Welcome to the third installment of my Spotlight On Series!
Starting on the 1st January 2016, the Spotlight Series is a weekly feature which will explore a variety of different business stories, all from the perspective of the entrepreneurs who founded them.
The series aims to cover a wide range of sectors, including digital entrepreneurs, successful shop owners, technological innovators, traditional manufacturers and new "cottage" industrialists.
There is also no bias towards age or location - as there are lessons we can learn from all stages of the business journey, from brand new start ups, to established companies.
This week I have been talking to Umesh Samani, who sells specialist cars online and via his showroom.
What stood out to me from the beginning was Umesh's attitude towards his business! This is a man who knows his market and goes above and beyond to make customers happy. Obviously this is a strategy which works, as the business is still going strong after 18 years.
Specialist Cars also provides an example of a traditional business which has successfully tapped into the 21st century technology, as evidenced by Umesh's successful social media presence!
There has also evidently been serious thought surrounding the customer experience and the barriers to sale, as Umesh has used this insight to develop his video walk rounds, which allow his customers to shop remotely with confidence.
His positive attitude and real passion for his business makes this entrepreneurial story a highly compelling read.
Name: Umesh Samani
Business Name: Specialist Cars Stoke
Age of business: 18 years (Editor's note - wow)
In a nut shell I create #RavingFans, which may make you wonder what I am talking about….
I buy and sell cars, but not just any cars, but only specially handpicked cars of the highest quality. NONE are purchased from car auctions and the majority are bought directly from the last owner. This ensures I only buy the best! Also by buying directly from the last owner, I get to know the people and the car before buying it.
I source cars for people to save them the headache of trawling through various websites, driving all around the country, customers simply tell me their requirements and I do everything for them, making it easy and efficient for them.
I also present my cars in a very unique way! Every car always has up to 60 high quality images and a full HD Video walk around, so it’s almost like buying a car from the comfort of your arm chair.
So how did this all start?
I started life repairing cars after leaving school as an apprentice with a City and Guilds motor vehicle technology (a mechanic, as such!)
I then joined an Audi - Volkswagen Franchised dealer as a salesman, spending nearly 14 years with that business and pretty much running it for the owner. During my time, it further developed into 3 sites and an additional franchise of SEAT.
Having done it for some else I knew I could do it for myself so in July 1997 I set up Specialist Cars along with my wife Sue (I lost her to cancer in Feb 2006 - not a lot of people know that as I don't tend to broadcast that. It was Sue who said “You can do this for yourself “... behind every successful man there is always a great woman.)
Have you had any setbacks?
Being is business is always challenging and I guess the biggest challenge was with the 2007/2008 crash, a lot of business went bust. You never know what's going to happen, so you have to make sure your business is strong enough to ride the storm!
When there is no business coming in but the bills are still coming in – it’s a tough challenge to keep motivated, focus and POSITIVE!
The biggest thing I learn was ‘attitude’, you have to have the right attitude to keep going and not be drawn into negativity and other people’s negativity.
What is the single achievement that you are most proud of and how did you manage it?
I guess that really has to be setting up the business and making it a success!
Success is different to everyone and not just financially motivated. I'm recognised not just locally but nationally for supply the best cars, with amazing customer services that bring customers back time after time, these 'customers' then actually turn in to great friends.
Achieving that, I feel, is magic!
If you could start again, what would you do differently?
On the majority, I wouldn't do anything any differently; it’s the journey sometimes that moulds us into what we are now.
One of things is probably ask for advice openly on anything when/if needed - as I believe a lot of people out there if you ask actually want to help, and maybe by asking at relevant times my journey may have been easier.
What would be your number one tip for someone thinking about starting their own venture?
'PASSION' - Have passion for what you do /are doing! - If you don't have passion you're just going through the motions - Passion will get you anywhere!
Also believe in yourself. If you don't, nobody else will!
Social media can also help lots of business these days, making it so much easier to reach audiences and make new connections.
When my web designer did my most recent website few years ago, he told me I should be on Facebook and twitter, I told him "FB was for kids and that I didn't understand twitter, so I won't be bothering with them both" - Call me old fashioned!
He continued to insist and said he would set it up, show me and then it was up to me if I used it or not.
In retrospect, it’s one of the best things I've ever done in my life!
I have meet so many people and made some genuine, life friends via twitter. I have bought and sold cars via Facebook.
A lot of business simply do not understand the power of social media and are missing out - It’s not just for the young ones!
Do you have any big projects planned for 2016 that we should know about?
I really have to say ' Watch this space!' My mind is always on overtime, so many ideas floating in my head so let's see what great news I may have in 2016
Here's just a "small list" of the various awards Umesh has won - not bad for a one man band!
Theo Paphitis #SBS Award March 2013
5th Most influencer motor Dealer on Twitter ' Car Dealer Magazine' 2013
'Dealers Dealer of the Year ' Winner - Car Dealer Magazine 2013
'Social Media User of The Year' Winner - Car Dealer Magazine 2013
'Best Used Car Customer Care ' Highly Commended - Car Dealer Magazine 2014
'Best Service Customer Performance' Highly Commended -Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce 2015
'Dealers Dealer Of The Year' -Highly Commended - Car Dealer Magazine 2015
'Best Used Car Customer Care' High Commended - Car Dealer Magazine 2015