Like all other industries, the automotive sector wasn’t spared by the novel coronavirus pandemic. This has brought about some new challenges for carmakers and dealers alike as showrooms and service centres have been shuttered for the duration of the Restricted Movement Order (RMO).
This includes Proton’s leading sales dealer principal for 2019; Setia Gemilang Auto. We took some time to speak with Andrew Quek, managing director of the 4S centre, as he shares some of his thoughts on riding out the storm before some semblance of normalcy can resume.
Q. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and the Covid-19 virus isn’t going away anytime soon. How are you managing things in business.
A. As for business, it is tough. We’re experiencing a slow-down as most industries are impacted economically. However, I’m naturally an optimistic person. So, for now, I try to stay positive and ensure the team stays healthy. We’ve also created a Facebook Group where we keep ourselves updated on one another on a daily basis - like what kinds of food we had for lunch/dinner and to catch up on each other’s health status. I also use this platform to share with the team healthy food to consume during this time.
Once the country is seeing optimistic results from the prevention control and the RMO is lifted, I shall sit with my team to re-strategise the work that needs to be done. For the most part, maybe our business model will have to change. We will get back to the drawing board and start from the basics. We’ll think up something because I know we can and we will. For sure.
Q. Your outlet has been the top performer in sales for 2019. It must have been a very busy time then. How do you compare to this RMO period and what are the positive takeaways from this, if any?
A. Yes. For 2019, it was none stop work, work and work. Many thanks to Dr. Li Chunrong, CEO of Proton, and his able team, for setting all the right coordinates to steer the brand in the right direction, and his belief in us, without which, myself and the team will not be able to stretch our abilities and deliver intended results. We were not only chasing the numbers, we were also chasing to break records, and beat our best performance.
Compare that to the current situation – things are definitely totally different. It’s not even comparable, to say the least. The whole ecosystem has been affected in numerous ways by forces we have no control over - every business from large organisations to the SMEs, tourism, food suppliers and distributors, transportation, restaurant owners, hawkers, etc. For a dealer like myself, sales have reduced by 75 per cent and there are zero intakes for servicing during this RMO period.
The pandemic has also brought out the best in us. Because of this, countries are helping one another, caring for one another. The brotherhood of life is alive. We are in this together. So, these are positive takeaways.
Q. So, what’s going on with you and your team currently?
A. At present, what I do is constantly remind my team to stay home and to be healthy so that once the RMO is over, we can instantly get back to work. Thank God for modern devices, staying connected is much easier. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for the previous generation in similar situation.
Recently I encouraged those in the team with any symptoms to get tested for the virus. I would rather have the comfort of knowing that they are all ok, and if not, then at least the next steps can be taken to ensure their safety and well-being is looked into.
Q. During this RMO period, how do you stay connected with your customers?
A. Constant updates on social media platforms. All necessary information is posted there for customers’ reference and convenience.
Q. What can we expect from Proton after the RMO?
A. For this, we shall be guided by Dr. Li and his management team. We shall carry on with the business projections and support their thought perspectives. I reckon it will be business as usual and re-looking at enhancing the existing plans. The communication channels are still open – we have sales meeting via teleconferencing, so it’s all good.
Q. Back to business. What kind of leader are you when you’re with your team? Strict, tolerant or easygoing?
A. One that is a bit of everything depending on the situation. I’m mostly strict when it comes to business. I expect my team to be disciplined and be high achievers. One thing that I always instill in them is to be ever ready. Meaning, they need to do their homework, understand the product they are selling, listen to customers, understand their needs and solve their issues and at the same time ensuring that they are compliant with the rules and regulations per the stipulated guidelines. When they are ready and are equipped with knowledge, it will be easier to serve customers well and attract newer ones.
Q. Your outlet is also the monthly national sales champion for January, February and March this year. What is the magic ingredient?
A. There is no magic to this. It’s basically just working hard towards achieving the target.
Q. How do you kill time and keep sane during this RMO phase?
A. I try to keep myself occupied by reading up on current news, browsing the internet to see happenings elsewhere in the world, eat well and exercise at home. I’d love to go for a good run in my free time but obviously I can’t. To keep myself healthy, I’ve actually taken up yoga. It helps me focus and I’m enjoying it. So far, I think I’m doing alright adjusting to this new order, though I must admit some days are tougher. Aside from this, another plus point is, I get to spend more time with my family and loved ones.
Q. Apart from having an aptitude for doing business, I heard that you are quite a chef yourself.
A. That is actually correct. I love to cook. I cook for my family and they love it. Street food is my forte. Mee goreng mamak, pan mee, prawn mee, Ipoh hor fun, nasi kunyit – these are some of the dishes that I can cook well.
Q. Who is the one person you admire at the moment?
A. At the moment, I really admire our Director General of Health, Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah, for his leadership in this time of crisis that we’re going through. He’s a brilliant guy, calm and collected. He knows his stuff and you get a sense of assurance when he talks as it’s all facts and figures. Not forgetting all the front-liners who are risking their lives to help save our nation in crisis. Salute to them.