Full name: Ryan David Watson
Profession: General Manager
From being a newspaper delivery boy to a salesman selling more than a thousand cars on his own, this man shares how his pursuit of passion had led him to become the big boss of a world-renowned brand in the country at such a young age and rocking it.
SD: How does it feel to be the first person to be interviewed under this section?
RW: Fantastically privileged. Excited!
SD: Any story about PLAYBOY when you were younger?
RW: I’m sure I’ve got a few but I don’t think you can print it. [It’s] every young boy’s dream.
SD: I understand that you have been in the auto industry for more than decade.
RW: Yeah, I am in my 13th now.
SD: How did this all start? What was your inspiration?
RW: Love of cars, really. I always wanted to do something with cars whether it is fixing, playing with, driving, looking at, anything to do with cars. It is a big passion for me.
SD: When did you realize that this is something that you are passionate about?
RW: At a very young age… even as a very young boy I always loved to be around cars.
SD: What was your first job and what were your duties?
RW: I worked as a newspaper delivery boy when I was in school. During my college years, I took summer jobs in an abattoir. We had to move all of the carcasses etc., into a giant chiller where the temperature was -10 degrees Celsius.
SD: How did you progress through those experiences and eventually find yourself in the auto industry?
RW: Experience from those early jobs thought me the ethics of hard work… you could never stop or sit down in the abattoir the flow of meat to be moved was continuous. My first real job was in a bank, my grandmother was very proud that I had landed a real (good for life job), but I still had an itch for something a little more exciting and it just happened after being in the bank for a year, a local auto dealer was looking for sales staff. I applied, went through a very long selection process and was one of two successful applicants. That was the start of my dream career.
SD: What was your first car?
RW: The first car I bought was a Citroen Saxo VTR – before that I used to use my Mom’s car with my brother as if it was our own.
SD: How many cars have you sold in your whole career? And how many cars do you think you can sell in your lifetime?
RW: Wow… a lot, the most cars I have ever sold in one year, as a Sales Exec, was 360 when I was with Toyota in the UK. Total to date of my own sales is easily in excess of 1000 Units. As a manager? Close to 20,000 units, mainly from working with Toyota in Dubai. We would be selling close to 1000 units a month (retail) from one showroom. In this lifetime? I would love to hit 100,000!
SD: What was the biggest challenge you have faced in your career? Something that you have almost cried about. And what did you do to pull through?
RW: The biggest challenge was possibly when I first got to Dubai. I had left family and friends at home to travel to the Middle East, not knowing anyone and not really knowing the culture. I was brought in along with eight other British guys to change the whole sales process and ethos of a huge company that had been successful for many years. We were seen as the outsiders in a big way! We faced many challenges in these roles but we prevailed and now the company is still using methods and processes that we wrote and implemented long after I have left. How did I get through it? A good bunch of guys around me and my parents only a call away. Just to be macho for one minute: I never cried about this!
SD: In the Philippines, it usually takes years before somebody gets to the position where you are at now. At 32, you seem to be young for a general manager of a world-renowned brand like Mini Cooper. How did this all start?
RW: Thank you, I’m 31! (laughs)
SD: Who said you were 32? (laughs) My bad. But you are turning 32 this year, right?
RW: Yes Correct.
SD: Going back, how did this entire thing start?
RW: As with everything, it starts and finishes with hard work, I was brought up in a family that worked for every penny they have. My parents are in their sixties and still have an amazing work ethic, this was educated into all of us kids.
I landed in the Philippines in April 2011.I had a couple of months off deciding what my family and I wanted to do next. The time came when I wanted to get a job back in the automotive industry, I had missed it, so my wife and I drove to a couple of select places and I handed over my resume. When I went to Autohub Head Office, I was asked, “Can you interview now, sir?” “Sure,” I said. Let me just call my wife. So I had an initial interview that went well and I left waiting for the call. I had driven about two kilometers and I got a call. “Hi this is the HR Manager from Autohub, can you come back? I would like to meet you.” I asked for about two hours, as I wanted to take my wife for a romantic lunch at Jolibee!
I went back after two hours, spoke to the HR Manager, had a great conversation and left again waiting for a call. Two hours later, I got a call. “Ryan, I want you to meet our SVP. He’s flying in from Australia tonight and he wants to meet you tomorrow, are you free for lunch?” Of course being from the UK, anything for free was great, so a free lunch it was the next day. I met Mike Cua, we talked for a long time about me, him, the company and Mini. We did not even mention money, the pure concept and passion of Mike sold me into Mini. He offered me the job there and then and the rest, as they say, is history.
SD: In your career, was there ever a time that your decisions were questioned because of your age?
RW: Not that I’m aware of.
SD: Were you ever intimidated by the fact that this brand might be bigger than you have ever handled?
RW: There is always an anticipation with any new role, with Mini it was no different.
SD: Can you tell us what it is like to be a General Manager of Mini Cooper Philippines?
RW: A fantastic opportunity. The brand gives the team an opportunity to work with one of the most recognized brands in the world. If we meet our expectations and targets we will be able to sit back and say that we have truly been a part of Mini’s history by bringing it to the Philippines.
SD: How many hours do you work in a day?
RW: A lot. My work starts as soon as I leave the house on the morning, before 7am. In the car I’m going through in my head what I need to be doing today and how can I achieve my daily goals. I am usually one of the first people in to the office and one of the last ones to leave around 7pm, I only switch off once I’m home again around 8pm. Sometimes later, if I have events etc., to attend.
SD: What were the significant changes that had happened with Mini Cooper here in the Philippines as soon as you had stepped into the job?
RW: My main goal was to create a WOW experience for everyone, clients, staff, stakeholders etc. This is a process of continuous improvement but it’s going well. The main change I made was to make everyone accessible, and that started with me. Firstly, my office is in the showroom and my door is never closed, I meet every client or visitor that comes through our door, even if it is just to say, “hi” or “would you like a coffee?”
SD: How does Mini Cooper Philippines fare with its Asian counterparts in terms of business?
RW: We are doing reasonably well. By next year we’ll be up there fighting for the title.
SD: Is it harder to manage a European brand in an Asian country or the other way around?
RW: It’s as hard as you make it. The cars are certainly more expensive, but our clients don’t buy a car, they buy a lifestyle. Price is only an issue if value is not recognized. We will always provide a service worthy of our vehicle’s price tag. All of our clients are honored guests in our home.
SD: What is the biggest challenge yet as a GM?
RW: It depends on how you look at it. It could be ensuring you have a happy and successful team. My main goal in this position today is to make sure that my team can see the value of working here for the time they spend here everyday. Everyone has a family and a life outside of work. They have to be able to say, “that’s why I spent nine hours away from my family today!” The business we are in can either be the best job in the world or the worst job in the world; it all depends on how you approach it.
SD: Under your management, where do we expect Mini Cooper to go to in the future?
RW: Expansion to other area’s and islands of the Philippines. I want Mini to be recognized nationally as the number one choice in our segment.
SD: Any highlights in your career right now as Mini Cooper’s GM?
RW: I have the opportunity to work with a great company in Autohub, somewhere that ideas and opinions are valued.
My team is very supportive of the Crazy Englishman! Plus I get to meet some really great people!
SD: Have you ever met the President of the Philippines, Pres. Noynoy Aquino III?
RW: Not yet, but I hear he wants to talk to me – maybe an advisor role in the future!
SD: Are you going to offer or sell him a Mini?
RW: I have just the car here now, a beautiful bright Yellow Countryman S
SD: Do you think a Mini would be a great official vehicle of a President of the country?
SD: Should we get concerned with his security?
RW: We can make the relevant modifications for him
SD: What do you think is the future of the auto industry in the Philippines under his administration?
RW: We are moving in the right direction, I think it will lead to a more professional industry.
SD: I used to work for an American boss. I also worked for Filipino and Chinese employers but never worked under a British boss. What are your principles?
RW: I have four:
Come in on time
Go home on time
Take your days off
Deliver what you say you are going to deliver. As I mentioned before my principles are based on my work ethic, that I learned from my parents. Like my Mom always told me, “there is no such thing as a free lunch – you always have to pay for it somehow.” So that’s why I take nothing for granted in this life.
SD: What kind of a boss are you?
RW: Depends who you ask. (laughs)
SD: Have you ever fired anyone?
SD: How did you do it?
RW: Gave the reasons behind our decision (always our, not mine, too personal, this is business) and make it fast.
SD: Did you ever feel guilty when you have to implement that decision?
RW: No, there is always just cause, and more often than not, they know what is going to happen.
SD: It is nice to hear that this job is something that you sought, worked hard for and was not just given to you. That goes to show that you seem to be the type who strives to get what you want. Have you always been like this?
RW: Always. I wanted to be a professional footballer when I was younger. I came close. I would train even in the snow, rain and wind. People thought I was crazy. Life is short, I don’t want to be remembered as the guy who got by. If I can reach a goal by squeezing out an extra 1% from my team then I will be squeezing. It’s like being in the gym. It’s been a hard workout and your coach says, OK? One more round!’ If you don’t suck it up and throw everything you have, in that last round, you will walk away disappointed.
SD: Was there ever a time that you used your looks or your charm just to get what you want?
RW: (laughs) When I was three years old and I wanted a candy bar. Next question.
SD: During your younger days, did being in the auto industry ever give you an advantage among other men when it comes to the ladies?
RW: In the automotive industry you can make good money, you drive a nice car, you get to meet a lot of people!
SD: Safe answer.
RW: Never really had to rely on lines as you can see. I’m a good looking guy. (laughs) Joke lang!.
SD: Jokes, they say, are half meant. (laughs) Any silly lines you have used that were eventually able to impress a girl?
RW: One that used to work a real treat – by the way I’m very happy with the life I have now so I have officially retired this line…
“Excuse me, miss. I am conducting a survey of the 10 most intelligent ladies in this club tonight… you’re the first. As it seems you are the most intelligent.”
“If I said you had a beautiful body would you hold it against me?”
Ha ha… corny!
SD: Do you think that line will work if one of our readers try it?
RW: Let’s conduct a survey! It’s a numbers game. The more times you ask it, the more chances you have. Aim high to start off with!
SD: Would you be willing to give a Mini for free if that line fails?
RW: What do I get if it is successful?
SD: How about a free subscription of PLAYBOY Philippines for life?
RW: It’s a good start!
SD: So, will you give us a free Mini if it fails?
RW: It will never fail, so yes free Minis all round… (laughs)
SD: We have been talking about your passion about cars since this interview started. Do you have other passions in life that you still want to pursue?
RW: My Family. I have a beautiful baby boy. And boxing
SD: I understand that you are married to a Filipino. How did you meet your wife?
RW: In the Middle East. She was in the automotive industry too!
SD: How long have you been married?
RW: Over two years now.
SD: How old is your child?
RW: He was born in August last year, he’s such a big boy… and my inspiration!
SD: I noticed that you have big tattoo on your right arm. What does it mean and when did you get it?
RW: I have two, the first I got in 2010 here in Recto when I was on holiday, it’s a New Zealand Maori tribal tattoo, I love the culture of the country. The second is my son’s name and date of birth.
SD: Your eyes brighten up whenever you mention your son.
RW: As I say, he’s my inspiration. I work long hours, so I make sure I get up at 5 am to spend at least one hour with him before I leave for work, knowing he’ll probably be in bed when I get home. He gets me all jacked up for the day ahead… I want to be able to provide the life my family deserves, so the hard work is worth it!
SD: Was it the main reason for coming here and finally settling here in the Philippines?
RW: Partly. My wife and I always planned to settle here. She’s Filipina so it makes sense, but for me I love it here. Climate’s good for me but the main thing is I love the people!
SD: Any fun stories that you want to share ever since you arrived here?
RW: I have a few. The one I love most is: Whenever I’m sat at a stop light and my windows down, I get guy’s coming over to me for a Hi 5 – HEY JOE!
SD: Well, it is normal for Filipinos to confuse a white Caucasian guy to an American. Was there ever a time you got offended?
RW: No Never, as I said it’s all good fun!
SD: What do you think about the slogan of the Department of Tourism, “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”
RW: It’s true! Believe me, I’ve been to a few places around the world. I always smile here!
SD: What do you think is the most fun part in the Philippines?
RW: Driving! Or riding a jeep.
SD: How often do you ride a jeep and how was your first experience?
RW: Not as often as I should! The first experience was great. When we first landed we didn’t have a car so we went to see my wife’s family in Cavite, so it was a long ride. The experience was great. I suggest it to everyone, it makes you realize a few things.
SD: Any message to our readers who were inspired by your story?
RW: Wether it is in business or personal life, there is no such thing as being lucky. Isn’t it that the lucky people are the people who work the hardest in business? Or the people who have relationships that last are the people who work the hardest at these relationships?
You make your own luck… Be lucky people!
SD: Last question, what should we do to get a free Mini?
RW: What do I get? Except for fired!