“We won’t chase people,” says Choo. “Instead, we create events and opportunities they want to join. We had 500 guests at the recent Geneva motor show and they tell us they had a great time. This kind of thing gives us opportunities to know our customers and understand what they want. There’s a lot of trust and goodwill in this business nowadays, or should be. It’s founded on continuity, not one-time profits.”
Which begs a big question.
Choo has just spent big money refurbishing the famous Jack Barclay showroom, a London landmark for 86 years; if sales centres aren’t needed, what was the point of that? “It’s our window on the world,” explains Choo. “We use it to meet people, to understand and follow trends and, of course, to display our latest cars. We deliver cars from here, too, if that’s what buyers want. And because the place has such a history, many of them do.”
Choo, a quietly spoken 45-year-old Malaysian who trained in accountancy in Australia, had precious little knowledge of the luxury car game before he arrived in Berkeley Square at the beginning of last year but believes his fresh eyes have helped progress the business in new directions.
A dozen years ago, his skill at finance caught the eye of the Malaysian billionaire Vincent Tan, best known for his eventful ownership of Cardiff City Football Club. Tan set Choo a series of ever more challenging jobs in his multi-faceted Berjaya Corporation before bringing him to the UK to manage and expand a Berjaya hotels group.
In 2014, Choo became general manager of Cardiff City, soon rising to the CEO position he holds now. Last year, he also assumed the role of CEO at the HR Owen group; no-one could say his roles and skills weren’t many and varied.
Tan and Berjaya have had a controlling interest in HR Owen since 2013 (Tan experienced a level of customer service that “could be better” while buying a Rolls-Royce, so he bought the company), but Choo’s mission was to improve things. “We were faced with an important decision about refurbishing Jack Barclay,” he explains.