Having a business mentor on hand allowed MTF Greenlane to be more efficient, to grow faster and to beat the competition according to operations manager Gerrie Cashmore.
“Our mentor focussed us on the essential things that needed to be done, but across all areas of the business. That encompassed everything from financial analysis to marketing.
“The focus enabled us to grow faster, to be more precise with identifying actions and outcomes and to achieve measurable targets,” she says.
Gerrie and her family bought the motor vehicle finance franchise in February 2013, one of two in the competitive Central Auckland region. Gerrie’s father-in-law and owner Warrick Cashmore had always been in the motor vehicle industry, and knew he had bought at a time when the competition was strong.
Chris Reid, their newly appointed business mentor and owner of business consultancy The Business Engine, immediately identified from their company’s financials that they needed to grow fast to cover the extra overheads and fixed costs. In addition, much of the business was coming from car dealers, which was not qualified lending and there was also a commission to pay.
“We have a sign above the microwave at work that says ‘If it looks marginal and sounds marginal, it probably is marginal, so don’t write bad debt’ “says Gerrie.
With Chris’ support, the new strategy was to get more customers, and to get them directly – not through third parties.
In the first year MTF Greenlane traded at a profit. Although it still had significant overheads, it had also increased volume, attracted better customers and reduced risk from repossessions. Gerrie is quick to confirm that their relationship with car dealers is an important element of the business however the quality of the lending has improved. With the volume of business under the bonnet, they can be more selective about the dealer business they take and can make better credit decisions.
‘These may seem like simple decisions or changes, but it really does take the comfort and assurance of access to a knowledgeable third party advisor, to be confident in actually taking the first steps toward change,” says Gerrie.
By May 2014 MTF Greenlane celebrated making the top spot as number one franchise in New Zealand. “With the help of our business mentor we had the bricks in place and a strong platform for growth. And we were clear about who was our “right kind of customer.”
Says Gerrie, “It is really nice to be in the situation now where we can turn down a loan – so as we move forward the overall business risk is depleting because we are able to say no to riskier decisions.”
MTF Greenlane also decided to join Auckland Chamber of Commerce. Mentor Chris encouraged them to participate in Chamber activities. “Join the Chamber, but if you sit back and do nothing you won’t get the results. You’ve got to let it work for you. For example at a Ba5 networking event you may meet someone who will introduce you to someone who you will do business with later on,” he said.
MTF have optimised their Chamber membership. “We have used Chamber Direct Mail Out service, attended Speed Networking and Business Club and also took part in the Table-Top Expo at Business Club where we obtained some business leads and good contacts for the future,” says Gerrie.
They have utilised savings with alliance partners Mercury Energy and Z and have employed staff using the Employment service offered by the Chamber. All of this has helped with cost cutting and reducing their overheads.
The mentoring relationship
Chris had been based in the Auckland Chamber of Commerce building, running a business
which he sold in March 2013.
As he was leaving the building, Business Mentors Agency Manager Kerry Carr invited him into her office and suggested he become a mentor. Since Chris had stopped working and had a small consultancy business to run he was happy to do mentoring.
Says Kerry, “A great mentor is someone who has been involved in business and can take an overview of business. They make sure any gaps they see are immediately addressed.”
In March 2013 an obvious match was made with the Cashmore’s MTF Greenlane business. Chris’s background in the corporate world and transport industry made him a good fit for the business. Despite not having worked in the motor vehicle industry he says, “Often the issues are generic no matter what the business, and specific industry knowledge is also useful.”
Chris enjoys helping business people plan. “There are a huge number of people in business who don’t have much of a plan. A lot of a business success comes down to a decent plan, measurement, financials and strategizing to make the business grow. Often people feel they are too busy to prioritise this.”
“I mentor ten to twelve businesses at the moment. With MTF, it’s nice to be associated with people who are positive and happy to see you. It’s great to see the results if their efforts off all around the place. Mentoring is absolutely about monitoring activity and keeping an eye on the ball.”
“What is the point of having the expertise of a mentor if you are not going to implement it,” says Gerrie. She points out that when Chris suggested implementing KPI’s to monitor progress, she did it – without question.
Why should businesses have a mentor?
“A mentor can offer up their network,” says Gerrie who was pleased to be referred to some of Chris’s business contacts, which she said gave her confidence.
“A mentor is someone to challenge what you are doing. To ensure that even if you think you know it all, they are a fresh set of eyes that can see things you cannot see yourself,” says Chris.
A mentor gives a business owner more confidence says Gerrie. “ I needed backup for myself. I had ideas about what we needed to do but with a mentor I had someone who could consolidate that – a sounding board. I don’t have to take his advice, but business is a journey for us and at every stage things change over time – from start-up, to consolidation and growth –there is always going to be something that you need help with.”
“It’s the cheapest advice you will ever get, so why wouldn’t you have a mentor? Every business that belongs to the Chamber should make the most of the service,” says Gerrie.
“Business is a journey for us and at every stage things change over time – from start-up to consolidation and growth – there is always going to be something that you need help with.” Gerrie Cashmore , Operations Manager MTF Greenlane.
REGISTRATION FOR A BUSINESS MENTOR COSTS $225.00 + GST FOR one YEAR. BUSINESS MENTORS NEW ZEALAND IS ALSO INTERESTED IN HEARING FROM BUSINESS PEOPLE WHO WOULD LIKE TO BE MENTORS. FIND OUT MORE AT WWW.BUSINESSMENTORS.ORG.NZ.
FOR MORE INFORMATION PHONE KERRY CARR ON (09) 374 2265.
About Business Mentors New Zealand:
Business Mentors New Zealand has steadily grown and developed to become the leading business mentoring service provider to the SME (small to medium-sized enterprise) sector in New Zealand. Visit www.businessmentors.org.nz
About Auckland Chamber of Commerce:
The Auckland Chamber of Commerce is a voluntary association of companies and individuals engaged in business activities in the Auckland region, with a mission is to inspire and influence business vitality. Visit www.aucklandchamber.co.nz