A key interim appointment to manage a stealth strategic project to explore and define Product Market Fit for a proposed new target vertical – Automotive Retail


Our client is a SaaS business who specialise in the provision of an optimisation technology platform and parking solutions. Their software powers some of the largest block parking operations in the Europe, Canada and Australasia and helps operators improve both the efficiency of their car parks and the experience of their customers. The business supports 40 sites, including 25 airports, across the UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, with sites soon to go live in USA. Post implementation, all operated sites boast a 100% average increase in passenger throughput; a 39% parking increase in capacity through block parking versus self-park; and a 25% average check-in time reduction – all of which generate significant savings for operators.


Whilst their optimisation platform has an immediate focus on block parking and airports, the scalability potential into other transferable market segments is significant and currently under a strategic review, forming part of a 5 year growth strategy. Having identified several potential markets including ongoing conversations with operators in these markets, automotive retail stood out as the primary play and a pilot trial was negotiated with one of the UK’s largest automotive dealerships.


Parallel to this was the need to determine product market fit and bring in a suitably qualified interim consultant to explore this and build out qualitative/quantitative data on the acceptance of the platform solution in the automotive retail market and essentially help identify functionality that would be fit for purpose whilst also assessing the competitor landscape and provide a comparative analysis. 


Given the platforms USPs in helping mobility operators drive operational efficiencies with a firm focus on customer service and the need for it to be aligned to the automotive retail market, it was agreed that the incoming consultant must possess deep domain knowledge of the sector and understand the operational detail, potential pain points and KPIs that the platform could overcome and help to improve. Therefore, understanding the nuanced detail of automotive retail operations was key to obtaining the requisite insights. It was also agreed that alongside heavy operational experience, the individual  must be able to demonstrate a deep understanding of the competitor landscape and know the major players and have the right contacts to exploit.


We focused our research on the top 20 automotive dealerships in the UK and sought to identify ex Heads of Operations or Heads of Services including retirees who might be interested in participating in a short-term strategic project of this nature. We also identified several independent automotive retail consultants who had been supporting their clients with a variety of ‘digital change’ projects. From this data, we were able to identify approximately 20 individuals with whom we engaged, positioned the opportunity, assessed their capabilities and domain knowledge including their capacity and commitment to the project scope and timelines.


Following the extensive search, outreach, engagement and assessment, we were able to present a strong shortlist of four candidates – two retired Operations Directors with extensive operational leadership experience with the likes of Inchcape PLC, Evans Halshaw PLC, John Clark Motor Group and Reg Vardy PLC; and two independent automotive retail consultants – one individual with 30 years experience and an impressive track record of supporting global automotive retailers and manufacturers as a consultant for the last 16 years and one individual ran his own consultancy supporting the transformation and acceleration of automotive retail businesses for the last 14 years. Client interviews identified strong interest in the two independent consultants both of whom exhibited strength and breadth of experience across the sector underlined with a deep understanding of the changing automotive landscape and in particular, its shift towards digital innovation. Both were also able to demonstrate an extensive network of contacts and providing the ability to support scale problems and niche requirements. 


However, the stand out candidate for the client exhibited extensive domain knowledge and experience within the automotive retail sector underlined with an impressive portfolio of a range of completed consulting projects spanning operations, sales, marketing and digitisation for both automotive retailers and manufacturers. This provided them with an edge through their deeper insights and broader reach across several potential verticals that sit within the sector representing a better coverage for identifying synergies with product market fit.

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