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The benefit(s) of hindsight?

I served my apprenticeship at Jaguar Cars Ltd in Coventry, way back when Sir William Lyons was Chairman and F R W ‘Lofty’ England was Managing Director.

At that time, there was no Pre-Delivery Inspection facility at the plant; such work was carried out by the retail distribution network, which included the great names such as Henly’s Ltd., Stratstone’s, L.F. Dove, P.J. Evans and so on.

This ‘absence’ meant that the vehicles came straight off the Final (Assembly) Line, ready for handover to those customers who came to collect them at the plant.

The customers I handled, at the tender age of 18 years, were usually American servicemen, based in Europe, who took advantage of the Personal Export Scheme.

They would order a LHD E-Type for example, come to UK to collect it and drive it either here or on the Continent.

As long as the vehicle was exported permanently out of UK within 364 days from delivery, it would NOT be subject to UK Purchase Tax, around 19% as I recall.

Furthermore, it could be imported into the USA as a used, should I say ‘pre-owned’ car and therefore incur less import duty at that end.

All in all, a good deal for the parties concerned.

So, as you might imagine, these were young fellows, testosteroned right up, eager to get their hands on their ‘Jag-wire’, drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road and high-tail it back to the Channel ferry (no Tunnel at that time) and on to their bases in Germany, for example.

Now here comes the rub: As the vehicles had not been subjected to P.D.I., their quality at hand-over was not as we would have wished and they deserved.

At the time it was quite demoralising – here was I, a London boy, working away from home, for the manufacturer of one of his favourite cars.

And yet, deliveries often produced a string of disappointments – at one point, I was even told by a middle manager that ‘nothing could be done about it’.

So, so sad. All I seemed to experience was ‘bad news’, wasting my time and learning nothing.

Yet, looking back over the years, I realise that I did learn a huge amount, including ………….

How to ‘sell delay’;

How to manage expectations (as trainers say these days);

How to keep my head when things were going seriously awry;

How and when to call for assistance;

How to persuade those who could help to ‘go the extra mile’ (usually with 20 Bensons!);

How to communicate effectively with our American (and other) cousins;

How to overcome despondency when good news is elusive

……………. Skills one would pay good money to acquire these days.

So, all in all, not a waste of time – far from it.

It makes me realise, once again, that we all have a PhD in Hindsight – so why not develop it and use it?

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