Patrick joined Southern Mobility Vehicles in November 2016 after a chance meeting with Peter Zanelli, the business owner. He quickly realised that this specialist niche business needed the genuinely caring presence he found within the company to become more apparent on their website. Peter, the boss, had not wanted a car salesman because the business’s resemblance to the standard car trade ended with the vehicles they were marketing having four wheels.
Wheelchair accessible vehicles or WAVs have very little in common with the cars that most people had bought in their lives due to the need for the space inside to be different for wheelchair user access needs and wants. Patrick had never been in the motor trade, so he knew his previous twenty years of giving independent advice needed to come into play.
In 2016, Patrick got to work learning as much as possible about the different vehicles and, most importantly, the varying wheelchair access conversions available. Before viewing their stock, Patrick quickly realised that the customer needed to know more about WAVs, which are always a need and never want. Being new to this specialist marketplace also enabled Patrick to look at the business with fresh eyes and apply his previous professional outlook to his newly found career.
The WAV industry is closely associated with the motor trade by the nature of the four wheels and the historical “hard sell” which many have experienced for themselves. Traditionally, buyers have often felt uncomfortable with the sometimes rather rushed approach in the second-hand car market. Patrick could sense this when he greeted customers as they often seemed reluctant and uncomfortable.
After all, there is probably nothing worse than having to buy an expensive product you don’t want and probably weren’t expecting to need. Not only that, customers would seemingly have to buy from the same industry that filled them full of dread and had no desire to approach at the worst possible time. Patrick could only imagine how hard it must have been for most to muster up the courage to visit the company to view their stock, so Patrick vowed to change this perception for Southern Mobility Vehicles.
In January 2021, he realised that Southern Mobility Vehicles could now offer everyone independent WAV advice. He knew that Southern Mobility Vehicles could confidently move forward and help anyone from a complete novice to a long-term WAV user.
Patrick believes that the fundamentals of caring should apply in every way of life, whether towards humanity, flora or fauna. Still, he sees genuine care so often lacks in businesses. Patrick’s previous experience as an independent investment advisor had taught him very early on that no customer would swap a large cheque for a future promise on paper without trust being in place first. Trust comes with how an experience plays out for the customer, and only when they feel ready to proceed will they do so. Then if you keep supporting and helping your customers, they keep coming back; it’s not rocket science.
Patrick feels that many industries have become short-sighted about customer care; many companies think throwing vast sums of money at marketing works long term. However, selling customer care as a marketable product isn’t good enough; care should be at the core of any being, especially in a business. So instead, investing in people is the only way to create and build a successful business. Any success, of course, begins in and with the people you employ.
Early on, Patrick had formed a vision of the people he wanted to bring into the company, and with Jim on board, Patrick finally managed to get his lifelong and trusted friend Bill onboard. Bill had worked with Patrick back in the ’80s when they ran the Richmond Arms in Chichester together with great success.