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AIM Business School Alumni - Wayne Bryant

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Wayne Bryant began his career as a delivery driver with Repco and after 25 years is now the Executive General Manager of Sales and Operations, overseeing 345 stores around Australia. We sat down to ask him about his career, how he’s able to apply his AIM MBA to his current role and the challenges he sees in his industry as well as the wider business community. 

Tell us about your career journey and what lead to you studying an MBA with the AIM Business School.

I’m a career Repco person having been with the company for 25 years now. I started off as a delivery driver in 1989 and I have always thinking two or three roles ahead in terms of what I wanted to achieve in my career. Throughout my time at Repco I’ve had the benefit of really supportive leadership.

Particularly early on, I had a State Manager who was good at spotting talented people and making sure they get the right exposure and development opportunities through different roles in the business. That kick started a 25 year journey where I’ve managed a number of different areas in sales and operations roles across the nation within Repco.

A couple of years ago, I was offered the role of Executive General Manager of Sales and Operations which is responsible for the leadership and P&L accountability for Repco and alternate banner networks, made up of 345 stores around Australia.

With the support of some great leaders, I’ve had the opportunity to undertake a variety of courses including executive development programs. A few years ago, my Managing Director and I were discussing my career and he was of the opinion that in order for me to progress into the senior leadership team, I’d need to broaden my horizons and at least undertake a Graduate Diploma.

So I undertook the Grad Dip through AIM as they were able offer me the flexibility I required in my role, to complete a course of this kind, and balance my role responsibilities. After completing the Grad Dip, I immediately enrolled in the AIM MBA which was a really key phase of my career.

How have you been able to apply what you’ve learnt from the AIM MBA program?

In almost all cases, while I was completing the 12 units of the program, there were things happening in and around our business where I was able to apply the subject I was studying to the workplace.

From a practical perspective, it really was a terrific program as it’s broadened my horizons and it’s given me access to resources for my leadership toolkit. When you’re confronted with challenges or you’re thinking about different strategic options for your business, it’s useful to reflect on the MBA learnings and material to enhance the decision making framework.

I’ve been able to apply the learnings from the MBA in a number of different ways, in particular we’ve brought some new channels to market and I’ve also been able to draw on the Strategic Human Management resources learnings for various purposes including M&A projects, restructuring and organisational development. On top of that, I’ve also been able to take certain components of the MBA program and pass that knowledge onto my team to aid with their personal development plans.

What are some of the unique challenges your industry faces?

The automotive aftermarket (parts, chemicals, equipment, and accessories, after the sale of the automobile) is quite a resilient industry and the major businesses that operate within that segment are doing well in their respective fields. At a macro level, there are some challenges that the industry faces which is making life more challenging for the aftermarket.

One challenge stems from the sheer number of the volume of car marques, permutations and combinations of vehicles on the road in Australia. Globally, there are around 118 marques available and in Australia around 65 marques on road. If you compare that to the US, they have considerably less makes of car to choose from with 12 times the population.

From a consumer perspective, it’s a wonderful thing as Australians have lots of choice. However, from a parts business perspective you need to operate on a significant scale and have the balance sheet strength to be able to provide all of the different parts combinations and effectively service trade repairers in a fast and responsive time frame.

That means you need to manage your inventory well and ensure you have enough stores closer to customers to be able to leverage the inventory investment. For companies with the appropriate scale and inventory, that’s an opportunity for smaller independent businesses however, it can be difficult to deal with that complexity and as a result we are experiencing unprecedented consolidation in our industry.

The other big issue for our industry, particularly on the aftermarket trade service and repair sector, is the ever-changing complexity of the car itself. Technology now plays a huge role in the way we run and operate our cars.

Without access to good quality data and repair information, it makes the repair job much more difficult which is why the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association are currently lobbying the federal government among other agencies to ensure that data is made more freely available in a format the aftermarket repairer can use.

What do you think are the biggest challenges facing Australian business leaders today?

Economically speaking, our cost of doing business in Australia is a challenge. We all enjoy a great lifestyle in this country. That said our labour market creates challenges as many businesses operate their businesses beyond our borders.

The cost of labour is comparatively expensive in Australia which is a real challenge for the retail industry when you look at things like penalty rates on weekends. When those consumers start shopping online, it compounds the inefficiencies in the retail sector in Australia.

The influence of the internet on retail is becoming a growing issue, not necessarily on our sector at this moment, however if you look at the retail clothing industry as a case in point, consumers can access global brands at the click of the button, often at lower cost and have it delivered in just a few days.  

Many large scale businesses are now operating on a global stage so you’ve got to find ways to be innovative, to leverage technology and to reduce your cost of doing business. Because of the global nature of doing business, you need to be constantly thinking about new ways to be effective and to be innovative in your approach.