22 February 2024 · General

Fresh Air

Intro Images: Hino Australia.

By Peter Shields

After 18 years in the passenger car sales and service industry, Ed Jones has taken over TAS Hino which has dealerships in Launceston, Hobart, and Devonport.

Ed Jones is the antithesis of the common impression of a car or truck dealer.

There’s not a gold chain in sight and he prefers athletic wear to tailored suits while he’s at work. But don’t be deceived by appearances as beneath his casual exterior Ed is an experienced operator who brings with him a notable level of professionalism.

Born and bred in Tasmania, Ed is the former Chief Operating Officer and a director of Local Motor Group. His resume is impressive and includes being a Toyota Dealer Principal.

He doesn’t shy away from the challenges involved in the revamping of his newly acquired TAS Hino business which also handles Linde and Hyundai forklifts. Ed is conscious of the need to concentrate on just a few quality brands rather than diluting the attention away from the key elements of the overall operation.

The strategy in this business, according to Ed, is to step it up to do the core functions better.

“For me, it’s a truck business and it’s a forklift business, so what we want to do is be a better Hino truck dealer and we want to get the aftersales factors in place in order to support that,” he says.

“I was told before I got into trucks that trucks were probably ten years behind passenger cars in terms of systems, so all I’m trying to do is introduce into a truck dealership the normal type of office systems you’d see in a passenger car dealership and improve the performance of this business by restructuring it in terms of modernisation in its practices”.

Over the last seven years, the former owners of TAS Hino relocated all three FRM branches in Hobart, Launceston and Devonport to new and improved premises, and Ed sees many exciting opportunities ahead for the Tasmanian truck market as forestry, tourism, mining, agriculture and other primary industries will require trucks from across the light-, medium- and heavy-duty segments.

The intent to modernise is plainly evident on the day Prime Mover visits the FRM Launceston facility as a group of technicians are routing a series of communication cables throughout the premises.

The cabling fits in with a project to rationalise and update the customer database records and integrate service schedules against the existing client information and generate reminders inviting them back into the dealerships.

Section 2 FRM Hino Launceston.

Service division revenue has been significantly boosted already by moving to the automated clocking-on and -off of job cards, which provides customers with timely and accurate invoicing.

The Launceston branch is currently in the planning phase for a workshop extension to increase the service bay capacity. FRM has been in existence for around 40 years and Ed has commissioned a ‘brand review’ to provide a better understanding of the market’s perception of the overall operation.

“The FRM brand review is happening at the moment to help determine whether we keep it or change it and what path we take after that,” he says.

“It’s not for me to decide. I’m asking those with better expertise than me in that particular field whether there is value in retaining the FRM brand or any other changes we may pursue.”

As in any successful business, people are a fundamental key to FRM’s future. Said future, according to Ed, is an exciting one at TAS Hino, given the excellent team in place and the onus placed on delivering exceptional levels of service to its customers.

“Fifteen years ago I would have said ‘process over people’ but now I prefer to have the Mick Malthouse [legendary AFL coach] approach and work with all the different personalities, understand that none of them are perfect and try to get the most out of them and get a good business outcome,” he says.

“The undertone for me in terms of how I’d like to be perceived is the emphasis I put on our people in understanding that everyone is unique, and respecting the diversity within that, and the importance of being able to work with that”.

Ed prefers to engage with people who have experience and skills related to the Hino brand and who want to work well and he acknowledges that not all can bring with them the complete desired package.

“They may need some training but I’d rather provide that than going looking for the rainbow unicorn that doesn’t exist,” he says.

Tasmania is not immune from the shortage of skilled staff currently being felt in the mainland states. Between the three dealerships there is a total of 46 staff, 30 of whom are involved in the service divisions.

Ed pays particular attention to ensuring the environment is a good place to be employed and that the staff are recognised for their contributions. His previous business had around 600 people, so influencing the culture within a smaller group can bring quicker results.

The work utes have all been upgraded to current model Toyota HiLuxes which contributes to the feeling of pride across the FRM team.

“At this level its manageable to know all the guys by name, know what you are paying them individually and to tell them they’ve done a good job on a Friday over a beer,” says Ed.

“There’s a term in vogue at the moment – ‘authenticity’ – and if you are your true self then that’s all you can be, and people buy into that. If you are a good person, it comes naturally, and I reckon that’s where it’s at. That’s what small communities are about so you do the right thing, not because you have to, but because it’s simply the right thing to do.

“I’d like to run this as a good local business by being the independent guy on the ground.”

Ed’s experience in operating successful car dealerships readily transfers to his move into commercial vehicles. He believes aftersales support is something that has always been a critical factor.

“Aftersales or warranty or service-related issues are an opportunity to really get a better relationship happening with clients,” he says.

“If there are lots of products on the market that are very similar then it comes down to their experience in aftersales at the dealerships. When people are turning over trucks every five to seven years you’ve got a long time between drinks to change their experience and you do that through the service and parts departments.”

To increase his own knowledge of the industry sector he is now operating in, Ed has reached out to other successful mainland operators, specifically the CMI Group in terms of trucks, and Charlie Schwerkolt at Waverley Forklifts.

“It’s like the Nike philosophy of not trying to do anything that others hadn’t done before. I try to lean on those who know more than me”, says Ed.

“Use Charlie as an example. If I want to look at rental forklifts, I’ve got to find someone who’s nailing it. Same with trucks: I went to see CMI because I don’t need to be as big as them, I just need to try to be as close as I can to being as good as them.”

This article was originally published by Prime Mover Magazine