Two Activa Contracts’ employees have been promoted to area managers after successfully completing the company’s training and development programme.
Peter Renton is now area manager covering the East Midlands and East Anglia and Matthew Higgins is area manager for the North East of England based in Ilkley. An additional new graduate, 22-year-old Ben Hunt joined the scheme in May after starting his automotive industry career in a franchised dealership.
Milton Keynes-based Activa Contracts is a division of Europe’s largest independently-owned motor dealer group Arnold Clark with a fleet of more than 7,000 cars and vans on its books and the recruitment of trainee area managers and their subsequent promotion to area manager is part of a long-established employee development and skills enhancement strategy that spans all areas of the business.
This has seen the launch of a new apprenticeship programme targeted at school leavers, and participation in the National Vocational Qualification scheme (NVQs). In the first months of 2017 alone, three Activa employees have gained NVQs in customer service and a fourth member of staff is expected to follow suit shortly.
Activa Contracts’ sales and marketing director Lisa Temperton, who manages the company’s 10-strong team of area managers covering England and Wales, said: “We have chosen to train our own area managers because we believe that ‘growing’ our own employees and training them in the Activa Contracts’ way of doing business and building customer relationships is critical.
“We are inundated with applications for jobs from experienced area managers seeking a move from their current leasing company employer. However, in our experience, these people frequently have preconceived ideas on how business should be done and are blinkered to adopting a new approach and new methods.”
Temperton continued: “Both Peter and Matthew have proved themselves to be excellent employees with the drive, desire and determination to succeed that we require. We have every confidence that Ben will follow in their slipstreams and hope they will all have long and successful careers with Activa Contracts.
“The recruitment of Peter and Matthew and their subsequent promotion highlights that raw talent is available among today’s graduates, who may also have a short business career behind them.”
Renton (26) joined Activa Contracts in January 2015 as a commercial executive and seven months later switched to the company’s sales team as a trainee area manager. Higgins joined Activa Contracts in March 2015 as a trainee area manager.
Renton, a graduate in business management, accounting and finance from Nottingham Trent University, initially joined the graduate training scheme of then High Street giant BHS prior to being recruited by Activa Contracts.
He said: “I was not enjoying retail, but I have now fallen in love with fleet. My university degree was finance-based and I’m using the knowledge gained then and translating that theory into the real-world of the fleet sector, while also using my people skills.
“While I’m a new area manager, I can progress my career and earnings potential by being successful and signing up many new customers and managing a large portfolio of clients. Becoming an area manager enables me to develop my career without leaving what is clearly a successful company.”
Higgins (28), a graduate from Newcastle University in biology and psychology, joined Activa Contracts because the company offered “lots of opportunities and a clear career structure” after spending four years selling in a B2B environment.
He said: “I joined Activa Contracts because it offered me many opportunities. The company has a defined direction in which business growth is critical. Activa Contracts continues to expand and I want to grow with the business and take advantage of the career opportunities offered.
“Since joining Activa Contracts the experience has been brilliant. My previous jobs did not offer me the opportunities to progress and develop a career, which is what I wanted and am achieving with Activa Contracts.
“There has been a lot to learn; not just in relation to selling vehicle leasing but in terms of the nuances of the fleet industry and notably the different types of funding available, the impact of taxation as well as issues around the environment and carbon footprint reduction.”
Both Renton and Higgins followed a defined development plan that included internal training and attending courses at GTG (Glasgow Training Group), which has training centres in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Wolverhampton and like Activa Contracts is a member of the Arnold Clark group of companies. They also attended training courses delivered by the likes of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association and Activa Contracts’ supplier partners.
Their training and development programme was overseen by Temperton and Karen McCarthy, customer services director. Temperton also led training sessions that involved more senior area managers so the trainees could “learn from those with experience”.
Graduation to full area manager status additionally involved Higgins and Renton each signing up three new customers and successfully completing an examination paper written by Temperton and managing director Ian Hill.
Now both men have achieved area manager status their training and development programme continues with regular sessions led by Temperton, McCarthy and Hill in which key industry topics and new issues are highlighted.
Temperton said: “We have equipped Peter and Matthew with all of the skills they need to perform the job of area manager. Our policy is that having won a fleet account, area managers will look after clients for the entire time they remain a customer which builds strong relationships; many leasing companies employ business development managers to secure new contracts and then pass in-life management to an account manager.”
Photo caption: Activa Contracts’ sales and marketing director Lisa Temperton with new area sales managers Peter Renton (left) and Matthew Higgins (right) and trainee area sales manager Ben Hunt second from right.