The choice to join the family business can be complicated for some, but for others like Frankie Ang, it was a natural progression. He jumped right into his family’s business, straight out of college and hasn’t looked back since.
“Joining the family business has been rewarding. And to be working in a business engaged with auto companies, especially the prestigious brands that we have, is a dream,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “Since I came on board in 2011, I’ve rotated through various roles in the group before eventually ending up where I am now as COO.”
The Cats Group of Companies carries under its umbrella the exclusive distributorship of Mercedes-Benz (Auto Nation Group, Inc.), Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram (Auto Nation Group, Inc.), Jaguar Land Rover (Coventry Motors Corp.) as well as dealerships of Mercedes-Benz (CATS Motors, Inc.), Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge, Ram (Auto Nation Group, Inc.), Jaguar Land Rover (Coventry Motors Corp.), Harley Davidson (American Motorcycles Inc.) and Mazda (CATS Asian Cars, Inc.).
We expect our people to continue the values that we’ve carried since the beginning: to get to know the customers well, get to know their wants and needs, and to simply get them to come along and enjoy the journey with us.
When Frankie joined, however, the Group was not nearly as large as it is today. Then, the company basically only represented two big brands: Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler. In that, Frankie saw great potential. “Back then, the company was a lot smaller. If we compare overall volume sales in 2011 compared to today, I can easily say that we have tripled in size,” he says.
“I saw that opportunity for growth when I joined. There were brands that were not here, and the size of the automotive industry relative to our ASEAN neighbours was completely different. So in terms of volume and in terms of brands, there was a lot of opportunity.”
And 10 years can make a lot of difference. As the Philippines has grown more economically sound as a country, the market has naturally improved right alongside it. “As the Gross Domestic Product [GDP] and GDP per capita of the Philippines grows, there’s always going to be a market for niche products, for luxury products for people to enjoy,” he suggests. “And I think we were right at the beginning of that, so for the past 10 years, we’ve enjoyed that growth.”
However, despite market conditions, Frankie points out that this impressive growth couldn’t have happened if the CATS Group’s strategy wasn’t on target. “The core strategy that we’ve had for the past decade-plus has always been the same. It’s always been focused on customer centricity,” he shares.
“Before we even became the distributor for these big brands in the Philippines, my father was engaged in the vehicle accessory business, and that’s where our roots lie. It was a small operation where we got to know our customers very intimately. And we’ve been able to keep this intimacy intact even as we’ve grown to become the distributor and retailer of these prestigious brands. To us, the customer is paramount.”
Of course, staying true to its roots while being open to change and growth hasn’t necessarily come easily. “The main challenge has been to organise ourselves in a way that maintains our core values despite the increasing number of customers,” he says.
“As an organisation, we expect our people to continue the values that we’ve carried since the beginning: to get to know the customers well, get to know their wants and needs, and to simply get them to come along and enjoy the journey with us. I mean, some of these customers started with us as very young people and remain our customers, through all of our brands, all the way to their retirement.”
Despite the challenges, Frankie is adamant that keeping the customer at the forefront of everything CATS Group does has been a key driver of its success. “In a nutshell, I believe the reason we remain so successful and so well known is because our customers feel that we’re only a step away,” he reflects.
“Strategies, whether it’s new brand acquisition or the choice of dealer partners, has always been the value to put customers front and centre in all our decision-making. It can never be what’s best for the business, it should always be what’s best for the customer. And we feel as long as we follow that key value, we will never go wrong in our decision-making.”
Just as critical to its success, he says, is having those same intimate relationships with suppliers. “There’s a very close alignment in terms of strategy and where we both want to arrive as companies,” Frankie confirms.
“Our Group is more than 30 years old, and the relationships that we have built with these global brands like Mercedes-Benz, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram, Jaguar, Land Rover, Harley-Davidson and Mazda are the greatest testament of our success in the Philippines. These companies would never go into business with a company that didn’t share their core sense of values and operate at a level on par with the most successful companies around the world.”
It can never be what’s best for the business. It should always be what’s best for the customer. And we feel as long as we follow that key value, we will never go wrong in our decision-making.
More than on par, the CATS Group does one better. Thanks to its intimate understanding of each of the luxury brands, it’s able to fine-tune its approach, offering a bespoke kind of offering to each. “All luxury brands are not the same. Their value systems are always going to be different,” he points out. “It’s our job to accurately represent them, and understand their unique value systems and how they want to market themselves to customers in the Philippines.”
Frankie believes there will always be something to improve on and right now, that something is the Group’s digitalisation efforts. “I think we are at the beginning of our digitalisation journey. Just as retail businesses like clothing and electronics have moved a lot of business to ecommerce, I believe the same is coming to the automotive sector sooner than later,” he predicts.
“In the future, it’s likely that there will be no more legacy showrooms. The dealership you used to know will be long gone. Instead, experience centres will arise. Our customers will be able to interact with the vehicles in the experience centres, but the purchase will be online and delivery direct to their doorstep.”
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