BIG Awards 2022 Winner Q&A – Hillclimb Garage

BIG Awards 2022 Winner Q&A – Hillclimb Garage

The BIG Awards

Over the coming months we will be shining a spotlight on our BIG Awards 2022 winners, hearing their stories, what makes them tick and their advice to other garages.

This month, the IGA interviews Mark Darvill, owner of Hillclimb Garage in High Wycombe, who won our coveted Independent Garage of the Year – Small and Customer Service awards.

Tell us a little bit about you and your garage, for example how the business started?

There has been a garage on our site for over 60 years. It has had several identities over the years, most as a main dealer, but became an independent car sales and MOT / Service Centre around 2015. I acquired the business during COVID in 2020 and closed the car sales to focus on investment and development of the MOT, Service and Car Repair division. I recruited Tom, a Master Technician and proven Workshop Manager, into the business soon after I bought it and built the workshop team around him. From there I invested heavily in a complete workshop refit and state of the art diagnostic and garage equipment. I have also invested in additional people and systems at front of house, from where we work tirelessly to continue enhancing the whole customer experience.

Why did you choose to work in the industry?

Like many of us, I think the industry chose me..! I was looking for a company that would take a chance on a young, enthusiastic teenager and had a relative working for a motor factor who had a vacancy for a trainee parts person. I was lucky enough to land the job and 20 years later I was Managing Director and a shareholder in the business!

What has surprised you the most about working the industry?

It has always surprised me over the years that too many people put up with poor service.

What do you find most challenging about working in the industry?

I find one of the most challenging areas to be maintaining the reputation of the independent garage sector. At Hillclimb we work extraordinarily hard in training and coaching our people to be professionals and earn the trust and confidence of customers and other stakeholders in our business. It is a constant source of frustration when the sector is let down by unprofessional, unethical garages that have little or no respect for our industry.

What’s the best thing to happen to you whilst working in the industry?

Getting recognition over the years for the work we do in continuing to be the very best we can and in providing a great customer experience, with the BIG Awards being our latest achievement!

As winners of the Independent Garage of the Year award – Small, what do you think is the key to running a successful independent garage business?

Build a great team of quality people around you and have a strong set of values and goals that you are all committed to.

As winners of the Customer Service award, how do you ensure that your garage’s customer service stands out above the rest?

Good communication in every aspect of our relationship with the customer is vital. Added to this is our commitment to ensuring customers feel valued and in control of works being completed on their vehicle. We promote ourselves as being there to support the customer and to understand how they want to manage the ownership costs of their car. Every job is videoed by the technician and all advisory work is detailed in writing by the service team in easy to understand English, with clear pricing. Being clear and transparent earns the customers confidence and trust. Every car is washed and sanitised. We also offer a free collection / delivery service and complimentary courtesy cars.

What’s the best piece of advice you could offer to someone starting out as a technician?

Get yourself into a garage that is serious about developing your skills and commit to the job 100%. If you support the company a good company will support and invest in you. Focus on being a professional and understanding the importance of your chosen career.

Where do you see your garage business in five years’ time?

We will continue to move with how the industry is evolving and work hard to stay ahead of the curve. Right now, that’s heavy focus on EV and Hybrid. All technicians are on progressive EV training programmes, with one already Level 4 qualified. I see this shift accelerating over the next 5 years and beyond. However, we will ensure we stay aware of other evolving technologies and opportunities and embrace them as early adopters wherever we can.

What would be your dream car and why?

I’ve not really got one but it would be nice to spec up a brand new Aston Martin.

What does winning a BIG Award mean to you?

Recognition for the hard work and dedication of our amazing team and confidence for our customers, new and existing, that their car is being looked after by professionals who genuinely care and have credible endorsement from industry experts.