When car sales in the Philippines plummeted by nearly 40 percent during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the automotive industry was left reeling and dealerships around the country were forced to close their doors.
While ANC+ Group of Companies wasn’t spared from shutdowns, the leading automotive dealership conglomerate managed to open three new sites before the pandemic abated. And with sales figures now steadily rising again, it has its sights firmly set on expansion.
“We carry 10 brands currently, but expansion, whether it be additional brands or additional outlets, is key in our plans for the next three to five years,” Managing Director Minnie Bustamante tells The CEO Magazine.
“A customer shouldn’t be treated like a walking dollar sign, but as someone who has a need.”
ANC+ Group was established in 1998 and runs dealerships across the Philippines for leading automotive brands such as Honda, MG, Peugeot and Volvo. It’s now in the privileged position of having automotive distributors knocking on its door.
“I started my career in the manufacturing and distributor side of the business with Ford Philippines. Back then, dealers would go to distributors and ask if they could represent their brand. Now the dynamic has changed,” Bustamante says.
“Because we have a good footprint in many locations for different brands, it’s easy for us to say, ‘Yes, we can open a dealership for you because we’re already familiar with that area.’”
As the number one dealership group for both Ford and Suzuki in the Philippines, ANC+ Group is well-positioned to expand its portfolio and increase its market share. But Bustamante notes that high employee turnover is one of the biggest challenges the organization will have to face as it pursues growth.
“We train people and then they leave,” she admits. “We’ve even heard that other dealerships hire anyone from ANC+ Group automatically because they know we invest in people, so it’s flattering and frustrating at the same time.”
The company has recently taken steps to change that trend, implementing a series of measures in an attempt to increase employee retention.
“We continue to train our people to sell cars and trucks, as well as ancillary products that enable them to earn additional incentives,” Bustamante explains.
“We’ve also looked into supporting our employees with non-monetary items too, like giving sacks of rice, kabuhayan packages (grocery bags) and school supplies for their children. Last year, our HR Head also suggested setting up scholarships for our employees’ children, so we’re looking into that as well.”
Bustamante also believes that instilling a customer-centric mindset across the organization will drive employee engagement, which she considers critical to ANC+ Group’s success.
“Company Chair and Founder Anthony Cheng is very passionate about cars. He won’t represent a brand if he doesn’t believe in the product,” she says.
“When I moved to ANC+ Group five years ago, I said to him, ‘We need to change our mission and our vision. We need to get our employees more involved with the business and make them understand that we’re not just here to earn money or generate revenue.’
“A customer shouldn’t be treated like a walking dollar sign, but as someone who has a need. We’re here to assess that need, fulfill it and grow with them. I think this approach is working because we’ve reduced the turnover in the more senior levels, and now we’re hoping to pass that down to our salespeople.”
ANC+ Group also prides itself in only charging customers what is really due, particularly in its after-sales services.
“We’ll only fix what’s wrong with your car, and nothing more. That’s why our customers keep coming back. We don’t compromise on integrity,” Bustamante says.
In a bid to uphold the company’s values, Bustamante performs regular spot checks at each one of its dealerships.
“I don’t tell anybody where I’m going every day. I just pop into a dealership because it’s always the best time to find out if they’re there on time,” she reveals.
“As a leader, I’m firm to a fault. I’ll sit down with dealers and observe for a while,” she says. “If they’re struggling, I’ll make some suggestions. But once we agree on what we’re doing, I rarely accept deviations. I try to teach them to be empowered, but to also own up and be accountable.”