Despite three decades in the car industry Paul Parkinson has growth in his sights at Synergy Automotive. Ismail Mulla reports.

When you meet someone who has been in a particular industry for more than three decades you usually detect signs of fatigue. However, that is not the case with Paul Parkinson, managing director of vehicle leasing company Synergy Automotive. Mr Parkinson started off as an apprentice mechanic in 1984, before quickly moving into the world of sales over the next year. “I ended up going to work for a trade car parts supplier,” says Mr Parkinson. “I was put out on the road selling garage equipment so ramps, jacking beams and Crypton tuners.” It was while trying to sell the car tuning equipment to a Nissan dealership that Mr Parkinson’s career really began. “That’s where my career started really,” he said “I started selling the very first Nissans that ever came out of the Washington production line so I actually drove one of the first 500 cars.” After spending over a decade running car dealerships, the founder of Synergy Automotive began to realise the impact the rise of the internet was having on the motoring industry.

Mr Parkinson said: “I took a Peugeot franchise in Ilkley for five or six years as my last go at the retail proposition. “I could see that the internet was coming and that people wanted more flexibility. They wanted more options and choices and that the leasing model offered that.” In 2006 Mr Parkinson took the plunge into the world of vehicle leasing with Synergy. The business has seen rapid growth in recent years and is looking to become one of the top five vehicle leasing brokers by 2020.

But how does the motoring entrepreneur stay enthusiastic about the same industry three decades later?

“Some people over the years become less passionate about what they do,” he says. “They get to the point where it becomes more a mechanical thing. I still get a thrill out of it being good for us and it being good for our customers.”

Providing good customer service is something that Mr Parkinson takes great pride in. His growing team are well drilled when they first join the business on the art of ensuring customers are kept happy. As leader of the business he likes to set an example for the rest of his colleagues to follow. Mr Parkinson said: “We have dual telephones in certain parts of the business. When we’ve got new people in, where it’s appropriate and with the customer’s permission, we’ll bring them in on a call and I will do a call with them.”

Turnover is currently £1.8m at Synergy Automotive, and the business employs 30 staff. Those numbers are set to grow as the company looks to achieve the ambitious goal of becoming a top five vehicle leasing broker. Mr Parkinson expects turnover to be between £5m and £6m and staff to almost double to 55 if their strategy is realised.

Last year Andrew Cope, founder of Zenith Vehicle Leasing, decided to come on board as an investor. Mr Cope is helping the business look at the bigger picture with his experience in the sector, Mr Parkinson says. “The conversations that he and I have are about what can we do with the business rather than what are we doing in the business,” Mr Parkinson said. “That’s the bit that I see value in because I can run the business but it’s great to have somebody there that says ‘and we can do this with the business’.”

The company is considering whether it should look at mergers or joint venture agreements. Mr Parkinson says a merger could well be on the cards in the future. He sees it is as a great way to quickly increase the size of the fleet and utilise his company’s commercial experience, supported by the staff’s care and approach to looking after customers. Looking beyond the immediate future, it is clear that Mr Parkinson’s passion for the business has not diminished. He says: “I’m 53, a young 53. I see some people who are in their 50s and they’ve had a hard time. There’s plenty left in the tank. No pun intended.

“I’m an enthusiast but I’m also a realist. I like the idea of the business being sustainable in the future. “For me when I step back I would very much like a successional arrangement to have taken place within the business. There are people that have been with us for ten years. There are people that have been with us for five, six, seven years. We have a very low staff turnover. The motor industry is not known for that.

“I would like in the end to be able to leave a thriving business and perhaps stay as chairman and mentor a new managing director.” Mr Parkinson has three sons and three daughters. But rather than handing over the reigns to the business to his children, he’s happy for them to forge their own paths. Mr Parkinson said: “My father was a self-employed, self-made guy. Had his own business in the scrap metal and waste business. He was very clear that he wanted me to go out and find my own way.”

He added: “I actually think that they are all going to go and find their own way and that their dad’s business might not be quite as cool, as I think it is, to them.” The boss of Synergy Automotive is cautious about changing trends in the industry driven by factors such as Brexit. But he is confident that vehicle leasing will hold firm.

Mr Parkinson said: “There was a time where I pushed hard to achieve results and I met a guy who said ‘what we resist persists’. Everything we push hard against creates a bit of a push back. He said ‘if you love what you do it shows’.”

It’s clear from speaking to this young 53-year-old that he loves what he does.

Factfile: Paul Parkinson

Title: Managing director, Synergy Automotive

DOB: December 30, 1963

Lives: Harrogate

Favourite holiday destination: Porte de Pollenca, Mallorca

Last book read: Ziggyology by Simon Goddard

Favourite song: Changes by David Bowie

Car driven: Land Rover Discovery

Most proud of: Building a stable family life from a challenging start

Education: Coney Green Comprehensive, Radcliffe – GCE O Level, various. Bury Technical College – City & Guilds Mechanical Engineering; TEC Mechanical Production Engineering Level III.
This Article Appeared in The Yorkshire Post, May 2017