EDINBURGH’S former Chamber of Commerce boss has gone to work for Sir Tom Farmer with a mission to consolidate and expand his tyre and exhaust business.
Ron Hewitt, who stepped down as chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce last month after six years in charge, has been appointed managing director of Farmer Autocare, which currently has 17 outlets across Scotland, including six in Edinburgh and four in West Lothian.
Many of the outlets are run on a co-ownership basis, where the local operator is in charge of the day-to-day business while the wages, admin and accounts are dealt with centrally.
Mr Hewitt has been given the job of ensuring the system is firing on all cylinders before the company turns its attention to opening new branches.
Sir Tom, 71, said: “We want to build up the support for the co-owners. One of the things Ron will be concentrating on is looking at all our procedures and how we operate the whole business so it is all-singing, all-dancing. Once we get that, we will start to expand.”
He said the previous managing director, Charles Rennie, had left the post to take over the running of three centres in Fife on a co-ownership basis.
Mr Hewitt previously worked for Sir Tom as managing director of Kwik-Fit Insurance.
Sir Tom said: “He built that business up, built a fantastic team and eventually it employed 1200 people. He’s also worked in the retail tyre business and for the RAC, so he has a wealth of knowledge in the motor industry.”
Sir Tom started his first business, Tyres & Accessories Supplies, in Edinburgh in 1964 and sold it in 1968 before famously founding Kwik-Fit in 1971 and building it into one of the world’s largest car servicing companies. He sold it to Ford in 1999 for around £1.2 billion.
He launched Farmer Autocare in 2003, using the co-ownership model, which is intended to allow people to invest in their own abilities and reap the rewards from running their own business, while benefiting from the support of the central company.
Sir Tom said: “A lot of people want to start their own business, but they want a feeling of security. The co-owner can buy into the operation up to 45 per cent.
“We do all the admin, the salaries and the VAT. But we don’t take any part in the day-to-day management. It’s their business and their name above the door – so-and-so at Farmer Autocare. We try and personalise it so the customer knows he is dealing with a local business.
“The idea is all they have to do is come in in the morning, turn the key and do the job.”
When he stepped down from the Chamber of Commerce, Mr Hewitt said he accepted his share of the blame for not spotting sooner problems with subsidiary Edinburgh Business Development which had to be rescued from the brink of collapse by a £700,000 bailout from the Chamber. He said the crisis, which resulted in 12 staff being made redundant, had “saddened” the final months of his time at the helm.