E2E Member Highlight – Philip Maskell
Meet the man who had a transformational influence on the UK Retail Automotive Industry, E2E Advisory Board Member and investor; Philip Maskell. With over 40 years in the Retail Motor Industry experience spanning the UK and Australia, Philip Maskell is a proven pioneer in helping shape the Retail Motor Industry. He is the founder of Essex Auto Group, twice Chairman of the UK Ford Dealer Council, where he led the European – UK negotiations on Dealer franchise contracts in 2001 and 2011. He was the Founder Chairman and Main Board Director of the Retail Automotive Alliance and a Vice President of the Automotive Fellowship International.
At the impressionable age of 13, Philip emigrated to Australia, with his parents and 5 brothers. Philip says, “it was both a delightful and character building experience moving to Sydney, especially in those days being taunted by the Aussies as a ‘Pom,’. The no nonsense and can do culture of Australia helped shape his determination to succeed in his future life.
Being one of 6 sons, it was not affordable for him to go to university, so he fell into work in the retail motor industry from school, unaware it was destined to make his fortune. He reflects ‘coming straight out of high school at 16 means you have limited choices, it gave me the determination to create my own opportunities – I arrived in the motor industry not by design but by chance.’
Philip had the vision to do something with his career and saw that he could perform and make a difference. He worked from the bottom, ‘acting as lunch boy for people in the showroom’ but always felt he could do what they could – but better. He started to work his way up. By the age of 21, he was the youngest master salesman and by 23 the youngest sales manager in General Motors, Australia. It was then that he conceived his dream to run his own dealership. He decided to move back to England and joined the Ford Dealer Network where he stayed for 10 years. He ultimately was assigned to turn around a loss-making business in Liverpool in the 1980’s during a period of volatile social and economic turbulence.
Philip founded his own privately funded first generation company, Essex Auto Group, in 1989. Starting with one Ford Dealership this was not the easiest economically favourable time to start a business. Philip says he is proud he managed to survive the 1990’s recession, when so many other businesses failed, especially following events like Black Wednesday
He accredits his survival to ‘focusing on giving great customer service, motivating his team, controlling profit margins, cash flow, and working capital. Philip eventually developed a multi-brand vehicle dealership group across Essex representing Ford, Mazda, Fiat, Kia, JLR, and VW Group. His recipe for success was his passionate belief in providing the highest standards of customer care, driven by his customer-facing pledge of ‘Doing it even better for you’. This equally applied to building a highly skilled and motivated team with the pledge of ‘Doing it right for each other’.
Philip became the Founder Chairman and Main Board Director of the Retail Automotive Alliance (RAA), in 2005. Formed as a JV buying Group to optimise buying scale for 24 privately owned Dealer Groups with over 200 locations across the UK with a combined annual turnover of nearly £3b and 8,000 employees.
Essex Auto Group grew well over the next decade and he prepared it for a trade sale. Philip had bought out the venture capital equity from 3iplc in 2000 to own 100% of the shareholding. Eventually selling the business in 2017 to a South African plc. At exit the company employed 350 staff and turnover neared £200m.
Philip met Shalini about 3 years before selling Essex Auto Group, he says ‘I was impressed and decided then, that I wanted to get involved when I sold the business.’ Following the sale, he describes himself as ‘firstly an entrepreneur, but now with capital to invest.’ His first investment was with Shalini, supporting E2E with growing its commercial activities.
Philip was attracted to E2E from his first physical seminar experience, due to Shalini’s professionalism and the quality of speakers she attracted, which he felt immediately proved her leadership and connections, alongside the diversity of entrepreneurs. He got involved in meeting entrepreneurs, giving informal support, mentoring, and encouragement, which he found exciting and rewarding.
Philip says “the journey of an entrepreneur is fraught with many ups and downs. There are many moments wondering where you are and there is a time in the curve of developing the business, where you are in a very dark tunnel and you can’t see the light. It feels quite lonely, with not many people to talk to and lots to do. To succeed you have no choice but to persevere. Having come out the other side, you can take great satisfaction in having delivered on the vision. Applying your learnt skills, having determination and resilience will get you through. Most importantly always have the end of the journey in sight.”
Written by E2E