My motoring inspiration: Gavin White

Gavin White

This industry stalwart explains how he went from selling advertising to training the automotive talent of the future

What brought you into the automotive industry?

My dad was a qualified aircraft electrician and used to work on Harrier Jump Jets and stuff like that, so he was very good with engines. He was constantly doing cars up on the driveway because he wanted to earn a few extra quid. I was always out there watching him hauling gearboxes out and changing clutches.

How did you start your automotive career?

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left school, but I knew that I enjoyed dealing with people. I got a job at forklift truck company Jungheinrich and bounced around for a while.

Then I went to Australia to do the whole travelling thing, and when I came back I started working for the free magazine Exchange & Mart. I was selling advertising to a Suzuki dealership one day, and the business owner asked if I fancied selling cars. I just said, “Why not?”

Why did sales appeal to you?

Sales meant that I got to play with cars without getting too dirty, but it also meant I was mixing with people. I got real enjoyment from seeing buyers picking up their new cars. At that time, Suzuki was modernising its vehicles, and all of a sudden we were attracting new customers that we’d never seen before.

Being able to help people on their car-buying journey, to really understand what it is they want to get out of their car, and seeing that smile on their face when they pick it up – there was something really nice about that.

Why did you leave Suzuki, and what brought you back to the industry?

Changes to car finance options meant that there was suddenly less money in new cars. We were having to sell two or three times the number of vehicles to make money. I just thought, “It’s time to try something else”.

I spent a couple of years at a recruitment consultancy for the gas industry. I knew nothing about gas other than that the boiler gave me hot water at home, but I really enjoyed my time there.

One day, an old employer rang me up and said they needed someone with good sales skills to handle the servicing side of the business. Suddenly I was Group Service Manager for three sites.

Then I started looking at our workshop loading, productivity and efficiency. We had five or six technicians, all with four weeks’ holiday a year, and we were losing sick days and training time too. I thought: “If I could supply gas engineers on a temporary basis, there must be a recruitment agency out there that can send me an MOT tester for a couple of weeks so I’m not turning customers away.” But I found there wasn’t one.

How did you get Autotech Recruit off the ground?

We launched Autotech Recruit in 2008. I borrowed some money from my grandmother, and my business partner Andrew borrowed some from his dad. I think we managed to cobble together about £60,000.

Our first customers were the likes of Kwik Fit, Halfords Autocentre and Mr Clutch. We quickly grew the business to what would probably have been about £12m in turnover last year, if not for COVID. We now have about 450 contractors around the UK.

What are your plans for the future?

Autotech Training, which is a subsidiary of Autotech Recruit, is gearing up to deliver the next wave of training. We’ve not long opened our EV training suite, which has IMI approval, and we’ve trained up 15 of our own technicians. Anyone who works for us will be EV trained. We believe it’ll give us one of the biggest networks of EV-ready technicians and MOT testers in the country.

We’re also launching Autotech Academy, which aims to connect our clients to colleges across the country in order to provide a gateway for students into the industry.

Gavin White is CEO of Autotech Group. He was speaking to James Scoltock

This is an edited extract from IMI's new MotorPro magazine, received free as part of IMI membership. Time to find out more about becoming a member of the most influential community in UK automotive…?