The Voice interviewed John O’Hanlon following the launch of his recent venture, Waylands Volvo in Reading.

First of all, what did you do after the successful sale of Ridgeway to Marshall Motor Group?

“I took six months out and spent the quality time with the family that you just can’t do as CEO of a motor group; attending School plays, parents’ evenings, lots of dog walking and we built a house. I loved the challenge of the house build. It was very interesting getting involved in decisions, planning, engaging with different people to those I normally would. Once that played out, I started working with John and Chris Clark at John Clark Motor Group as a non-exec. I’d got to know them as a result of attending franchise events and it felt right to work with them more formally. They are the right people with a superb business and in a non-competing geography. I’m still working with them and will continue to do so as long as I’m adding value. They’re great guys to work with.”

What do you feel you achieved at Ridgeway?

“I think we built an incredible culture. I felt that we retained the family values of a smaller business whilst bringing in the processes and procedures of a larger dealer group. It felt like we still gave a warm welcome to all our customers. We made a conscious decision to keep the small things going, things like signed Christmas cards, long-service recognition and dinners, things that allowed colleagues to engage on a personal level. Yes, we had specialists that would help engage with customers, the brands, the team and the bottom line, but it was all centred around the people.

Leaving Ridgeway represented a huge change for me, I’d had a great experience and a fantastic time, but it was the right time to sell.”

Why come back?

“Simply, I’ve got the extraordinary opportunity to go again on my terms. Even as an accountant before I joined Ridgeway I worked on motor trade clients, and after 25 years, it’s in my blood. I still believe there are huge opportunities for great dealers working with the right brands. I think Volvo is a fantastic brand, probably in the same place as Audi was 20 years ago or Land Rover 10 years ago; moving from worthy and safe to innovative and sexy. Pushing Tesla hard as a hybrid and electric vehicle brand. In terms of location, Reading is at the beating heart of the Thames Valley; the biggest town in England and with the new Queen Elizabeth line connected to Central London, it’s only going to grow quicker.”

Read the full interview in the latest issue of The Voice available online: