My own motor trade career has spanned many areas from the workshop through to High St retail motor parts and car and commercial vehicle sales. The two rules I have always tried to operate with is fairness and honesty. Sadly, these tend to be often ignored in the current world of automotive business. But it warms the cockles of my heart to know a few good men and companies do incredibly well in these current times of shrinking profit margins, ultra high pressure sales tactics and tales of badly treated customers that would make your feet itch if I shared some with you.
As a nipper, I would visit many showrooms collecting brochures back in the early `80s and whereby some staff would be downright rude to a young car obsessed youngster, others would offer a level of courtesy that still makes me smile with recollection today. My old home town of Darlington once possessed a varied array of dealers from the three wheeled Reliant cars in Beaumont Garage up to the big wheeled ERF, Scania and Volvo dealers – my filling cabinet still groans under the weight of these glossy examples of what my long suffering fiancé calls “Mike’s ever growing collection of soft pornography“.
So… Imagine my pleasure in noting that the dealership that offered so much warmth and generosity back in the `80s is celebrating a significant anniversary. Sherwoods of Darlington, for many many years has been the main Vauxhall dealership in the market town of the same name. The Managing Director – Alasdair MacConachie OBE has celebrated his 35th year with the company this month where he originally started as a Truck sales director during the period when the business operated the franchise for Bedford commercial vehicles.
Without being remotely sycophantic, I have Alasdair and other showroom stalwarts within other Darlington dealerships to thank for maybe fuelling the passion for most things motor trade related. In fact I even undertook my school work experience programme at the same dealer back in 1987 though not in the workshop as my other class mates did. I arranged with Alasdair to work alongside the lads and lasses in the new and used car showroom, one or two I still keep in touch with today and they were great times indeed. The companies warmth and hospitality even extended to an invite to their 1987 staff Christmas party at the Farmhouse Inn near Yarm.
Despite many rival dealerships coming and going within a stones throw of the Chestnut Street premises… some of them belonging to corporate groups too, Sherwoods continue to thrive indeed adding on two satellite dealerships in the past two decades. The simple fact of running a business with decent staff that seem to treat their customers fairly and squarely has kept the company at the top of its game. Sherwoods also contribute to the good of the local community too by giving support to local charities and other worth while causes – sometimes you have to put something back.
The business just seems to have a nice feel about it and its not unknown for Alasdair to personally get involved with his customers… you don’t often see that within a PLC showroom. He’s certainly seen some changes during his stewardship with staff levels soaring from 35 when he joined the company to over 150 at the present time. Staff loyalty seems to be pretty good too with many team members racking up some impressive service years. That certainly flies in the face of tradition of many other dealerships where a revolving door staff policy often seems to be in place – I should know as I’ve witnessed it many times in my own motor trade career.
I wish Alasdair well and offer my thanks for his kindness and many words of wisdom when “I were nowt but a lad” as we say in the North. I’m proud to know the big man and equally pleased the company has gone from strength to strength despite one or two bitter pills being swallowed during past recessions. Sherwoods of Darlington are a Vauxhall dealer that bigger rivals often look up to in terms of customer loyalty, satisfaction and reputation – long may it continue!
Happy 35th anniversary Alasdair and the Sherwoods team in Darlington, Northallerton and Stockton on Tees – your kindness and inspiration has never been forgotten!