A journey to dealer principal

Only a few weeks into his new role as Adams Morey dealer principal, Scott Cocks is loving life at the top of the tree. It’s been a whirlwind tour since he joined the dealer as an apprentice technician 23 years earlier

Cocks’s potential was recognised early; he won DAF apprentice of the year twice, and was singled out as an employee of high potential (which prompted an IMI Level 4 management course on top of his Level 3 qualification through City of Bristol College).

Recalling his experiences at the South West dealer at that time, Cocks says: “I was fortunate to have great mentors. In fact just yesterday I gave one of them, Dean Mansell, a long service award. He was instrumental in bringing me on.” Other site staff also won awards. “It was almost a joke in DAF that Newton Abbot was breeding success. But really it was a fantastic manager, Nick Stewart, who was great with apprentices.”

Following his apprenticeship, Cocks stayed on to perform breakdown maintenance, got involved in complex engine repairs and developed a specialism in rebuilding gearboxes. He eventually progressed to become one of the first DAF-approved master technicians. “I started with the 45 series and the Road Runner, which were very basic – although robust – to vehicles with CAN topology. We went from three ECUs to 12, and from 10,000 to 50,000 fault codes. I couldn’t have joined the industry at a better time.”

Seeking work in a customer environment, Cocks left DAF and worked as engineering manager at Gist, but returned to the brand after a few years. “I had stayed in contact with people at DAF – and everyone knows everyone in this industry – and DAF was where I started.”

However, Cocks’s next move was admittedly unusual, taking a sales manager role at DAF UK’s head office. “My advice is to be open to learn new things. Workshops can be a tough environment, and sometimes people might discourage you if they feel that you are going to progress. But be confident in your abilities and take a leap of faith. I’d lived in the South West for 30 years, but relocating to Oxford is the best thing I ever did.”

He adds: “I love speaking to customers. They know I understand the vehicle and, having been in a customer environment, I understand the pressures and the need for quick service turnarounds. I enjoy the customer interaction, looking to find solutions for customers that they didn’t realise they needed.”

Sales negotiation has also proven rewarding. “It’s a different sense of achievement to knock over a deal, to conquest a customer, to build on an existing relationship.”

In the latest chapter of his story, Cocks has returned to where it all started. “The opportunity for a dealer principal role is very rare. The other day was my first management board meeting; with 35-40 people, the whole of the UK and Ireland. It was great to be in the room with all of the other leaders, and some of them have had a similar journey, like Tom Osborne, MD of Brian Currie, and Robert Baxter, MD of Chassiscab. They started as technicians, too.”

“Looking back, I wasn’t mature enough to finish school and go straight on to university. I have done it another way, with an apprenticeship, and then, at the right time, a degree [a degree apprenticeship at DAF HQ in automotive dealership management]. Just 18 months ago, I finished an MBA at Oxford Brookes.

“I have continued to learn and develop. Nick Stewart taught me that rather than expecting to move up and be promoted, you’ve got to take your own learning and development into your own hands, and ask yourself what you are doing to improve yourself, personally and professionally.”

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