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Business leaders all have their own unique leadership style that sets them apart. Often built up from years of experience, approaches to leading companies can differ significantly among CEOs. For Luis Alvarez, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover Spain and Portugal, keeping up-to-date with new approaches is one of the ways he is able to stay ahead of competitors.
“I don’t like to take a top-down approach. I think many automotive companies are organised based on outdated approaches, so I’m very open to democracy when it’s needed. Of course, sometimes someone has to make a tough decision and take responsibility for that,” Luis says.
In order to get the most out of the expertise of his employees, Luis follows an agile methodology. “I prefer to coordinate rather than mandate. What I mean is that I think 20 people’s opinion will be probably more accurate than one person’s opinion,” Luis explains.
Jaguar and Land Rover are both historic brands in their own right with a powerful international reputation. Customers of these two brands will have unique expectations, requiring specialised interactions and a tailored market strategy. But a digital-first native approach is a necessity for all clients.
“We have to redefine our dealer network and support those leaders who need to operate in a more digital environment. We are moving from showroom visits to a digital customer journey – that’s a very long process and we also have to reimagine ourselves in the way we work,” he explains.
“We have the ability to be more upfront in every automotive new stream we can find, and therefore we have a high level of detail on our customer journey.”
Luis is working to move away from a top-down, siloed organisation to fully embrace a more agile and more cross-functional way of working to ensure better responses to operational needs. Innovation is vital to achieving these goals and being part of a relatively small enterprise brings with it opportunities to quickly make this transition.
“As a company, we can be more flexible, more agile and take risks without major implications. We have the ability to be more upfront in every automotive new stream we can find, and therefore we have a high level of detail on our customer journey at the moment.”
The rapid spread of COVID-19 has put many companies on the back foot and unprepared for such a major change. Like other businesses, Luis had to deal with a very challenging initial pandemic experience. “The first days were really all over the place, but I must confess the reaction from Jaguar Land Rover in Europe, and in Spain in particular, was pretty quick,” he says.
Thanks to a clearly defined plan Luis put in place, the business was able to ensure a quick rebound. Firstly, the cash flow position was secured and then the priority was to give all staff the ability to work from home with the right tools. Finally, Jaguar Land Rover had to help their dealer network to survive and navigate through some difficult months.
“Everything we put in place was the right plan at the right time and both the company and the dealers survived perfectly. We even had a very strong springtime in terms of sales last year,” Luis says.
“As a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, we have been able to speed up the digitisation process and are now probably one of the most advanced companies in Europe in this area.”
As companies prepare for the post-pandemic landscape, Jaguar Land Rover is continuing some of the practices it experimented with during lockdown periods, including embracing a smart working style. Now employees have all the tools they need to work well from home, Jaguar Land Rover allows staff to work from home three days a week and spend two days a week in the office.
The customer experience, too, has changed at Jaguar Land Rover due to the pandemic. Clients can now do everything from buying a vehicle to booking a service through a digital process. “As a result of the COVID-19 lockdown, we have been able to speed up the digitisation process and are now probably one of the most advanced companies in Europe in this area.”
Creating long-lasting relationships with business partners is central to the values of Jaguar Land Rover. Most of the partners and suppliers that work with Luis are in long-term agreements numbering in the years.
“Obviously with the revolution in the automotive business, we are also joined by new partners. But the aim of Jaguar Land Rover is always to set up long-term relationships with every partner we do have,” he explains.
Thanks to the global strategy that is followed by Jaguar Land Rover, there is a lot of flexibility for Luis and his team when working with suppliers. While complex conversations about contracts and pricing are commonplace with partners, having a strong relationship makes these negotiations easier.
Operating in such a changing industry makes having good relationships with suppliers essential. Luis believes that the automotive business is going to change more over the next five years than it has over the past 50 years. “This requires a lot of effort, a lot of talent and a lot of energy,” he concludes.
“I want to ensure that Jaguar Land Rover is going to be one of the leading automotive companies that is delivering the best products and delivering the best services in a way the new digital customer has asked for,” says Luis. “So we are going to be a very young, very attractive and very modern company over the next few years.”