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28 July 2015

Featured Business: Kevin Egan Cars

Posted By: AIB Business
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Name: Kevin Egan, Founder, Kevin Egan Cars

Employees: 11

Since: 2009

Company Background:

Setting up a car sales business during a recession may seem like an unusual move. For Sligo-based car salesman Kevin Egan, it has been worthwhile.

All the arrows have been pointing upwards every year since he started; the big advantage as a business owner starting in a recession, he says, is “I’ve never seen it busy, so I’ve never seen it quiet.”

Six years in business in 2015, Kevin had worked in car sales since 2000, specialising in used car programmes. He knows his place in the market:  people buying a new prestige brand car, he says, would be dealing with him for their second car.

Consumers have different expectations for different prices of car, and Kevin has moved away from older cars under the Kevin Egan Car Sales brand. Instead he is in partnership selling older, quality cars under a different brand. This helps improve customer satisfaction and expectation when buying a used car.

The vision is to roll out a franchise of his own business model for selling used cars across the Republic of Ireland under his main brand.

The road to success started for Kevin when he was busier selling cars at his house than at work and decided to take the plunge and go it alone.

He moved into the premises his employer had previously operated from. He has since moved to smaller premises to cut overheads.

Car sales have changed – Kevin has learned you don’t need a showroom. Customers, more than ever, come armed with knowledge. A customer will arrive knowing the dealer has a certain car in stock, and will know all about it, having done their research online on the company website or classified websites like Carzone, DoneDeal, Carslreland and CBG.  

If Kevin sells one make and model, he’ll replace it with the same. If a certain car is selling quicker than normal, he’ll stock two. As an independent car dealership, Kevin can buy in what he wants when he wants. He strongly believes in monitoring everything and keeps a close eye on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to determine what to buy in. This is the formula that will contribute to Kevin Egan Cars becoming a nationwide brand.


Interview with Kevin Egan


What was the inspiration for setting up your business?

It was in a recession but I was young, I was naïve, I didn’t know what a recession was or what was going to happen. I felt there was a need for a used car dealer in Sligo, somebody that was going to be a dedicated used car dealer with a premium product at dealer level standards.


How did you initially fund your business?

I made a lot of money selling cars and I had savings. It was through my own funds.


Have you diversified your offering from your original focus or set up other businesses? 

The business is still used car sales, but I’ve focused on what sells quick, what sells profitable and what is also good for building customer relationships. I don’t sell older cars anymore because they have higher reconditioning costs. I don’t sell very fresh six-month old vehicles because I can’t compete with the main dealers. I have set up two businesses since I set up Kevin Egan Cars Ltd. Our family business is landscaping so I’ve taken over the family business. I’ve gone into a partnership and opened a second used car dealership in Sligo as well. There’s also a niche in the market for an older car and a good quality product, and the second franchise deals with that.


What have been the highlights to date?

One of the most obvious things is winning awards. In 2013 we were voted the Irish Car Dealer of the Year. In 2012 and 2014 we came second. We won a Bord Gais Social Media Award in 2014 for a cartoon video on the website. That was a coup as it was outside the industry.


What’s the bravest step you’ve made in relation to your business?

Moving to a smaller premises was the best decision I made but it was the one that put me under the most pressure. I have sold more cars from where I am – basically you don’t need a show room to sell cars.


What’s your favourite part of being a business owner/entrepreneur?

It’s the freedom, I love the pressure as well and the sense of achievement and seeing it grow. Looking back at the stock sheet from starting with six cars, and I now have 70 cars. The natural growth is my overall favourite thing.


How do you achieve a work-life balance?

It’s getting an awful lot better with the extra staff. I can actually go on holidays now and switch off. Work life balance is a question I’d like to answer in a year’s time.


Are you inspired by any business figures or success stories?

I’ve a couple of car dealers that I look up to and I love leaning on them for advice. What motivates me and inspires me about them is they are twice my age and still have the motivation to work in their business every day. People might think that if you sell cars you’re in competition but there are different levels of car dealerships. I have a niche here in Sligo myself and would be competing against a couple of people but not everybody. We’d be a friendly bunch.


What tools or technologies do you use that benefit your customers or business?

The same thing as everybody else: the internet. The internet is the only thing now for us to sell cars. If you’re not online, you’re not selling cars. If you’re on the second page of Google, you can just forget about it. You just have to heavily invest in online advertising. That benefits me and the customers as they know more about the car when they come to us.


Do you feel you know what your customers really want? How do you stay updated with this information?

Going back to the changing of my stock, a light bulb didn’t just click one day and say these cars are selling quicker or better. I keep a lot of KPIs. I monitored them over a couple of years and I realised what makes money, what makes money quicker and what doesn’t come back and bite us in the tail in a couple of months. We give a one-year or two-year warranty on most of our vehicles and you realise which cars to keep and which cars not to.


What has been the biggest challenge your business has faced?

At the minute, it’s space. The business has been successful in the last couple of years; it’s naturally grown, not only staff-wise but volume of stock. I moved to a smaller premises in 2012; it’s worked, I’ve lowered my overheads and what that’s done is it’s increased my stock. I need to move a bigger premises. As regards the business challenges, I needed to educate myself on how to run a business rather than be a car salesman.


What part of running a business comes to you naturally? 

Being professional. In any job I worked at, for over 10 years I was always in charge of the used car programme. I ran it professionally, I learned from every programme I ran. Buying cars and selling comes naturally to me.


How did you scale/grow your business?

Putting strategic deals in place with suppliers, by having a good reputation and keeping bills paid. My biggest scale of growth is a vehicle stocking plan. I was successful in arranging a stocking facility to buy up my new stock.


How do you get ideas to further your business?

Listening to people. I go to as many training courses and seminars as I can in relation to the motor trade. If you see someone doing something new online, try and do it in your own way again. Constantly evolving social media and finding new ways of working with it rather than against it. Again, listening to your customers and knowing what they want.


What motivates you to stay running a business?

I want Kevin Egan Cars the brand to be the name for used cars in Ireland. I have the foundations built up now.


What’s your vision for the future?

I would have a vision of starting a used car programme that would be franchiseable and something that could be opened nationally.


What’s the best business advice you’ve received?

Stick to what you know. I sell cars, so stick to selling cars, even vans I struggle with.


What would be your advice to businesses starting out?

Keep your overheads low. Turnover is vanity. Profit is sanity. Profit is what keeps you in business, not just turnover. From a starting point, always monitor your business. Take time out to work on your business.


What’s your favourite motivational business quote?

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.


What, if anything, would you do differently?

I would have started smaller. I wouldn’t have taken on the huge burden of the franchise showroom, I would have started off as I am now, I feel I’d be in my own showroom now if I did. Keep your overheads as low as possible.


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