RETURNING TO HIS ROOTS
While exploring his passion for media and marketing, Peter Rogers fell into a job at auto parts supplier Repco at just 17 years of age. Some 35 years later, his career came full circle when he was appointed to head up Repco Authorised Service (RAS) earlier this year
AAAA Board Member Peter Rogers couldn’t help becoming involved in the automotive industry after growing up in Christies Beach in the Southern Suburbs of Adelaide.
“It was more like a village than a suburb when I was a lad, but the area grew exponentially during the 60s and 70s, largely around the automotive manufacturing base that was established in the nearby areas,” Peter explains.
But cars were far from his mind when he was a youngster.
“I have fond memories of my days on the beach, fishing, surfing, snorkeling and generally just hanging out,” he says.
However, from an early age, he knew he wanted to be involved in the communications field.
“Right from the start of high school, I had my sights set on media or marketing communications, but as it turned out I took a very winding path to get there,” Peter recalls.
“I fell into my automotive career at age 17. Our family had moved to the city fringe and I began looking for some part-time work to earn pocket money during the school holidays. I ended up landing a gig as a ‘bike boy’ at Repco’s Adelaide head-office which, back then, was located right within the CBD.
“As the name suggested, I rode around town delivering and collecting mail and packages. Soon after starting, I was offered a spot in Repco’s Management Cadet Program and what was intended to be a summer casual job, turned into the next 17 years working in various roles throughout the Repco business.”
But his earlier hunger for the marketing and media industries was still burning inside of him.
“During the late eighties I rekindled my earlier ambitions and enrolled into a night college, studying for a Marketing degree,” Peter explains.
While cars weren’t his first passion, he did have an early involvement with them as a youngster.
“My Dad was a motor mechanic and I still feel very nostalgic amongst the smells and sounds of a workshop, but to be honest I never had any ambition to become a tech,” Peter admits.
“It was really just coincidence that I ended up in automotive, but not surprisingly I have always maintained a strong affinity for the industry and, in particular, the local independent mechanic.”
Peter also gained experience in retail as a casual at department store Myers.
“Before we left Christies, I worked as a Saturday casual sales assistant in the record department at a local Myer department store. I fibbed about my age to get the job, as you had to be 15 to be considered. It was obviously a very different approach to HR due diligence back then!” Peter laughs.
Peter has worked either directly for, or as a service provider to, Repco for much of his adult life, whilst a few career twists have provided variety along his journey.
“I left the Repco business in the early nineties for a short sabbatical in Europe and when I returned, I went back to Repco for a while, then I worked as a regional sales and marketing manager for Checkpoint for three years before again moving back to Repco,” he says.
“The second half of the 90s saw a period of change in the Repco business, and in 1999 I left again, this time to launch my own Marketing Services agency, specialising in the Automotive Aftermarket. The business grew quickly, largely around my industry contacts and the emerging Repco Auto Repair program (as it was called back then) and to this day, my association with Repco Authorised Service has been a passion of mine,” Peter says.
“I recently returned back to Repco (again!) this time to head up the RAS program as National Manager and it certainly feels like I was destined to do this role at some point in my life.
“I am confident that this recent return to Repco will be the most enjoyable one. Everything is pointing to a golden era under the current management team and I’m inspired by the fact that GPC are passionate automotive people and the trade is very much in their DNA. There is a palpable momentum and culture shift underway and I’m really excited by what is unfolding.”
Peter’s advice to any youngster starting in the industry today is to be proud and confident and to invest in knowledge.
“Be proud that the automotive industry remains a substantially important contributor to our nation’s economy, despite the demise of vehicle manufacturing. Be confident, knowing that a growing car parc and exciting developments in vehicle technology presents some amazing opportunities for anyone who is prepared to invest in knowledge,” Peter enthuses.
While playing a big part in his career, automotive hasn’t been the only thing in Peter’s life.
“Up until the last few years, my downtime has been spent renovating 1920s period houses but my wife has made it very clear that we have moved on from that. My life away from work is now centered on the kids and their sports and hobbies,” he explains.
Obviously, his wife, Mary and their three children play an important role in his life.
“I have derived great satisfaction from our various business activities, none of which would have been possible without the incredible support of my wife, Mary, who selflessly runs the household and holds down a part-time job whilst I have focused on my professional career. We have two boys from Mary’s previous marriage and a 15-year-old daughter. I have enormous pride in the way our family is finding their own way in the world and the special relationship our boys have with their younger sister is a real joy to me,” Peter says.
REPCO AUTHORISED SERVICE (RAS)
Peter Rogers has a strong connection with Repco’s Authorised Service division and is excited by its future
First launched back in 1993 as Repco Auto Repair, RAS was set up with the intent of assisting independent workshops to attract new customers and grow their business revenue and, by consequence, for Repco to gain additional parts sales in the process.
“I was deeply involved in a review of the RAR program in 2004, which ultimately rebranded and recalibrated the program to a multi-tier structure that also put more focus on business development and resources. The relaunch also saw the early iterations of our online and digital marketing strategy,” Peter says.
“It’s fair to say it’s been an amazing journey that has certainly helped our members grow and develop beyond even their own expectations. It is quite a buzz to watch members achieve sometimes spectacular profit growth and to see the impact this has on their lives and families.
“It doesn’t always work out – and there are many reasons why some members don’t scale the dizzying heights – but by and large our most successful members consistently tell us that ‘we are where we are because of RAS and we are forever thankful for that.’ Our member success translates into growth for Repco, with RAS now firmly one of the cornerstone components of our trade business.”
As a business support program, the main emphasis for RAS is assisting its member workshops to develop better systems of operation and helping them to connect with their local community.
“As far as consumer focus is concerned, we unashamedly target families in the ‘burbs. They rely heavily on their cars and they have budget pressures brought on by a mortgage and kids. They’re not looking for cheap; they’re looking for dependability and genuine value and we believe that we deliver both in spades,” he says.
Peter is not afraid to admit that RAS is taking on the car manufacturers head on.
“We are mindful of the OEMs’ desire to further develop advanced customer connectivity and this presents a risk to the independent aftermarket, which is why we aim to provide resources and platforms that allow our members to compete on a level playing field,” he said.
“Our localised consumer communications aim to position RAS as quality workshops, which provide the personal attention and technical know-how for which independents are renowned, whilst also offering the reassurance of a recognised and well-respected Brand.”
According to Peter, Repco having the vision to develop RAR in the first place was an inspired business decision, but he believes the appointment of Peter Webb as the initial National Manager was a masterstroke by the management of the day.
“He was the perfect choice for the role and the success of the program has been founded upon Peter’s ability to inspire a diverse group of business owners to pursue a common goal,” Peter explains.
He is also convinced that RAS is on the right road to the future.
“We have a unique position with RAS, insofar as our member workshops are truly independent, but they also enjoy advantages that are usually only available to OEMs or large corporates,” he says.
“RAS has a strong brand, great support and, importantly, the GPC business provides us with scale to tackle some really big issues as we move to a more digitally connected society. But without a doubt, I view the quality of our people within the membership as a key competitive advantage.
“We are incredibly fortunate to have some of Australia’s most motivated and savvy workshop owners, who are hungry for success in their own business and for RAS as a whole. Their ability to deliver outstanding customer service to the car owner makes for a marketer’s dream.”
He believes the biggest challenge for RAS mirrors that of the automotive aftermarket industry as a whole.
“The obvious challenge continues to be access to service and repair data and we are incredibly appreciative of the AAAA team for their relentless commitment to the Choice of Repairer campaign,” Peter says.
“The ongoing technician shortage also continues to be a concern and most trades are suffering a similar plight.
“I also think online price transparency and booking intermediaries will present some challenges in the near term. Time will tell whether there is actually any consumer benefit in booking intermediaries, but one thing we can be certain of is that there is likely to be some level of disruption to contend with.
“However it plays out, history suggests that the Independent Service and Repair sector are remarkably resilient and I am supremely confident that the aftermarket will ultimately adjust to the landscape and will continue to be profitable and successful.”
Peter’s biggest ambition for the future of RAS is to further strengthen its IT capabilities.
“My predecessor, Nick Costa, did a great job in setting up some sound structures and the RAS support team is an incredibly passionate group of people, so I am really fortunate to be taking over a program that is in really good shape,” Peter says.
“My immediate goal is to build on our existing IT and digital capabilities and give our member workshops confidence to invest in their future and enable them to compete with the OEMs and continue to offer consumers a genuine choice for service and repair.”
For more on Repco Authorised Service, visit www.repcoservice.com