• Paul Rutherford

GM 1 SZ 97


Alfa Aid is an Alfa Romeo sales and post-sales garage based less than ten minutes from where I live. Adrian, the owner, started the business in 1993.

Now, after more than two decades, he’s ready for his biggest step. Alfa Aid's first General Manager starts today.

After years of riding the ups and downs of a commercial roller coaster - of sometimes taking lesser rewards to keep his people on board - Adrian is finally letting go.

He has been through multiple cycles in the motor trade, which have been extreme for the Alfa Romeo marque.

A marque that’s mixed Italian flair and problematic engineering. A marque which recently brought stability to its organization – and its reputation – by cutting its total range to only two models; the Giulietta and the Mito.

(There are now two more. But for comparison, Audi currently has 15 models.)

Imagine how that downsizing decision affected Alfa Aid. Less product choice, diminished visibility, greater dependence on fewer customers.

But Adrian kept his head above water because he cares. Cares for his people, cares for the cars, cares for his customers.

Easy to say, much harder to deliver, as most corporate leaders know.

Over soup and a sandwich, we spoke about Alfa Aid’s approach to customers:

First, ‘car drivers’. They are people who drive a car that happens to be an Alfa for however long the contract runs. Before their current Mito perhaps they owned a BMW Mini. After, maybe they’ll move to a Fiat 500.

Their only relationship with a garage is convenience. Hence, it helps Adrian that he’s based on a busy road, on the side where the traffic is heading into a busy town centre.

Literally, drive-buy business.

Adrian labels his second segment ‘Alfascionados’. They have Alfa Romeo in their blood. An Alfa may not be the only car they drive, but they'll always have one.

(A-hem. I'm guilty as charged.)

Unlike ‘car drivers’ who just want a garage that’s close by, ‘Alfascionados’ will travel quite a distance to get their car – and themselves – suitably cared for.

“Last week, one of our customers drove to us from Bournemouth,” said Adrian. “A 200-mile, five-hour round trip for a service, spare parts, and a chance to speak ‘Alfa’ with mechanics who know his/her car.”

Know the car, know the customer.

The third segment is even narrower. One of the Alfa Aid team – who has worked with Adrian almost from the start – knows the Alfa Romeo SZ (Sport Zagato) inside-out and front-to-back.

He can strip an SZ to its individual parts then rebuild it, blindfolded.

“Thanks to his knowledge, passion and loyalty, we ‘own’ the SZ after-sales market in the UK,” Adrian beams. I ask him how many owners are there?

“Ninety-seven.” That’s a niche.

And specialization is the most intense example of the Alfa Aid “caring” claim.

“SZ owners come from across Europe, bring their vehicles to us for service and fixes.

“In a couple of weeks, we have an owner from New Zealand paying a visit. No, he isn’t bringing his car, but he’s including us in his European trip. Something valuable will come from the meeting.”

Another Adrian 'Alfa smile'.

The more that he and his team learn, the more valuable they become. And the more they value what they know, the more they invest in further discovering.

Hence the appointment of the General Manager - to give Adrian more time to discover. Especially about his market and his customers.

Which prompts a question for anyone, in any business, from the local to the global:

Who are your ninety-seven, and what do you know about them?

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