19 Oct Interview with Chris Higgins, Regional Manager at Formula 1
We spoke to Chris Higgins at Formula 1 to find out about his experience in the automotive industry:
Tell us about the man that is Chris Higgins? What does daily life look like?
Work, home, cooking, kids – your normal life when you’ve got children. I have two kids, they’re 10 and 12 and they occupy a lot of my time outside of work.
What are your responsibilities as a regional manager?
As regional manager, I look after fourteen sites. My furthest southerly site is Long Eaton and I manage as far north as Hull and Bradford.
My role encompasses a lot of roles including recruitment, depot cleanliness, complaints, compliance, health and safety, staff morale, training, everything. I enjoy the variety, one day is never the same and it can be quite full on. The only downside in my job is the travel because there’s a lot of time wasted commuting. That hasn’t changed after the pandemic because I prefer to do everything face-to-face rather than over a screen.
How did you get into the trade?
I left school not sure of what career path I would take. I’d always been involved with cars and motorbikes as a lad, it was always an interest of mine, so looked at pursuing a career in the motor trade. I did start an apprenticeship in my early days with Honda and then Vauxhall. The salary back then was I think £32 per week, which obviously, you can’t afford to live on, so then I came to Formula 1.
Why do you think you’re successful in your role?
I’m quite good with people. I think in this job role you’ve got to be quite assertive but still fair. If your staff like you and they want to work for the business they’ll work harder won’t they? I’m here to guide people, not shout at people.
My overall career objective is always to do the best I can in whatever role I’m in. I always like to be challenged and this role suits me in that way.
How have you developed professionally since starting in the trade?
I’ve done almost every role going at Formula 1! I came as a Service Technician, then progressed to Assistant Manager, then to Manager and this is now my sixth year as a Regional Manager. Becoming a Regional Manager was a shock to the system. As a branch manager, you manage a few staff, maybe five or six at one site. As a Regional Manager, I manage eighty staff at fourteen sites.
There’s a lot more to think about and you have to constantly be on the ball, think long-term and use resources effectively. When you’re managing a team of six and lose one member of staff you have to think about replacing that one member of staff but when you’re managing eighty you’re not just thinking about replacing one member of staff, which is why we need help from you guys at AKA because I can’t do it all!
My organisation skills have had to improve significantly! But it’s been incremental with every new role and the responsibilities that come with it. The way I manage is that everything has to be in my calendar or I’d forget it all.
Can you describe a typical day as a regional manager?
It’s different every day. I make sure every centre is open, staffed accordingly before 9am while I’m commuting. Then my day could involve anything from training, disciplining, talking through someone’s ambitions for the future, checking the depot. I got in this morning and helped them clean up and made everybody a cup of tea. But yes, there isn’t really a typical day.
What are the biggest challenges in your role?
We’re always busy! Opening 7 days a week can pose a challenge but I try to support staff with this – I’ve got plenty of guys on four day contracts, I’ve got plenty of guys on alternate weekends. I’m very flexible, as long as I can still meet the needs of the business I’ll do what I can to support someone – I’ve got one guy who has Thursdays and Fridays off because his wife works nights and he works Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
As a management role though, the biggest challenge is staff – recruitment, management everything.
What are the highlights of your role?
Again the staff because you can see people’s progression and have a great relationship and banter with them. I was the best man for one of my guys. There are some cracking guys in the trade.
What are your proudest achievements in your career so far?
Where I’ve got to now considering where I started…I’m quite happy with that to be honest, I don’t think that’s bad going!
What kind of leader are you?
Firm but fair. I am understanding, every scenario is different.
What advice would you give to people looking to get into the trade?
It’s hard work but an interesting, rewarding trade.
Can you describe the different career paths available in the trade?
Within Formula 1, once you’ve got your basic mechanics qualifications you can work on anything that’s a machine or has an engine. You can go down the management side like I have, you can go into sales, the compliance side or training. I’ve got ex-managers that I’ve trained who are now trainers, stock auditors, some are regional managers. Formula 1 likes to recruit from within so there are a lot of opportunities.
What are the biggest challenges in the automotive industry?
One of the biggest challenges in the automotive industry is customer expectations. There are a lot of factors when repairing a motor vehicle; there’s a saying in the trade that a ten minute job can be one bolt away from a four day ordeal but when an unanticipated broken bolt starts causing problems, customers will often want their vehicle back in the ten minutes they were originally expecting.
Some people think that we plug cars into magic computers that tell us exactly what’s wrong with a car. We wish! They can only set us down the right path and sometimes they set us down the wrong path! Mending cars is not easy. Advances in technology have actually made it a lot harder.
What are the best parts of working in the automotive industry?
It’s a very communal industry, there’s lots of socialising. I don’t think I would have learned or developed the skills I have done in any other industry.
What do you look for when hiring staff?
I try to conduct informal interviews to really get to know the person because I can train anyone to do the job role if they’re willing and have the right ambition to go with it.
When I interview people now I know that qualifications don’t tell the whole story because I know some fantastic, highly skilled, time-served mechanics. As long as you have four years of experience you can do the qualifications quite quickly even for an MOT licence. One of my guys came to us as a tyre fitter two years ago and he’s now a Level 3 MOT Tester. I am always happy to invest in training for my team, It varies on how long someone has to work with us before I put them through training. It depends on commitment and work ethic.
What does the future hold for the automotive world?
There’s going to be a lot of change over the next ten years in the automotive world. It will be a positive change because I think staff will get the recognition for the skilled work they do especially with the EV systems coming in.
What makes F1 a great company to work for?
You are rewarded with training and opportunities. If you work hard you’ll get just about anything you want in terms of training and progression. I’m a good example of that.
What makes F1 stand out from other companies?
We’re the UK’s largest independent motor vehicle repairer. We have 130 branches. Centre managers have a lot more autonomy than centre managers in corporate companies.
What made you stay with F1 for two decades?
You do build a family around you.
What kind of culture do you create and how?
You try to create the happiest work environment you can. Everyone knows if they’re doing their job right.
What impresses you most about your employees?
The versatility of them. This industry involves a lot of problems to be solved because there’s so many parts on cars and there’s so many things that can go wrong with them and they always manage to fix them. The management staff are very proactive too and eager to help.
What exciting things are on the horizon for F1?
Expansion opens up career opportunities for people because we do look for talent from within.
We’ll be looking into EV Level 3 training in the future, which helps to progress people’s careers.
Why do you like working with AKA Recruitment?
Jamie. It comes down to people at the end of the day doesn’t it? Jamie is easy to get on with and to do business with.
If you are interested in exploring career opportunities with Formula 1, get in touch with Jamie on 07958655857 or 01924 495 066 or email your CV to