AUTO INDUSTRY HARD CHARGER
Century’s Stu Stanners has been entrenched in the Automotive Aftermarket for more than 40 years and he’s still energised to face new challenges
The first thing you notice when Century’s General Manager of Automotive Sales enters the room is his positive energy and passion for life.
Born and raised in New Zealand, Stu Stanners discovered a passion for all things automotive early in life.
“There’s no doubt I was born a rev-head,” Stu remarked. “As far back as I can remember, everything revolved around cars. I’ve owned hot-rods, raced go-karts and HQs and piloted a seven-second drag car.
“You might even get me to admit that I have a small addiction for anything fast, and maybe a little dangerous,” he quipped.
Stu’s drag car was a beast, and anyone lucky enough to see it cut a lap will agree it took a heap of skill to get it down the quarter-mile.
“The drag car had in excess of 1,000 horsepower, but only weighed 850kg, so you might say it was a bit of a handful,” Stu explained.
“In the deep end it was running 180mph, so pulling it up was always an eyewatering experience.”
Just like his motorsport exploits, Stu’s enviable career in the automotive aftermarket has had a few shifts in gear. Still, the one constant is his commitment to hard work and a positive attitude.
“I’m the first to admit that I wasn’t the sharpest knife in the draw at school,” Stu reminisced. “But I worked out pretty quickly that if you worked hard, the results would follow.
“I think I was very similar to a lot of young people. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do for a job, but I knew I enjoyed working with my hands.
“So many people were surprised when I landed my first job as an advertising sales cadet for the Auckland Star.”
At the time, the Auckland Star was a large national newspaper. While Stu very much enjoyed his time there, the prospect of sitting in an office all day lost its appeal, so he changed lanes and became a fitter and turner, quickly securing a role as machine shop foreman.
“I really enjoyed my time on the tools, but when FRAM Filters came knocking, the opportunity was too good to pass up, so I jumped at it,” Stu said.
Stu joined FRAM Filters in a sales and marketing role when he was about 20 years old. At the time, it was privately owned by the Taylor family, who had the license to sell FRAM filtration products throughout New Zealand. Stu was hooked from day one.
“I was already a petrol head, the manager there drove a rally car, and we went and did trade shows throughout the country with other like-minded car nuts and automotive industry members,” Stu said.
“I thought to myself, this is me, and these are my people; so at that point I knew I was going to focus on growing my career in the automotive industry.”
Stu grabbed the opportunity, working in the FRAM sales and marketing department for many years before being transferred to Melbourne, armed with the task of launching FRAM Filters in Australia.
“Lucas Australia decided they wanted to put FRAM Filtration into the stocking list, so I took the opportunity and headed across the ditch and helped them launch the brand,” Stu explained.
“I ended up staying there for over five and a half years and had a fantastic experience.
“For a Kiwi working in a family-owned operation in New Zealand, jumping ship into the massive giant that was Lucas Australia was quite daunting. But gee it was rewarding, and the learnings I took away were invaluable.”
During this period, JRA acquired the Lucas business, opening the next chapter in Stu’s career. After being part of the team who successfully launched FRAM in Australia, he returned home to a new challenge.
“I headed home to New Zealand in 1991, invested in Appco Auto Parts, and took on the role of Sales and Marketing Manager,” said Stu.
Under his guiding hand, the business snowballed and in 1998 it was acquired by Repco. Stu transitioned with the business to the new owners, working with industry icon Bob Wyeth for several years and assisting with numerous acquisitions during his tenure. Next, Stu spent two years as General Manager of the Auto One franchise before joining Century Yuasa Batteries in Sales and Marketing.
“I still can’t believe that I’ve been with Century for more than 17 years,” Stu commented.
“It’s been an amazing ride, and I still have the same level of passion for the brand that I enjoyed when I walked through the front door on the first day.”
Stu’s tenacity, work ethic, and extensive experience saw him quickly rise through the ranks. For the last seven years, he has cemented himself in the role of General Manager of Automotive for Australia and New Zealand.
“I’m a team builder. As the General Manager, I have a broad range of responsibilities, mainly based around sales but work closely with finance, warehousing, and so on,” Stu explained.
“You simply can’t be good at everything, so it’s my job to employ people that are the best in their roles. I build teams of people that are experts in their field and engage every manager as a part of the decision-making process.
“A cumulative approach to strategy is critical. It ensures everyone believes in and understands the roadmap to drive the business forward. If your staff feel that they have personally contributed to the strategy, they will make it happen and it embeds them as an integral part of the business.”
Digging deeper into Stu’s leadership styles and expertise in building high-performance teams, we discovered that Stu values attitude over and above skill and experience.
“Attitude counts for so much. I look for team members who have removed the words can’t and won’t from their vocabulary,” he said.
“These people always go the extra mile and help build a culture of success and support.
“University degrees may be important for some roles, but if you don’t have a good attitude, no degree will help you. Skill will come with training and experience. You can train people to learn a new skill, but its damn hard to train a good attitude into someone who doesn’t have one.”
Stu provided some sound advice for people considering a career in the automotive aftermarket.
“Listen. Twice as much as you talk. Understand that many years of experience have gone before you,” Stu advises.
“Walk the trail of people you find successful before you veer off in your own direction, so when it’s your turn to lead, people will follow, and you will expect the same from them as you gave others.
“Understand people’s personalities and human nature as this will be one of the most important tools you will need to use regularly. Look for opportunities and take them. How you treat people is your brand, and leadership is a privilege, not a right. People buy off people.”
Stu considers Century’s competitive advantage to be built on a combination of their people, their history, and the fact that they still manufacture in Australia but have the depth of resources that come with strategic alliances around the world.
“Our staff is our core, and several have been with Century for more than 40 years,” Stu said proudly.
“Teamwork and succession planning are critical to success, and it has built tremendous depth in the company. It works for us as the majority of our management have risen through the ranks before securing senior positions.”
Responding to the value Century enjoy as active AAAA Members, Stu said the AAAA is “so essential.”
“The AAAA provides a forum that the industry needs to stay connected; and they have successfully lobbied the Government on numerous issues, including the highly contentious choice of repairer campaign with success,” Stu said.
“In addition, the Australian Auto Aftermarket Expo is massive for us and allows us to get in front of our customers, both Australian and New Zealand. It’s that big the Kiwis come over in droves.”
To find out more about Century Yuasa, visit www.centurybatteries.com.au