FROM ONE HORSEPOWER TO OVER ONE HUNDRED
After starting his career racing thoroughbreds, Wayne Bryant now heads up one of the biggest automotive parts suppliers in the country
Wayne Bryant was always into horsepower, just a different kind.
“My dream was to be a professional jockey and I enjoyed considerable success in this field as a teenager. I was one of the first jockeys in Australia to finish my secondary education whilst also completing my jockey apprenticeship. My father really instilled in me the value of having a solid education. But life doesn’t always go to plan,” the now Executive General Manager for Repco Australia explains.
“As I matured and started to ‘fill out’, it became apparent that my dream was not sustainable. In my fourth year as an apprentice jockey, I couldn’t maintain my weight.
“It was at that point I realised I needed to change course. My education and job experience paid off. Being an apprentice jockey for four years taught me how to communicate professionally with a vast range of stakeholders and it taught me the discipline you need to be successful.”
Wayne was born in Warrick, Queensland and completed his schooling at Toowoomba on the Darling Downs. He started working for Repco in 1989.
“I knew I wanted to be with a company where I could go as far as I could in life, and it was obvious I had to make some big decisions,” he says.
His Repco opportunity came about as a result of knowing Allan Shelley, who was the Queensland State Manager at the time.
“Allan was a family friend and he was kind enough to arrange an interview for me. I was unsuccessful in the first application in Warwick but with a second attempt, I landed the job as a delivery driver in Toowoomba,” he said.
“I quickly realised I was starting out with a hugely successful company with enormous scope for people who were prepared to pivot and stand out from the crowd.”
Wayne admits that while he liked cars, he was never a “tinkerer” and that the automotive industry was not where he expected to take his career.
“I must admit that when I started out, I didn’t know a lot about the automotive aftermarket industry. What I did recognise quickly was that Repco was the sort of company that provided career scope and professional development opportunities,” Wayne explains.
“I knew this was the sort of career that was going to be good for me when I had a family and my simple philosophy was to grab an opportunity like that with both hands when it was presented to me.”
While his start with Repco as a delivery driver in Toowoomba came when he was still an apprentice jockey, once he decided to make the automotive industry his career, he decided to do whatever it took to get to the top.
“I was determined to do whatever it took to succeed. I got my head around the automotive industry and vowed to myself to be mobile and flexible so I could take advantage of new opportunities as they arose,” he reflects.
“I relocated whenever an opportunity presented itself. I moved to country towns and took on all sorts of roles within the network. Amongst a variety of roles, I was a Sales Representative and Store Manager before moving into Regional and State Sales Management. I had a dream to be the State Manager of the state I grew up in.”
Wayne believes he owes a lot to Allan Shelley and is grateful for the guidance and advice he instilled into him as a youngster.
“Allan Shelley was an outstanding mentor and friend for me as I worked my way through the ranks. It was Allan who helped me understand that if I wanted to go further in the company, then I probably had to be prepared to move interstate. My wife and I packed our bags on a regular basis as I pursued my dream to go as far as I could in the company,” he says.
“I moved to Melbourne in 2002 and to Perth at the end of the same year when I was fortunate enough to be promoted to be the WA/SA State Manager. Two years later, I returned to Victoria and then moved to Repco’s main headquarters in Melbourne.”
Wayne says that experience in Sales and Operational roles in most states of Australia helped him prepare for a bigger role in the organisation.
“I took hold of the opportunities that presented themselves and these exposed me to different leaders – it was these aspects that really accelerated my career at Repco to where I am today,” he says.
“A big moment for me was in 2005 when I was offered a variety of options for my career. I know I made the right decision for sure.
“I received a phone call from the General Manager of Repco who laid out the options for me. I was offered the opportunity to take on the New South Wales, Victoria or Queensland State Management role all on the same day and I needed to decide which way I wanted to go. I felt the best option from a long term career path viewpoint was to take the Victorian opportunity.”
Wayne’s guidance to any youngster trying to break into the automotive industry today is to always listen to good advice.
“I’m happy to share my own experiences and learnings with young people on their way up in the industry,” he says.
“There are boundless opportunities for people who are passionate. They need to have a strong work ethic and be customer focused. I can’t emphasise that last point enough – be incredibly focused on your customers and importantly, continue to invest in your own personal and professional development.
“Be prepared to step outside of your comfort zone and make sure you make it a priority to develop relationships with strong mentors. Don’t be afraid to move around – it is important to expose yourself to as many opportunities as possible. I found that changing locations enabled me to be more flexible, adaptable and more resilient. Every move brings different challenges and learnings, but stick with it, even if it gets hard sometimes, you won’t regret it.
“Having a positive, can-do attitude is vital. With the right attitude and the right energy, you can always be coached, developed and learn new skills. Be passionate, work hard on building strong relationships, find common ground with people and develop an ability to relate to people in all walks of life.
“I really encourage young people to be passionate about what they do. It’s also important to be compassionate and understanding, and at the same time be prepared to make tough decisions when needed.”
Wayne still follows horse racing and has a small interest in “a horse or two.” He also likes to play golf and enjoys being out in the garden and most importantly, he loves spending time with his family.
“I attribute my success to my beautiful wife of 25 years, Sandy. We have two daughters, Paige (19), who is at university, and Jemmah, who is in year eight. I wouldn’t have achieved the success I have today if it wasn’t for the love and support from my family,” Wayne says.
Repco at the front of the pack
Repco has always been a leading provider of automotive parts, tools, equipment and consumables. Wayne says the company has expanded its offering with a variety of value-added services which now includes access to Repco’s market leading B2B digital solutions: Navigator Pro, Smart Quote, Autopedia and Smart Inspector.
“These systems are integrated with the vast majority of workshop management software systems and enable our customers to run their businesses more efficiently – importantly, the solutions help them better serve their customers than ever before. These systems make doing business with Repco easy,” he explains.
He says Repco has stood the test of time.
“I firmly believe that Repco has a successful track record of working alongside our sister company, NAPA Auto Parts, across Australia and New Zealand – this will enable us to provide our customers with the best possible solutions.
“We have identified our customer markets across the group to enable us to provide genuine customer service by always putting our customer at the forefront of everything we do.
“Repco’s competitive advantage is in our ability to understand our customers and what’s most important to them. We have a very clear and compelling customer value proposition and we know we are best placed to serve them by providing the right product and right solutions, at the right time. We have an unrivalled national footprint that allows us to be closer to our customers than anybody else.
“I am fortunate to be surrounded by a highly passionate and dedicated team who provide genuine service to our store teams and customers every single day. They really are ‘salt of the earth people’ with incredible knowledge, capability and most importantly, they are terrific leaders.”
Like all businesses in the world right now, Repco is facing unprecedented challenges in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. Wayne believes that Repco will adapt to a world “that no-one imagined, even just a few weeks ago.”
“Repco has weathered wars, the depression, the GFC and recessions. While we are all learning and adapting, we are fortunate to be part of a successful organisation in Genuine Parts Company and we will work through this with our customers, our supportive suppliers and our team members, to ensure we remain in good shape. Repco is very well placed to come through it stronger,” he explains.
“Aside from the immediate COVID-19 challenge, our industry will continue to evolve with technology playing a bigger role in every aspect of our business.”
For more information about Repco, visit www.repco.com.au