Being at the helm of one of the leading, fastest-growing motor groups in the UK, Andy Bruce clearly has a hugely demanding job. Overseeing the operation of a business which last year posted a £3.65 billion turnover and is on target to break the £4 billion barrier this year, as well as one which operates from 166 dealerships across the country, selling 200,000 cars a year, cannot come without considerable pressure.
However, while Andy may occupy the hot seat of one of the UK’s most ambitious companies during the working week, he’s at least able to relinquish control at the weekend while still exercising his competitive streak.
He says: “Every Saturday morning, whatever the weather, I help to coach my son’s football team. I’m the assistant coach, so it’s actually quite nice after such a busy week to not be in charge. I’ve done it since my son was six and he’s now 15, so it’s been great to see him and his teammates develop into young men.”
That ‘team player’ mentality is something that features strongly in Andy’s approach. Recently named Chief Executive of the Year at the industry’s coveted Motor Trader Awards – on the same night as Lookers was named Dealer Group of the Year – Andy still shies away from individual praise.
“While of course I was hugely proud to win those awards, I must admit I found the CEO one a little embarrassing. It is absolutely not about me, it’s about the whole team rather than me personally,” he asserts.
“However, it is of course a big endorsement of what we are trying to do, and I was particularly pleased that we won the group award.”
Avid Glasgow Rangers fan Andy began his career in the motor industry in 1986 as a graduate trainee at Land Rover before advancing to a number of dealer facing roles and eventually becoming sales director for Land Rover in the UK. He joined Lookers in 2000 to run the Northern Ireland side of the business before becoming managing director of the Motor Division in 2010, COO in 2013 and CEO in 2014.
The plaudits he has received for growing the business are many, with one of his most recent widely acclaimed achievements being the acquisition of Benfield Motor Group for £87.5 million, which has joined its new parent company’s portfolio almost seamlessly.
“I must say that in 30 years in this industry, I have never seen an acquisition that has gone so smoothly,” Andy says. “It has been a wonderful addition to the wider business – often when a bigger company takes over a smaller business, you can see casualties and cuts, but that has certainly not been the case here. There have been several examples of Benfield staff taking on more responsibilities within the wider Lookers group, and that is the type of progression and opportunity we will continue to offer.
“We are a very ambitious business and it is well known that we are always on the lookout for opportunities, especially within the prestige car market as demand is increasing among the UK’s discerning motorists.”
This approach has certainly borne fruit for the company over recent weeks. Following the proposed sale of the parts division for £120 million, Lookers has been busy acquiring new dealerships as it refocuses on its core motor division. Drayton Group was purchased for £55 million adding more than £250 million turnover to Lookers’ accounts and a further seven Mercedes-Benz dealerships to the group, making Lookers the largest Mercedes-Benz dealer group in the UK. The following week Lookers announced the acquisition of Knights Group for £27m which brought the BMW and MINI brands into the group for the first time.
Lookers has also announced a strong financial performance in the first half of 2016, with revenue increasing by 33 per cent, net debt significantly reduced and adjusted profits before tax increasing by 16 per cent.
Andy reflects: “I am very proud of our performance – and the hard work that goes on across the business in achieving these results.”