Hi-Q: preparing to take its rightful place
The UK fast fit sector has long had an enigmatic player in the shape of Hi-Q. Even without the coming together of Motorway and Hi-Q the brand was substantial and widespread across the UK thanks to a blend of equity and partnership units. However, unlike its rivals, Hi-Q suffered from a raft of management, branding and performance problems. Even the relatively small Central Tyre operation could offer a standardised branding and a certain level of uniformity of image and service across its domain. Hi-Q was, by comparison, a sleeping giant. It was an operation that needed organisation, it needed a good shakedown and sort out. It needed someone capable and prepared to turn it on its head, shake out all the loose change from its pockets and put it back on its feet.
That was a view taken, not only by spectators but by people higher up the feeding chain in the parent Goodyear organisation. As Goodyear and Dunlop were brought together, so too were all the group operations and this led to, in Hi-Q/Motorway, a complicated and divisive structure where there were dual brands, in both truck and car, there were multiple sales teams and, to quote Graham Scholefield, the man brought in to head up the revitalised Hi-Q, “The main task was to create cohesion in the business, give everyone a sense of direction; and improve communication and motivation.”
Graham Scholefield has a considerable length of experience in corporate retailing, initially with House of Fraser and then with Kwik-Fit, holding powerful positions in both organisations. When CVC bought Kwik-Fit Scholefield was looking at finding another outlet for his retailing skills. When the option of taking on Hi-Q came up, he realised that the task offered him a real challenge, not only that but turning Hi-Q from the sleeping giant it was into the powerful retail operation it should be, would be realising untold potential. “I could see the potential of Hi-Q,” says Scholefield, “here was a massive asset under-utilised, under-performing, but with all the elements of a first class retail operation. I could see this was a business I could feel passionate about and that I could really use my retailing skills to develop its full potential.
“The coming together of Goodyear and Dunlop had created a great deal of uncertainty. The business was fragmented by old loyalties and structures. For a considerable time people didn’t know what was happening, where the future lay, and there was talk of the Equity being sold off. The perceived wisdom now is that tyre manufacturers should manufacture tyres. There was a period when they tried to control the whole chain through to the end user, but despite the obvious advantages the Equities were often usually the agents of the tyre manufacturer and sold what the manufacturer told them to sell. These were issues that had to be addressed. The difficulty of the disjointed management was one met by restructuring the business, but this could only be done once there was a commitment to the retail operation.
“Fortunately the new Goodyear Dunlop management could see merit in the retail operation and the decision to divest was reversed. We knew that there was confusion about who Motorway and Hi-Q were and what they each did. We needed to clear the clutter and create a cohesive approach. It was clear though that what was needed was a single organisation. The choice was made to re-brand the whole retail operation as Hi-Q, as that was the stronger of the two brands and the brand used for our strategic partner network. That re-signing and re-branding operation was completed by December 2003.”