SWITCHING TO A LAND DOWNUNDER
Moving from the UK to take up the role as Hella Australia’s Managing Director was a big decision, but Darren Robinson explains that he has never looked back
Born and raised 120 kilometres north of London, England, in the industrial city of Birmingham, Hella Australia Managing Director knew he was destined to work with cars from his early 20s.
“I realised that I wanted a career in the automotive industry when I was 23 years old,” Darren explains.
“I was in my first sales role, responsible for developing business with local wholesalers and retailers. It was a pretty small company and I was very fortunate that they gave me the flexibility to make decisions and to drive change.
“I loved seeing the results that came from growing the relationships I had with my customers and I still find it very motivating to see the top and bottom lines improve.”
Even before his working life began, Darren had a passion for all things automotive.
“My love of cars started at an early age and it runs in the family. My two brothers and I used to work on our cars together. My first car was a black 1978 Ford Capri 2.0S,” Darren enthuses.
But the self-confessed DIYer hasn’t always worked in the industry.
“I left school at 17 and wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do, so I tried a few different jobs including as a paint sprayer and a builder, before I took a job delivering parts for an automotive supplier,” he says.
“As a delivery driver I had a lot of interaction with customers, which was my favourite part of the job. Once I realised this I quickly moved into customer service and then sales roles, before working my way from regional to national – and eventually global – sales, marketing and operations roles within several different organisations.”
Darren’s relationship with Hella actually began in his homeland.
“When an opportunity came up to join Hella UK as Managing Director I knew it would be a role where I could really make a difference and be instrumental in the development of the business and its people,” he explains.
Darren is a true family man, married and with an eight-year-old son.
“I love spending time with my family and friends. I also really enjoy watching movies and sport, and I enjoy DIY jobs.”
He jokes about going through a mid-life crisis when he recently hit the half century mark.
“When I get the chance, I love getting out on the open road on my Harley, which I bought as a part of my midlife crisis when I turned 50 last year. I also love going to the gym, but my body isn’t so keen now I’m getting on a bit,” Darren says.
On a serious note, Darren explains that having to part from his parents and siblings when he left England was one of the hardest things in his life he has done.
“In leaving the UK to move to Australia just over four years ago, I had to leave my brothers and my mother and father behind. It was a really difficult decision, but it was the right one,” Darren says.
“My wife and son love Australia and I’ve already chosen the tree that I want to be buried under. So, whilst it was hard to leave family behind, I love life in Australia and plan to spend the rest of my life here.”
The part-time Harley rider says that enjoying both your personal life and what you do in your job and the company of your work colleagues is the key to a fulfilling career.
“Find a job you really enjoy, because if you enjoy getting up in the morning and going to work you’ll find a way to be great at it. Be honest and open with colleagues and customers and deliver what you promise,” Darren says.
He also believes that chasing the big end of town is not always the way to a happy life.
“Moving from a global role, to a local role as Managing Director of Hella UK was a great move for me and one of the best decisions I’ve made for my career. I had spent years chasing bigger roles, with more responsibility, a higher turnover and more employees, before I finally realised that what I really wanted was the opportunity to make real change and to achieve long term growth,” Darren explains.
“Flying all over the world was a truly great experience, but the impact I was making was limited by the amount of time I had before taking the next flight.”
He also says that good mangers look beyond the raw facts and figures.
“I believe in making decisions not only based on data, but on intuition and common sense. Life is about trying things, making mistakes and learning from them,” Darren philosophises.
I admit that I’ve made many mistakes over my career and it’s hard to pick just one, so I’ve done a lot of learning! There is rarely a perfect decision and the worst thing is to not make a decision at all.
Darren believes that attitude can make all the difference when it comes to a successful career.
“As far as I’m concerned, without the right attitude, skill is wasted,” he says.
It is for this reason that he always works hard to make sure he has a positive attitude himself, which he describes as one of his strengths, along with common sense and a customer-first approach. He is also big on delivering what he promises.
Hella Australia moving with the times
Hella was founded in 1899, in Lippstadt Germany, as a manufacturer of lanterns, headlamps and horns for bicycles, carriages and eventually vehicles, with the Hella trademark first being used in 1908.
Over the course of the last century Hella became synonymous for high quality lighting and, more recently, electronic vehicle systems.
Hella Australia was established in 1961 as the company’s first production facility outside of Europe, to manufacture lighting for the local Original Equipment vehicle manufacturers and to support the local Independent Aftermarket.
Today, whilst remaining a family-owned business, Hella is a global organisation employing approximately 40,000 people across its 125 locations, spanning 35 countries, and has an annual turnover exceeding AUD$11billion. The Company’s commitment to research and development remains strong, with more than 7,000 people in R&D roles globally.
Hella is one of the top 40 automotive suppliers in the world, with the supply of Original Equipment parts and technology to the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers accounting for the majority of its revenue.
In 2018 Hella Australia relocated to a new purpose-built 7,000sqm facility and has been continually investing in inventory holdings.
Hella’s global aftermarket division includes 10 joint ventures and a diverse portfolio of more than 40,000 products spanning lighting, electrics, electronics, and thermal management, braking, filters and workshop equipment.
Significant investment has also been made in the growth and diversification of the Hella Australia product portfolio with several new product ranges introduced in recent years, including service items such as braking components.
Hella offers a comprehensive OE quality-braking program for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles through the Hella Pagid Brake Systems brand, a joint venture with the world’s leading Original Equipment braking manufacturer TMD Friction.
Hella Australia was set up to manufacture lighting for local Original Equipment vehicle manufacturers and to service the Australian independent aftermarket, as well as specialist segments such as marine and mining.
However, as local vehicle manufacturing began to decline Hella Australia restructured its business, creating the Aftermarket and Special Applications Business Divisions to focus on the independent aftermarket and the supply of parts to specialist manufacturers in multiple sectors including automotive, mining, marine, agriculture and leisure.
As a leading European OE manufacturer, Hella is uniquely positioned to provide high-quality parts for European vehicles. So, as sales of European vehicles continue to increase across Australia, the company continues to invest in its OE Euro parts programs, ensuring that its Aftermarket partners have access to the latest parts and technical support they need.
With Hella Pagid Braking Systems and the Textar and Don brands, Hella claims it has an exceptionally strong braking program that offers Original Equipment braking components for European passenger cars and commercial vehicles.
Similarly, Mahle is another Original Equipment brand that will become available from January 1, 2020 through Hella Australia and one which allows it to offer a comprehensive range of OE thermal management products. “Efficient thermal management will play an increasingly important role in the future, for all powertrain technologies, and our partnership with Mahle puts Hella at the forefront of this rapidly growing segment,” Darren claims.
“With more than 50 percent of our lighting product coming from our production facility in New Zealand, we are speeding up our focus on developing new products for our local markets and this will be a key factor in the continued development across our lighting portfolio.
“We are establishing product roadmaps with our production facilities in Austria and Romania, where we see some exciting opportunities moving forwards.
“Supporting workshops, and their requirements, continues to be a major focus for our business now and as we look to the future.
“We have recently expanded our workshop equipment program with the launch of the Hella Gutmann Solutions brand and the addition of Scangrip’s range of premium quality workshop lighting products.”
The continued growth of electronic vehicle systems, including Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) and the move towards electric vehicles and autonomous driving, means that workshops need to adapt quickly to keep pace.
“With the recent introduction of Hella Gutmann Solutions we can assist repairers by giving them access to the latest diagnostic equipment, with state-of-the-art features, comprehensive vehicle data and an intuitive user interface, as well as an award-winning multi-brand ADAS calibration solution,” Darren says.
“Workshops that use Hella Gutmann Solutions equipment benefit from a high level of technical support to assist, ensuring that even the most complex service and repair procedures on today’s technology-laden vehicles can be carried with ease.”
HELLA Australia is excited about the next chapter ahead and continuing to shape the technology of tomorrow.
For more from Hella Australia, visit www.hella.com.au