We're all a bit fatigued after a full year of the Pandemic. There's been so much bad news everywhere we turn.
The team here at Drogheda Chamber have supported and celebrated the resilience, creativity and courage of our entrepreneurs over the last year. And now it's time to celebrate those that have been nimble in adapting to the changing situation. Those that have pivoted. That have used the lockdowns as opportunities to future fit and develop their businesses further.
Over the coming weeks we will interview some of these businesses and share some of the positivity and good news that we see.
This week we are talking with Alan Reynolds - from Brian Reynolds Car Sales.
Tell us about your pre pandemic Business status
AR: Our company was set up in 1989 by my Dad, Brian. We had the lease on the Maxol station on the Ballymakenny road and we still run it. Dad started selling cars from the yard at the back of the station, and in 1994 we were appointed as Mazda dealers. We moved to our new showroom at Matthews Lane (beside Tesco Extra) in 2015 and became Fiat dealers a few years later. Our business has largely been a bricks and mortar business with most of our sales happening on a face-to-face basis in our showrooms. My Brother Mark and I run the Business today.
What was the initial impact on your business & how did you react?
AR: To be honest when the pandemic first hit, we were floored. It had all the hallmarks of the financial crash in 2009. We’d had a very busy January and February selling new cars and we had hundreds of thousands of euros worth of used cars sitting in the yard. I was fearful that the values of these cars would drop significantly. It was a very worrying time - We were also worried for our staff and customers health. There was a real scramble for PPE. I remember queuing for ages in Dunleer to get hand sanitizer… getting the HSE guidelines in place was paramount.
What changes did you make in order to cope or pivot / and to adapt to the situation?
AR: Because we couldn't have customers into our showrooms anymore, the obvious place for us to start was our website. We completely switched it up, adding functions such as,
· Used car videos & Used car appraisals
· Online finance applications
· Booking services
And lots lots more! www.brianreynolds.ie
We also set up a YouTube channel and now every used car we advertise comes with a video. And we’ve implemented a new system that allows us to send videos of new & used cars directly to our customers phones.
The time also enabled us to look at our internal systems. We implemented new software to allocate to and remind our sales staff to send back professional emails (templated) within an allotted time frame. This has been remarkably effective!
We have also put in software that allows us to remove the background of our used car photographs on our website and on the used car websites eg. Carzone , Cars Ireland and Donedeal, we find this works very well and helps our cars stand out from the rest.
Finally, we've learned to make ourselves way more accessible - We are now available to our customers almost 24/7 via text, and our final comments at the end of all of our videos and on all our social media say to WhatsApp us for more information. That’s been a powerful!
What supports, grants, aids helped the most?
AR: I'm incredibly lucky! We’ve a small team but they’re excellent. And in our darkest days we really did pull together to get through the pandemic. We set up a WhatsApp group for updates as they rolled out and this was extremely helpful.
I also had many zoom calls with the Drogheda Motor Show members. The Coffee morning zoom calls with Drogheda Chamber of Commerce were a great support. SIMI also did zoom calls. In addition - Denise Fay from Achieve Marketing was very helpful to us. Finally - we linked with he Tapit.ie cashback scheme and it’s working very well also.
How are you feeling about business as we begin to plan to emerge from the lockdowns, and as vaccinations roll out?
AR: I am feeling quite optimistic as we emerge from the hopefully last lockdown. Some of my nearest and dearest have now had their vaccinations which is also lovely.
According to the economic experts we are told that there are large amounts of monies on deposit at the moment, however I'm super aware that not all sectors will get back at the same time. I am reasonably optimistic, that we can have a decent second half of 2021.
We were brainstorming recently about how we could get our Mazda cars (which are truly exceptional) out front and center. How to help our potential customers see them … And we've been working with Scotch Hall shopping centre. We're delighted to announce that we will be showing off our new Mazda’s including our first all electric All New Mazda MX30 in the main windows of the Centre in the former Next site. We are hopeful that this will create further awareness of this fantastic brand.
Finally … What's your top piece of advice for other businesses?
AR: I'd have to say surrounding yourself with positive like-minded people helps. Try to be brilliant at the basics and remember it's not rocket surgery :)
If you'd like to be featured in this series - We'd love to hear from you
@Drogheda & District Chamber.