A conversation with John Good, Managing Director, LSH Auto Australia
Could you tell us about LSH Auto Australia and how the brand was established in Australia?
LSH Auto came to Australia in 2015 when we fully bought the Mercedes-Benz Sydney operation from the importer and distributor Mercedes-Benz Australia. In the same year we also purchased the Mercedes-Benz Brisbane operation and in 2017 we purchased the last factory owned operation Mercedes-Benz Melbourne. That made us the largest Mercedes-Benz retailer in Australia. We established LSH Auto Australia as a separate entity and subsidiary of LSH Auto Holdings to cohesively bring together the 3 businesses and 10 outlets.
Internationally the group has been a strong partner of Mercedes-Benz for over 50 years, and we have grown to be the largest retailer of Mercedes-Benz passenger cars and vans in the world. That’s a backing and depth of experience that is unique in this market.
You have been associated with the Mercedes-Benz brand throughout your career. Can you tell us about your experience with the business?
I commenced my career as a graduate management trainee in one of the first programs Mercedes-Benz had initiated in Australia. The unique program provided a solid platform to understand the many operating areas of the company, the fantastic products, customer relationship management, and this importantly provided me with a solid springboard to develop my career within the organisation.
I have been fortunate throughout my career to have worked in various international markets including Southeast Asia, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom.
The opportunity to further strengthen my relationship with the LSH Group came when I was recommended to head their Taiwan business approximately 15 years ago. I subsequently joined the LSH Group and have been fortunate to support the Group’s international growth strategies since then.
As the CEO of LSH Auto, you have been focused on securing a leading presence in Australia, what has this involved?
The most important elements are to ensure you have a great team that can deliver an unmatched customer experience and that, as a result, customers build trust in the LSH Auto brand. Trust that will lead to a motoring-life-long engagement, delivering not only premium motoring but a lifestyle enhancing relationship.
We have set about, very deliberately, to build long-term relationships that transcend the simply transactional. We take that view with our customers, our team and our partners. It sounds simple but in retail industries it’s not always something that gets the primary focus.
We are investing in our people and state-of-the-art, industry leading facilities, as well as establishing strong and proactive connections within our communities. All on top of ensuring that we build strong personal and beneficial relationships with our customers.
With the teams we inherited we worked carefully and methodically on increasing their identification and alignment with our brand, their feeling of inclusion and participation, and their opportunities for career progression and job satisfaction.
Of course we added some executive skills that created a more coordinated group out of what were previously three separate businesses and we took the values and success of LSH Auto internationally as our guide.
What are the attributes you feel are required to lead this business?
Naturally, there are many attributes that one should focus on when leading a business. It also somewhat depends on the situation you are faced with, and the identified strategies being actioned. For example, spearheading a successful growth strategy or positioning your business as a leader in an emerging market versus a mature market may call on different skills.
A key attribute to success is to attract, retain, and manage a strong team aligned with your vision. This includes being a positive role model, as the tone and style of an organisation is always set from the top. Having a positive company culture is also imperative, along with communicating a clear direction and being decisive.
You don’t always need to make every decision, however, in resolving certain high-level issues you do need to act decisively. I would also highlight that, fundamentally, you must have a growth mindset in order to adapt to the significant changes that are taking place within the automotive industry globally.
Your Brisbane precinct is the largest dealership in the southern Hemisphere, what’s the plan for this location?
Actually, the Mercedes-Benz Brisbane operation is the anchor tenant of what is known as the Breakfast Creek Lifestyle Precinct. The building, which covers the entire riverside site, is held by our sister company LSH Property Australia.
Together we have worked on creating a luxury experience location that has no equal in this market.
There are four floors taken by the dealership, plus basement parking and car detailing. Customers arrive in a hotel style concierge reception on level one, the showrooms are open and equipped with interactive screens where our consultants can take customers through configuring their cars. We have a three-level green wall with 14,000 plants, we have a dedicated AMG Experience Centre and a service centre on the second floor that is flooded with natural light and has panoramic views of the city, which also allows customers to see their car being serviced.
The other tenants are all part of creating a lifestyle destination where not only customers, but also the public can come and enjoy a range of activities. Of course, there is a riverside café, there also is a fitness and wellness centre, a full commercial bakery that supplies the café and other outlets, and a cooking school, plus one of Brisbane’s most exclusive real estate operators has their head office in the building.
So, the idea was to create a destination, not just a dealership. It’s about engaging with our customers and target audience. We want to offer added value to their lifestyle not just a simple transaction.
I have to say that it has worked very well. It’s a unique concept and it could well be mirrored, if the conditions are right in other locations.
Can you tell us about the brand values of LSH Auto?
Somewhat unconventionally we have two mottos that we live by. They are, for our customers – You Come First. Always. For our team – You Matter. Always.
We treat those two statements as the anchoring points for everything we do.
They are underpinned by our five key values, being – Trust, Integrity, Teamwork, Relevance and Social Responsibility. We feel those values are fairly self-explanatory, but we do spend time reinforcing the understanding of those values within our team and, naturally, with new team members.
Both our guiding mottos and our values work towards supporting our vision of delivering a world leading personal ownership experience, with a passion for our customers, our people, and our community.
These are not just nice things to say and aspire to, they guide what we all do daily. What is particularly encouraging is how well accepted our values and mission are by our team and how evident it is that they work to live our values and deliver on our mission.
With regards to your employees, what programs or initiatives do you have in place to support their automotive careers? How do you support diversity inclusion?
We have a significant program of team development initiatives. These begin from the start of careers, such as our apprentice and our cadet programs and continue with discipline specific ongoing training, updates on technology, best practice and sharing of experience.
We also work with team members to identify their career objectives and provide them with guidance and support in achieving those. Add to that our management and leadership training and development programs for our senior team members, and you have a very active career development program.
In relation to diversity and inclusion we respect our team member’s lifestyle choices, fundamentally seeing our role as to make their professional lives rewarding and fulfilling. We make no distinction as to gender, identity of cultural background in finding and supporting the best possible team members. The only exception to that is we actively seek to redress the imbalance in female to male team members that is traditional in our industry, both on the sales and workshop floors and in management. I am very pleased to note that our Executive Leadership Team has strong female and culturally diverse representation.
AFR Boss named LSH Auto as one of the best places to work in 2022, can you tell us more about why this was awarded?
The award relies heavily on an anonymous survey of our staff, and to that end it is especially rewarding that our team supported our nomination. Of course, there are elements of our core values, and how we bring those to life for the team, that played a big role in our being named.
Our support of career development was obviously a significant factor, as is our focus on being a long-term community contributing business. In fact, we connect our team with community support through our Choice Awards, a quarterly program that recognises exceptional team effort and contribution and then makes a donation to a charity nominated by those recognised.
A combination of all those efforts and a recognition of the value of developing and keeping a great team is probably what drove our recognition as a great place to work, and as the only automotive company to be acknowledged.
You have a customer loyalty program, ‘Iridium Club’. Why did you implement this?
Central to developing brand trust is creating a feeling of connection and even family with your customers. The iridium Club is an important way to deliver additional value, not only in a retail sense but also with lifestyle enhancing activities and opportunities.
We work hard to gain an understanding of what is of value to our customers, and we have developed numerous partnerships that offer them commercial and lifestyle benefits through being part of our loyalty program.
The reception we have received, as judged by the proportion of customers joining, has been very positive.
What kind of benefits does the Iridium Club offer to members?
The goal is to add value, not only to their vehicle ownership journey, but also to their lifestyle. That is why we have developed partnerships with major brands that can offer benefits and special access. Brands that we have come to understand are a good fit both with our brand and with our customer’s lifestyles.
I won’t go through them all here, but they include well-regarded brands in personal services, travel, jewellery, hospitality and much more.
We also offer our Iridium Club members preferential access to events, such as drive experiences, golf days, tickets to performances by our cultural partners and money can’t buy events created just for them.
What are your main pillars for customer engagement?
As I have intimated, we have a small number of brand engagement pillars that have been developed through a close understanding of our customer’s interests and pastimes.
The four key pillars are, fine dining, health and well-being, arts and culture and social and environmental responsibility. I think you can gauge, from what I have said so far, that we are deeply engaged in each of those pillars.
Does LSH Auto have brand ambassadors?
We do, but very limited and always linked to our brand engagement pillars. Consequently, we have Li Cunxin, Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet and famous as Mao’s last Dancer, renowned chef Shannon Bennett who, obviously, is linked to fine dining, multiple Olympic Champion Stephanie Rice, and racing driver Peter Hackett, who are both linked to health and well-being.
How do you feel they support/benefit the brand?
Each has an involvement in activities and benefits we offer to our customers. From offering lock-down recipes during the pandemic, to attending and supporting sports and drive days, to personal briefings at cultural performances. It’s all about using their skills and knowledge to offer something not easily or normally accessible.
We also have a number of dedicated activities in development that will harness the skills and knowledge of all ambassadors to provide experiences and knowledge that will deliver on our objective of adding value to our customer’s lifestyles.
Can you tell us about Corporate social responsibility programs you have spearheaded or support and why you chose them?
We have three core Corporate Social Responsibility partners. They are, Street Side Medics, The Chain Reaction Foundation Challenge and the Sapphire Project - ocean protection initiative.
Each was chosen after carefully considering how we could develop true long-term partnerships, rather than just offering a donation.
Street Side Medics, founded by 2022 Young Australian of the Year Dr. Daniel Nour, is providing medical services to the homeless and dispossessed and our ability to speed the roll-out of those services, by providing Mercedes-Benz vans to be converted into mobile clinics, made our participation a natural fit.
Similarly with The Chain Reaction Challenge Foundation, our ability to provide lead, logistic and safety vehicles for the annual program of charity bike rides has been instrumental in helping them raise over $38 million for children’s charities since they began.
With the Sapphire Project we see our participation and the raising of awareness with our customers as part of the responsibility all Australians have to preserve the unique and wondrous ocean environment with which we have been blessed.
Mercedes-Benz is aiming for zero emissions by 2039, how does LSH Auto see it’s role in supporting this?
We were selected as one of the first Australian Mercedes-Benz retailers to offer the EQ range. A range that is now expanding, and quickly. We have invested in the technology and skills necessary to support the EQ range and in the knowledge that our team need to be subject matter experts.
The change will be driven by a number of factors, including customer demand and perceptions of utility. We will play our role in providing availability of the products and the unmatched total ownership experience that we always strive to deliver.
Article sourced from THE LUXURY NETWORK MAGAZINE ISSUE 35