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VIDEO: Meet the boss - Lisa Hundleby, Dealer Principal at Tavcor VW Port Elizabeth

By Tai Chishakwe - Feb 1, 2017
VIDEO: Meet the boss - Lisa Hundleby, Dealer Principal at Tavcor VW Port Elizabeth

The Business Link editorial team met with Lisa Hundleby, Dealer Principal at Tavcor Volkswagen Port Elizabeth, at her showroom on the busy William Moffet Expressway in Port Elizabeth.

On walking into the showroom, there was a discernible sense of energy and enthusiasm on the floor of this substantial and aesthetically pleasing dealership.

Meeting us at reception, and guiding us to her comfortable office with its great view, we found Lisa to be personable and exuding a calm confidence that one probably needs to succeed in the notoriously cut-throat car sales industry.

Lisa is one of a very few women, who have managed to rise to the position of Dealer Principal in the South African motor industry.

After a few pleasantries, we chat about how she got to where she is today.

“I was born in Botswana and my family moved to Port Elizabeth when I was five years old. I basically had my whole schooling in the city – started at the Holy Rosary Convent, where my mother was schooled and also went to Collegiate where my grandmother attended.

“My brother was at Alexander Road High School and I ended up Matriculating there,” she says, adding; “I have basically studied in PE and have been working in PE ever since.”

But joining the motoring industry was not what she consciously set out to do.

“If someone had told me at the beginning of my career that I would be working in the motor industry, I don’t think I would have believed them,” Lisa remembers.

“I have a degree in Industrial Psychology and actually started at Maritime Motors in their Public Relations department before getting into the finance side of things.”

From there, she moved to a local Volkswagen dealership about ten years ago, where she had her first stint as Dealer Principal.

“It was a small dealership, but it allowed me the opportunity to learn the ropes because, coming from finance and insurance, into running a dealership was a big change,” she describes.

“From there, I moved to a dealership in Uitenhage, and then I was offered the Audi dealership in Mpumalanga with the option of commuting. I would have done it, but I had a son in school.”

That was around the time that Alan Taverner, one of the Directors at the Tavco Motor Group, approached her to join their group.

“That was about fours year ago – in 2013. I started on the Audi side for about two years before moving up into this Category A dealership, which is the largest that I have run, in March last year. I think when you get into the motor industry, you never leave,” Lisa quips.

She says that becoming a businesswoman was something she had to do.

“Perhaps my greatest motivation was my son, whom I have raised on my own; I think it’s that personal drive to succeed where some people probably, under the same circumstances, would see single motherhood as a hurdle to a career – so I guess I had something to prove,” she explains.

Her drive has produced results too.

“One highlight in my career has been winning the Cup of Excellence, which is the Volkswagen accolade for top performing dealers. I have won that twice when I was at another Volkswagen dealer.

“I have also been nominated for the Businesswoman of the Year in the Corporate section where I made it to the finals.. I also think any accolade that my team wins is a highlight for me because it’s always good to see your team succeeding,” she says.

While she radiates calm sureness, her job is still demanding.

“Besides selling new and pre-owned cars and managing the after-sales department, which is service and parts, there are other dynamics to being a Dealer Principal. For example, there are the financial reports – you obviously cannot run a dealership without money and we have set targets from the OEM in terms of sales and a customer satisfaction index,” Lisa describes.

“We also handle finance and insurance for our customers.

“The shareholders, obviously, want a return on their investment, so there is a definite drive to get the numbers. Corporate Social Responsibility is close to Tavcor’s heart and I am part of that committee that looks at how we can give back to our community.”

She, however, remains an approachable leader.

“We have a big staff compliment. I would say my leadership style is interactive but there is an element to being tough because you are accountable for millions of Rands worth of assets. Of course the tough side does not always make you popular, but I think in terms of my style, I mostly interact and stay close to my people. Fairness and consistency are absolutely key,” she says.

“In my career, I have received lots of good advice from many people and mentors. What resonated with me the most was that you should stay real and show your vulnerability – at the end of the day, you are still human and you are not always going to be perfect. So, if you make a mistake, own up and apologise and learn from that – always keep it real.”

Keeping it real is probably what has made the Tavcor Motor Group what it is today.

“What’s unique to Tavcor is that it is a family owned business and it is run with family values that are caring for our customers, the environment and also our staff. There is a great philosophy on the care and growth of our people – but then again that is globally in the Volkswagen family,” Lisa explains.

She says that while the motoring industry, as with most other industries, is male-dominated, it is also undergoing a transformation. 

“When I was first appointed as a Dealer Principal, ten years ago, there were far fewer women in the motoring industry than there are today.

“It is still a male-dominated world; I think as a woman, you just have to prove yourself a little more. I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity and what I have been able to achieve with that opportunity,” Lisa describes.

“So to be able to run a dealership of this size, a Category A dealership, makes me very proud, but it’s about the team that I work with too. As a woman in business, it’s very important that we try and help other women grow and develop so that in the future they are able to access more opportunities, which will probably address the gender imbalance in the corporate world.”

Asked about how she has manged to achieve all of this as a working mother, she says; “It’s very easy now because my son has just graduated.

“In the beginning it was a bit of a juggle but I have a support structure, which includes my mother, who has always been willing to assist, as well as my friends. Then I also relied on what is out there in terms of after-care. Time is scarce, so it’s about making sure that you have quality time.”

About the future and her legacy at Tavcor, Lisa describes; “I think I would to be remembered as someone who cared for our staff, customers and for social issues; that I cared enough to inspire other people to grow and give the best of themselves. Hopefully, that I have made a difference and left the company in a better position than when I started here.”

When she is away from the office, she says you will most likely find her in her garden with her dog.

“I love gardening and animals are my other passion. I also love sushi!”