Hino’s wheeler and dealer
Jan Lombard, senior manager of the Hino dealer network and business management department, started out as a high school teacher. CLAIRE RENCKEN spoke to him about his career and why his heart lies with Hino.
After obtaining his BCom from Stellenbosch University, Lombard spent a short time as a high school teacher. “But I soon realised that wasn’t good for me or the kids,” he laughs. So he went on to complete his accounting articles and then became financial manager at a Nissan dealership. His professional journey continued across the country, and in March 2000, Lombard joined Toyota in Bloemfontein as the business manager for 27 dealerships. He was also involved in vehicle sales. In 2005, he made the move to Johannesburg and began working in dealer development at senior management level.
Lombard has been working with the Hino brand for five years now, and is thoroughly enjoying his role there as it is offering him challenges he didn’t have previously. When asked about a typical day at the office, he quips with a smile: “Well there’s a big difference between an ideal day and a typical day, isn’t there? On an ideal day, I can work on increasing the dealer network’s capacity, facilities and skills, and can work towards meeting our targets for 2015. On a typical day, I might be stuck doing sales admin!”
Like all his colleagues in the industry, the change that has caught Lombard’s attention most is the increase in the number of competing brands. “You really have to differentiate yourself to stand out now,” he says. “It’s a real challenge to remain ahead of the pack – especially for us now – we have a target on our back.”
He is of course referring to Hino’s recent success at the Scott Byers awards. Lombard is very modest about the awards and believes Hino’s success can be attributed to good service, but even more importantly, good communication with customers by the dealer network. “Things do go wrong sometimes. I’ve found that it’s very important to be upfront with your customers. If something happens, talk to them; be honest and give them the reason why the problem occurred, as well as a proposed solution. In our business, the ‘soft skills’ are vital – it is after all a people’s business.”
Lombard observes that there has been a downturn lately in the extra heavy commercial vehicle sector. “But luckily that doesn’t really affect us too much because it’s not really our niche market. For Hino, that’s more the medium commercial vehicle sector.”
A career such as Lombard’s has probably had many highlights along the way, so he says it’s difficult to pinpoint any. “It’s been such an interesting ride, especially watching the industry evolve and change over time.” And we’re sure the journey’s far from over yet!