Southdowns has expanded since Andy Bottle took on the role of workshop manager, so what has changed since he joined the company?
Q When did you join Southdowns and how has the company changed during that time?
A The company has really expanded since I joined Southdowns in 2007 and since I became workshop manager in 2011 we have more technicians with the capacity to work on more vehicles at any one time. We are always stretched because we not only service customer's vehicles and carry out all the required habitation checks, such as gas and electrical safety, damp and water system testing but we also prepare all the new vehicles for customer handover.
We are always keen to take on new challenges and carry out bespoke alterations to motorhome interiors for our customers as well as fitting audio-visual equipment, satellite systems and reversing cameras. We could always use extra staff. The more people we employ the more work we are able to take on and we are always busy.
The most visible change as far as Southdowns' customers are concerned is that the company now has a new workshop in Alchorne Place, located around the corner from the Motorhome Centre- also on Anchorage Park and only a couple of minutes away from the main site. Customers are still getting used to the change - and so are we, but despite the disruption of the move it's got to be better for everyone to have more workshop space.
Each technician has now got his own area to work in and there is additional space for expansion as and when we take on more staff. The thinking behind taking on additional premises was not only to give the technicians the capacity to work on more vehicles at a time but also to give us better access to an expanded parts department. This now has a designated manager and a more efficient layout, separate from our retail stockroom which is still located at the Motorhome Centre in Painter Close.
Q How has your job changed over time?
A When I started in 2007 I knew every customer by name and recognised all their vehicles. Now, with an ever-expanding customer base, that's no longer possible. However, despite the business growing through the recession and continuing to take on staff, everyone at Southdowns still works hard to maintain the high levels of customer service which are at the heart of the business. We may be running more than a small family business now with 30-plus staff but we're still committed to the same values.
Q With a promotion in 2011, you've been workshop manager for five years - what
has kept you in your job for that period of time?
A With more technicians, I'm ever-hopeful that I'll be able to spend more time at my desk, dealing with the individual requirements of customers. You need to invest time with your customers if you want to keep them, and that means making time to talk and finding out exactly what they need. That way we ensure they get great service and keep coming back, but I'm still getting a hard time for going home with dirty fingernails because I'm still putting in time in the workshop. Despite all that, this is the longest I have ever stayed in the same job, so the company must be doing something right!
Andy lives in Portsmouth with his wife Mandi, who he met when she joined Southdowns in 2010. They were married in August this year and we wish them all the very best for the future.
Andy was interviewed in November 2014.