideas to the mix.
Communication is a priority and Jonathan takes the time to send a weekly e-mail to all staff in the group detailing how the business is going and what the priorities are for the week. He also includes shout-outs to individuals who may be doing really well, have received an award from the brand or have a personal achievement to celebrate.
All Jonathan asks of his staff is that they "deliver exemplary customer service at every site, every day".
Family owned and run since 1998, it's rare now to find this type of business in the motor industry, or any sector for that matter.
We believe that we can offer the best of both worlds. We have a long standing and trusted relationship with all the brands we represent and can offer customers the economies of scale in dealing with our multinational manufacturers. However, we also have a well established local knowledge and family ethos that means you don't just buy a vehicle from us, you buy a relationship.
Our team is always available to customers after they drive away in their new vehicle. We find that owners come back to ask questions, have vehicle features demonstrated to them, have vehicle health checks between services, or add on accessories. Our Sales staff often have customers dropping in for coffee to see how things are going and see what's on the forecourt that might be of interest. When we know what they're looking for, we look out especially for vehicles that might suit their requirements.
We keep in touch as a company by e-newsletters informing customers of new model launches, seasonal offers and special deals, but we only get in touch when we have something to say - we don't bombard with advertising. Our website has developed over the years to enable full interaction pretty much 24/7. With contact details, enquiry forms, online chat (and soon WhatsApp), our team can help outside of normal hours. Our social media sites and blogs offer help and advice, news and views and plenty of fun interactions with our regular customers. We also sponsor sports teams in our local community which we hope helps encourage youngsters.
The JCB Group continues to be family owned, with Jonathan's son and daughter already involved in the business. The JCB Group is forward thinking and is embracing the future of driving with electric models in all the manufacturer ranges; a greater emphasis on environmental responsibility; more online offerings for vehicle purchase and greater links with online partners such as AutoTrader. Recent new ventures include a new brand of niche sports car sales. We want to offer today's and tomorrow's drivers the greatest choice for personal mobility options and the greatest freedom for flexibility of ownership.
Watch this space!...