Adam Pay loves his job. From developing business strategies to flipping a spanner and fitting tyres, the Managing Director of mycar is passionate about all things automotive. He has been since a teenager.
In fact, it’s probably fair to say Adam is living his own boys’ adventure spearheading a business responsible for servicing cars and fleets in every aspect of maintenance from tyres to brakes, from batteries to registration inspections, in 266 stores scattered throughout Australia.
And it’s not unusual to see the boss venturing into one of those stores with his sleeves rolled up ready to chip in on the workshop floor. “I just love cars,” he says.
“Even while I was at school, everything I did was centred around cars.” One could speculate he loves people just as much, with Adam admitting it’s predominately the people he works with who inspire him.
But they are just part and parcel of the industry that truly galvanises him to get out of bed every day. His enthusiasm for servicing cars is infectious, his commitment to customers unrelenting.
The passion is evident in the company’s mantra, ‘We look after cars, but people come first’, with Adam almost brushing off the cliched selling points of quality, value and convenience.
“We’ve got all that, of course. That’s just the starting point, a given for anyone shopping around for tyres, vehicle servicing and repairs,” he says.
“We go way beyond that. We lift our heads up above the bonnet and look at the person behind the car and think, ‘How can we fix your problem? How can we make your day a little better?’”
For Adam, removing that problem is unequivocally reliant on earning the trust of the mycar customer. Trust is a huge and contingent factor for him and one that he wants his customers to take for granted when they bring in their cars to mycar for anything auto.
He likens it to the sense of ease his wife, Anna, strived to develop within her own network each time she packed up and moved to follow Adam and his career.
How can we fix your problem? How can we make your day a little better?
“We’ve moved around a lot and she always joked that she knew she was settled when she found a good hairdresser, a decent cup of coffee and a reliable doctor.
She’d say, “As long as I trust those, I’m good. I don’t see that being any different for people using our tyre, service and repair outlets. It’s all about trust. It’s really important for us.”
Fortunately for Anna, it’s been more than a decade since she has had to cultivate connections in a new neighbourhood, with the couple living on Sydney’s lower north shore with their three children and Adam working from the mycar store support office in Castle Hill.
Raised in Daventry in England’s East Midlands region, Adam’s first Saturday job was working around cars, ‘fixing a few bits and bobs’, in between pumping petrol at a service station.
And as soon he left school he went to work as an apprentice technician at a VW and Audi dealership. After four years and keen to diversify, Adam moved to London, stepping in to pub management, the perfect environment to fine-tune leadership skills and develop a wide range of management expertise.
However, his passion for the automotive business never waned and, in 1996, he joined Kwik Fit, the UK’s leading car service specialists, spending eight years there before heading to Australia in 2005 and accepting a role with Kmart Tyre & Auto Service in Brisbane as store manager.
He went on to enjoy roles as Regional Manager on the Gold Coast, State Manager NSW/ACT and General Manager of Store Operations until his appointment as Managing Director in 2013.
Adam continued to lead the company after its acquisition by German automotive manufacturer Continental in 2018. “We’re still the same business; we just have a different name,” he explains.
“The name was trademarked in the late 90s and used a few times for a couple of concepts, but we always knew from research that mycar was the only name to switch to.
It’s clean, it’s contemporary and it’s crisp, and it really speaks to the relationship we want to have with our customers and our team. We’re delighted with it. The team was fantastic throughout the transition, but like anything at mycar it was cool head, steady hands.
“We all tend to overcommunicate here, always wanting to ensure that everybody understands what we’re looking to achieve. The major challenge was to rebrand within a year, from all the signage on the stores, and the store vehicles, through to the paperwork – all of that stuff. We managed to do it in less than 12 months. I’m a hard scorer, but I’d give the team a 9.5 out of 10 for the transition.”
Adam acknowledges the starting point to achieving a great work culture begins with hiring the right people, something he admits to being “very fussy” about.
With the company opening up to 15 stores every year, demand for good talent is high, particularly with mycar being the largest single direct employer of apprentice technicians in the country.
“We have about 310 completing apprenticeships at the moment and we train them in all aspects of the business,” he says.
“They’re great guys and girls too. I’m always bumping into them and thinking, ‘Wow, that kid’s a superstar. Look out, after a couple of years, they’ll be after your job.’
If you ask them why they picked the automotive industry, most will say it’s because they love cars and if they want to be a technician and remain a technician, that’s fine; we’ll always have a place for great technicians.
But what’s been hugely successful over the past few years is our career pathway, which spells out the journey from apprentice or tyre tech right the way through to managing director.
“From the beginning, we need to know what attributes they can bring to the business and what they need to do well so we can help them get wherever they want within the business,” Adam explains.
“I can list more than 30 people right now who started with us as apprentices and are now in middle- to senior-management roles.”
While Adam admits COVID-19 caused a few challenges along with a dip in sales, it was the strong company culture that pulled the team together to present a united, disciplined front.
Store support personnel, about 70 of them, worked from home while the stores operated as normally as possible.
Gradually, after the initial lockdown, a three-step plan was implemented where restrictions were eased, along with Adam’s warning that “flattening the curve doesn’t mean that COVID-19 is over, it just means that it’s at a level that’s manageable”.
“Our entire team was kept intact and we were there when our customers needed us most, still offering our free 10 Point Checks and mobile tyre fitting at home for those who couldn’t get into stores,” he shares.
“Meanwhile, we’d get together for Fun Fridays when we held cookery classes and competitions online, or Formal Fridays when we’d be in a tie, jacket and best hat talking to someone else who was dressed in their best ball gown. It was awesome. We’ve always enjoyed a great community spirit and none of that was lost throughout COVID-19. It helped us bounce back quickly.”
Team spirit aside, it’s the added value mycar offers to customers that sets it apart from competitors. Its value, which doesn’t stop short at a smile and service, extends long after the bill’s been paid and the smile forgotten.
Adam regards wrapping a tyre or service in value as giving the customer peace of mind long after they’ve driven out of the mycar workshop. It includes free roadside assistance for six months after every essential plus or logbook service and a free Tyre Care Plan.
“After 30 days, if you don’t like a tyre bought from our Tyre Care Plan range, whether it be the look or performance, you can swap it, free of charge, no quibble, no questions. It’s a satisfaction guarantee,” Adam says.
“Also, if you damage the tyre within the first 12 months, we’ll replace it free of charge, absolutely no quibble. There’s no pro rata, and absolutely no additional charge – it doesn’t matter how you’ve damaged it, a nail on the sidewalk or driving over a curb, whether it’s your fault or somebody else’s. If you get a puncture, we’ll repair it free of charge at any one of our stores throughout the country. Once again, no quibble. It’s very straightforward, no complications.”
Then there’s the Lullaby Ready inspection, a service catering to frustrated parents who resort to driving around to get their baby asleep. Like most things automotive, Adam speaks from experience. He says that while his two daughters Henrietta and Verity were an absolute “dream”, his son, Abel, was very different.
“I spent a lot of time driving him around Sydney. I reckon I would have put in a good 20,000 kilometres a year on that one,” he laughs.
“We did a survey that revealed that Australian parents drive up to 1,500 kilometres per year, just putting their babies to sleep. So we launched our free Lullaby Ready inspection, which recommends how to get rid of all the knocks, rattles, bangs and shakes. It’s been wonderful watching customers coming in with genuine problems and driving out with their cars running a lot better.”
When cars can’t be repaired, or indeed, are even abandoned at a mycar store, they are still a valuable asset for the charities the company supports. The Kids Under Cover not-forprofit has been running its Donate Your Car program since 2006. Proceeds from sales support vulnerable youth aged between 12 and 25.
We did a survey that revealed that Australian parents drive up to 1,500 kilometres per year, just putting their babies to sleep.
“It’s such a great charity. From time to time, we get customers who decide they don’t want to get their cars fixed, as they may be beyond repair or situations change. Then there are customers who leave their car, don’t want it anymore and we just can’t get hold of them. At any one time, we’ve probably got between 10 and 20 unwanted cars around the network so Kids Under Cover was a way to solve the problem while we were helping them.”
There’s no doubt Adam’s warm, vibrant personality triggers that sense of trust he’s so adamant about. Describing his leadership as situational, what you see is obviously what you get and, while he has six senior leaders reporting directly to him, he prefers to keep his finger on the pulse by getting out and visiting his stores a couple days a week. Not to micromanage, more to touch base.
“I figure that if I’m more than two or three roles away from the stores, there’s a risk I’ll become detached from them,” Adam explains.
“I’ve learned to be the guy who steers the company rather than drives it, and there’s a subtle difference, but it makes a big difference in the way you approach the day-to-day running of the business.
“Steering the business prevents me from being seduced into driving it. I’ve learned that that’s not my job. The moment I start driving it, I’m operating at the wrong level, and getting in the way. We operate under a very, very flat structure and I have a fantastic leadership team driving the business every day.”
Adam ensures his store support and leadership teams also touch base with store operations with Fast-Paced Friday, which rolls around every month. It’s a day when sleeves are not only rolled up, but the safety glasses, protective gloves and yellow bibs are worn, as they walk in the shoes of a store manager and their team for a day.
“We pick a store and go for a day to engage with them and let them know we’re all one team,” he says. “We’ve all been trained in tyre inspection, but we’ll also be swinging spanners and fitting them as well as cleaning windows and sweeping the floors. It’s great, really good fun.”
Adam applies as much effort to building relationships with suppliers as he does developing his team. Cultivating the right partnership is a priority, once again built on trust and a strong understanding of mycar operations.
Over the years, he’s established strong partnerships with many including Custom Fleet, Eclipx, Repco, Goodyear & Dunlop Tyres, Kumho Tyres, Continental and Viva Energy Australia.
“They are really important to us and we look at all our partners as an extension of mycar,” he reflects. “For example, we’ve had a relationship with Repco forever. Its products are great, its prices are sharp, and sure, that’s important baseline stuff. But more than a parts supplier, Repco is a first call provider that helps us with technology solutions to enhance and enable the best customer experience.”
Adam’s day starts ridiculously early at 4.30am when he heads to the home office to get his “non-value stuff out of the way”. His first task is to check in on the mycar internal app, a connection that is hugely popular among the team. Then he’ll take a look at the previous day’s performance of the business.
“I like to get all this done before everybody wakes up, so then I can work with the team to make sure I can really add value,” he explains.
“We’ve got a whole growth agenda at mycar led by a program office and series of project working groups, and I want to be fully engaged in conversation, workshops and project meetings for the rest of the day so I can help improve the business. Then I step back from steering the ship and let them get on with it. It’s a really diverse role for me and for the leadership team.”
Adam says he’s learned through research that customers these days are not lured by the number of options they’re offered; they’re more interested in getting great advice. It’s why he wants mycar to become the auto expert famous for its customer care.
“We’ve done a lot of work to help us underpin the brand, and work out who our customer is, our customer segmentation, our customer experience journey,” he says.
“And while we do some stuff very well, there’s some stuff that we don’t, and I think the humble part of being part of mycar lets you look at those areas where you don’t do a great job, admit it and then do something about it.
“We know how to replace tyres, and how to service and repair cars; we do that well,” Adam says. “But I want to be the one that people look to and go, ‘Wow, they really do it different in mycar.’ What we want to achieve, and what we will achieve, is providing the customer with the option to shop with us the way they want, whether that’s online, in-store or by a mobile service to their door.”
Adam admits the car service industry is something he never sees himself turning away from. He sees it as a chance to not only do what he loves but leave his own stamp on it and evolve it into something better. Then again, as far as Adam’s concerned, he’s never done a day’s work in his life.
“My grandad used to say, ‘If you love a job as much as you do, Adam, you’ll never do a day’s work in your life.’ That’s stuck with me forever and it’s always been true,” he says.
“I know it sounds so cliche and so simple but, if you are going to spend as much time at work as I do, you’ve got to love what you do. Love your team, love your customers, love what you do.”
This love of people – team members and customers alike – is the heart of mycar’s new marketing campaign, People First. With growth plans like online sales about to launch, Adam expects the business to go from strength to strength.
“Even during the toughest times, putting this business through reset and getting through COVID-19, I’ve woken up every morning and thought, ‘Right, OK, I can make a difference today.’”
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