When Terry Jewson’s best friend’s father asked what he was doing with his life on an autumn day in 1982 he was taken aback.
At the time he was 25 having worked as a butcher’s apprentice, a meat inspector and a gardener.
The friend’s father suggested that Terry would be well suited to selling cars, a notion that hadn’t been impressed upon him before.
That Saturday, in the job section of The Age newspaper, he found an opportunity advertised for a cadet commercial vehicle salesman at Dandenong Toyota.
He started the job, chiefly based around the selling of Hiluxes and Landcruisers, on the 19th of April. On the 1st of July, a few months later, Patterson Cheney acquired the business and Terry with it.
The friend’s father, Alan Weston, just so happened to be the Used Truck Manager at Patterson Cheney.
He promptly took Terry under his wing. Recently honoured at a celebratory luncheon marking his four decades in commercial vehicle sales, Terry is now the long serving Dealer Principal at Patterson Cheney.
“I started as an appraiser and valuer selling used trucks before I was trained to sell new trucks,” he recalls. “Eventually, with time, I took every bastard’s job as they retired!”
The cadet role since then remains essentially the same.
It’s where Terry and other apprentices, today, learn the tools of the trade before they engage with the public.
Part of that training involves a four-week period in which the cadet does a stint in the pre-delivery department gaining a better understanding of how the trucks are prepared ready-for-delivery before another month is spent in parts and service observing operations.
More training follows before the cadet, who is now familiar with the key processes in place, is unleashed on the public.
That’s after at least three months.
“That’s not that different to how I learned the business,” says Terry. “We’ve got a bit better at it over the years. The idea is the cadet will become a fully-fledged salesperson after 12 to 18 months. It’s a good learning framework.”
He had only just started out himself when he was transferred to the Footscray premises where he began working under David Cheney.
“I found Terry to be young and personable but extremely energetic and enthusiastic potential ‘truckie’” recalls David.
Following the credit squeeze and economic upheavals of the late 1980s, the business was forced to consolidate to four mobile offices arranged together in a vacant lot in Cheltenham Road.
The industry and its practices were set to undergo some big changes.
While the servicing of trucks hasn’t altered a great deal since Terry commenced, the job is still time-consuming given everything involved is heavy and big.
Bearing this in mind, Patterson Cheney Trucks, over the years, has focused on making the process easier for the customer by keeping the service department open 24 hours a day including a streamlined priority service.
Instead of only having one technician working on a truck, there’s four working on a pit, with two-down and two-up. In essence this cuts the customary six-hour service time in half.
“They’re doing the same amount of work obviously but just doing it in a shorter time,” says Terry. “Having that system in place reduces the waiting time for the customer. It’s all about reducing their down time. That’s been an important development in my time here.”
By 1994 Terry had been appointed New and Used truck Manager with the retirement of Roy Simmonds. Terry’s eventual appointment to Truck Manager and Dealer Principal at Patterson Cheney Trucks led to 24 years of expansion of the business including the acquisition of Westar Isuzu and Western Star which had locations in Dandenong, Campbellfield, Derrimut and involved a brief flirtation with Tasmania.
Of the many achievements he has achieved in the last 40 years, Terry is most proud of what he has done with the WeStar business since he purchased it back in 2006.
This included building a new dealership at Derrimut four years later of which Terry and his wife, Julie, were both heavily involved in the project management.
He calls Julie his rock.
“It was a great accomplishment,” he says. “But also running a dealership that sells 800 to 1000 new Isuzus every year is good fun.”
The staff at Patterson Cheney Isuzu are familiar with two philosophies commonly espoused by Terry.
A can-do attitude is essential and perhaps only rivalled, as a key value expected of staff, by the need to have a real care-factor for every task at work undertaken.
“I’m a true believer that nobody works for me they all work with me,” he says. “You’re all in the same team with the same vision and direction as to where you want to go. The best piece of advice I can give a salesperson is to listen.”
At Patterson Cheney Isuzu a natural extension of this philosophy is the salespeople are considered, foremost, advisors to business partners.
It’s about selling a need more than a want and making sure the product is fit, foremost, for the need.
This is a factor that undergirds the model of success that has helped Isuzu stay on top of truck sales in Australia for the last 30 years.
Ultimately, as Terry sees it, there’s not a huge amount of difference between the products of the three major Japanese brands in the build and performance.
“I tell this to customers every day. It’s all about how the customer and the product is taken care of after the sale,” he says. “Nobody does it better than Isuzu and their dealers. No one comes close. That’s ultimately what it’s about.”
The latest Isuzu N-Series, with the many new advanced safety systems that have been incorporated into the vehicles, elicits enthusiasm from Terry who is equally excited by the wide range of variants also on offer.
After 40 years, Terry has seen a host of different models, come and go. His favourite Isuzu truck in that time is the SBR-422.
“They stopped making them in 1987,” he recalls fondly. “I sold a lot of them. They were a great truck to sell because they were super reliable and bulletproof.”
Despite the inauspicious beginnings of such a serendipitous career, Terry today still makes his own pork and fennel sausages, part time, at home, using his own mincer and sausage filler.
For good ingredients to work, he believes, there must be complementary preparation.
Looking back on a remarkable career that is, for all intents and purposes, still midstream, Terry counts the relationships he has made and maintained with customers and staff over the years as one of the most pleasing aspects.
“People say you must have been ambitious,” he says, “At the end of the day I became Dealer Principal. You can’t go any higher than that. I never sat there saying ‘I want to be that person’. I just did my job to the best of my ability and had a lot of fun on the way through. One of the biggest things for me has been the support from my wife Julie. She’s been there all the way through and she’s a real partner in all of this.”