revving up the community engine
In 2015 Tim Hoffman was riding the high on business success, and had no clue about the blow that was awaiting him.
He’d just won regional Young Entrepreneur of the Year after taking over his father’s Holden dealership and car servicing business Oaten & Hoffman the year before. He’d been recognised for being Holden’s number one dealer in Australia for sales over target and was enjoying 100% customer satisfaction ratings.
Then in June last year he received unexpected news from Holden. “Our dealer agreement expired at the end of December and we found out they wouldn’t be renewing our contract.”
Tim’s initial reaction was shock. Oaten & Hoffman, which was founded in 1977, had been a successful Holden dealer for more than 30 years and was still enjoying sales growth.
“Holden had just decided to reduce their network by 30 dealers across Australia, and we were one of the unlucky ones affected,” Tim says.
The Holden dealership accounted for just over half of Oaten & Hoffman’s revenue, and Tim wondered whether the business would survive.
He started by keeping people updated. “I wanted all our loyal customers to know what was happening and why. I put an article in the paper, on our Facebook page, and sent our customers a letter.”
The Kyogle community responded strongly. “We had such good community support – both emotionally and financially,” Tim said.
Customers who had previously brought in only one car for servicing, brought in all their cars, Tim said. And people contacted Holden directly to let them know what a great business Oaten & Hoffman was.
Meanwhile, Tim went into recovery mode. He searched for a suitable car dealership to replace Holden, without success. He invested in new diagnostic tools and technology for his servicing and repairs workshop and promoted this arm of the business. In October, he was approached by the Swedish outdoor power products company Husqvarna, and accepted their franchise offer.
Less than one year on, and Oaten & Hoffman is back on track. There have been some hard lessons learned for Tim in the four years since he’s headed up the business, but he’s philosophical.
“I’ve learned a bit of resilience,” he says.