Four decades ago, Patterson Cheney Isuzu dealer principal Terry Jewson fell into truck sales almost by chance, but dedication and a willingness to learn saw him quickly climb the ranks.
The year was 1982 when 25-year-old Jewson, who was working as a butcher at the time, stopped by Patterson Cheney Trucks one Saturday afternoon to wait for a friend to finish work.
“My mate’s father was Allan Weston, who was the used truck manager at the time. He asked me what I was doing with my life and said he thought I could sell cars,” Jewson recalled.
“We looked in the paper and there was a job going at Toyota Commercial. I started there as a cadet in April 1982. Patterson Cheney purchased that business in July the same year.
“I came into the industry when there weren’t a lot of young people going into it. Everyone around me was closer to my father’s age than mine. Allan said he’d teach me everything and really took me under his wing.”
Jewson, now 65, says it was a steep learning curve for him, coming from a background as a butcher to selling trucks, but his strong work ethic didn’t go unnoticed. “I was willing to say I’ll get in and learn this – so that’s what I did. I didn’t go into the business thinking that I was going to become dealer principal. I just did my job every day and the more you practice, the better you get.
“I wanted to give this a go and see where it took me. I was lucky that I enjoyed what I was doing quite a lot and I got to meet different people all the time.
“At the end of the day, it’s a matter of having an interest in what you’re doing. I talk about this to my staff now too. You need to have that care factor and can-do attitude – that’s care in everything you do – and it’s amazing what results you can achieve through that.”
Early on in his career, Jewson says the dealership was selling between 25-30 new trucks a month. It’s now at an average of 83 new trucks each month.
Jewson runs the Dandenong Patterson Cheney Isuzu dealership, which employs 96 staff across sales, workshop and parts. Though at one stage he managed three dealerships and over 220 staff.
Jewson started his truck sales career in used trucks, then went on to became used truck manager, then truck manager for new and used, before eventually securing the role of dealer principal in 1998. “It was something new and different every few years. I was able to do all these different things within the same industry and the same dealership,” he said.
“David Cheney was dealer principal at the time, and I got the job when it came time for him to retire. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I had been getting groomed for the role of dealer principal for about three to four years. I learnt on the way through that you have to earn the right to become dealer principal,” explained Jewson.
“I had a passion to learn and understand, so all I did was to do my job. One of the things I’ve worked very hard on is to develop very strong relationships with both customers and staff. I’ve always worked on the theory that your staff work with you, not for you.
“When I started I was the youngest by a long way, now I’m the old one. In the sales area, I’ve been focusing on trying to get more young people in. Out of seven retail sales people, four of them are under 40, and that’s really great to see because it can be hard to get young people interested in truck sales. We run an in-house training program for our sales cadets. They start out in our pre-delivery area, then work in parts, then in stock control. That gives them an understanding of how the dealership works, over three to four months, before they enter the sales side of the business.”
In 2006, when Patterson Cheney acquired Westar Trucks, Jewson was instrumental in helping to design and build a new dealership in Derrimut, in Melbourne’s west. “I’ve been lucky throughout my whole career as I’ve had a loyal and understanding wife right behind me, who has been very involved too – and that’s important to have. My wife and I project-managed that entire build,” he said.
“Building that Derrimut dealership has been a real career highlight, it’s something that means a lot to me, along with the autonomy that the owners of the business gave us and the faith they had in us to get it done. Patterson Cheney is a fantastic company to work for.”
Though trucks and technology have undoubtedly come a long way since Jewson first came into the industry, he says what customers are looking for is still pretty much the same. “Customers haven’t changed what they want. They want a product that’s reliable, that doesn’t let them down, and they want ease of service. With truck models, that’s just evolution. At the end of the day, a customer focus is what it’s all about. We offer a 24-hour service facility and the reason we do that is so we can service our customers and ensure less downtime for them too.”