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Path to Success

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For four years, four groups of graduates have embarked on careers with Toyota through the Dealer Graduate Programme, with the next recruitment drive happening as Believe goes to print.

The programme recruits graduates directly into dealerships, where they get training and in-dealership experience as well as short rotations at our corporate head office and
other award-winning dealerships. During the two-year programme, graduates are involved in various projects aimed at learning the business and looking for continuous improvement opportunities, with the ultimate goal of starting their career paths at one of the 24 Toyota stores in New Zealand.

The programme covers three key areas:
1. Customer focus
By getting to know the customer side of the business they’ll learn and improve on what makes Toyota the number one trusted brand in New Zealand. Because their ideas count, they’ll also get to develop recommendations to enhance customer relations at a dealership.

2. Business skills
There will be a chance to hone their business skills with one of the best brands in the world, working directly to really understand Toyota and what it means to be a global business.

3. Strategy
Recruits can make a difference to Toyota right from the start by contributing ideas to enhance the sales and customer operations of their Toyota store. Their fresh perspective is appreciated.

Through the leadership programme recruits get to discover plenty about themselves;strengths are worked out and then recruits are equipped with the necessary experience and tools to gear up for future leadership positions within Toyota’s network of dealerships.

One of the attractive natures of the programme is its flexibility and the ability to tailor to the unique growth of the individual graduate. Of the original intake, three of the five graduates stayed in the programme until its end, with appointments at both Toyota stores and Toyota’s head office at the end of their training periods. Of subsequent intakes, most of the recruits are still working their way through the two-year programme.

The programme has evolved and been tweaked from the initial intake to ensure that the recruits are well equipped for their end appointments, with the expectation that at the end they will be ready to apply for leadership roles at Toyota stores in New Zealand.

Henry McCook was part of the first graduate intake in 2015, having heard about the programme at a university seminar. He’d always been interested in cars, especially the Hilux and the Land Cruiser, but was drawn by brand reputation. Before the seminar though, he admits, he’d never considered a career in the motor industry, yet after hearing about the programme and the opportunities it offered, he was hooked.

Mitchell Handcock and Chris Rogers joined the second intake in 2016. Their journeys have had similarities but are uniquely individual as well. Both Henry and Mitch started out with Toyota’s head office new vehicle team, while Chris gained his initial experience in the used vehicle team. It was there that they learned aspects of the sales and logistics processes.

After six months Henry and Chris moved into the dealer network; Henry was placed with Miles Toyota in Christchurch and Chris with Auckland City Toyota. Mitch stayed at Toyota’s head office for an additional two months before moving to Pacific Toyota.

After Mitch had spent nine months at Pacific Toyota, he felt that Tauranga was the place where he wanted to put down some roots. He negotiated an early release from the programme and assumed a full-time role as a New Vehicle Consultant.

A similar course of events occurred for Chris, who filled in for a Business Manager role at Auckland City while he was in the programme. He too left the graduate programme, and assumed a position with the dealership in a permanent role as Business Manager. Within a few months Chris was further promoted to Group Senior Business Manager, overseeing the three Auckland City dealerships in finance matters.

Henry gained more experience at corporate head office, this time with the service department, before heading to Hamilton to assist with the name change and brand name changeover (from Waikato Toyota to Ebbett Toyota). He also assumed other roles, including in the area of environmental certification and health and safety.

Henry’s last placement was to Rangiora Toyota, where he assisted with the rollout of a centralised and integrated dealer database. He’s now the Business Finance Manager at Rangiora Toyota, responsible for finance and leasing to individuals and businesses.
All agree there have been highlights along the way and learnings that have improved the programme to what it is today.

The graduates interviewed enjoyed having experience in all the areas of the business, both corporate and dealer based, saying that it gave them good insights into how each area works at distributor level and at a dealership. It gives the recruits a sense of how the operations all work towards one goal.

They agreed, though, that there were challenges throughout the programme – challenges of how busy it could be, and managing the peaks and troughs in workflow.
Chris says, “If you want to succeed, don’t expect an easy nine to five. It is a seven-day operation with long hours, and you have to learn how to manage large peaks and troughs.”

Advice for anyone contemplating the industry from Chris: “As a graduate you will likely be the youngest in the business among people who have been in it for decades, so you need to respect the experience they bring while also backing yourself to challenge them and present new ideas. It is a very diverse and enjoyable industry, but hard work.”

Advice from Henry is: “Be adaptable. This industry is constantly changing and requires you to move with it.”

And from Mitch: “The industry can have its ups and downs, but when it’s good it is very good. Also, be prepared to learn a lot!”