Me and My Partner: 'We are a balls and brains combination'

Terry Horgan and Dave Schofield set up New-Car-Discount.com in 2002. It is now the UK's largest seller of cars over the internet, and turnover in 2005 was £16m
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The Independent Online

Terry Horgan:

Dave is married to my wife's best friend, so we had got to know each other quite well. He was doing nicely selling cars and so I thought I'd give it a try, too. The car trade is one of those industries where, regardless of qualifications, if you're good, you can progress extremely quickly. And that's what happened.

I'd thought about starting my own business before, but didn't have the confidence. A few years in the car trade gave me that confidence. I thought, "I'm just as good, if not better than the guys running this business, why don't I do it myself."

Dave and I got talking about it - he was actually my boss at the time - and it seemed like a good idea. Because there were two of us, it was also easier to reassure our wives that it was a good idea.

We'd always thought that if we went into business, we would go into business together.

Dave is a very good leader. He's an extremely good motivator of people. We are a sort of "balls and brains" combination, with me as the latter. Dave is a risk taker in some ways. He'll follow his heart. I've become more of a risk taker, but it is not my natural attitude. My skills are more analytical. Show me a market and a product and I'll tell you exactly how much that product will sell at, whatever market it's in. With the combination of my analytical skills and Dave's business confidence, I thought, "Together we can do this."

There were a few surprises when we started working together. For one, his paperwork was much worse than I ever expected. I'm a bit more disciplined in the way I work. We end up with the same answer to the same question, but I'll reason it, whereas Dave will just feel it.

We defined our roles at the outset. I was going to look after the sales side of things, and Dave was going to look after supplier relationships and purchasing. But it quickly became clear that I was much more suited to what he was doing and he was more suited to sales. So we swapped them round and that's the way we work now.

Dave is very passionate. He'll look at the immediate situation and make a very quick decision. That can backfire if it is a supplier relationship you're dealing with. I'll be more objective and reflect on the situation before making a decision. In terms of developing long-term relationships with suppliers, that tends to be the best way of working.

On a day-to-day basis, we get on with our own thing. We had a meeting yesterday for four hours. It was the first time we'd really sat down together for two or three weeks. It is easy to get distracted, particularly when you're busy. But when a decision needs making, you just have to shut the door and get on with it.

Dave Schofield:

I've always had a bit of an entrepreneurial side. It came from my parents. They encouraged us to get out early and earn some money. I set up a car valeting business when I was 18. It did OK for 18 months but I didn't know anything about running a business so I packed it in. I got a job with a car showroom, where I stayed for 13 years.

I'm not particularly into cars. Never have been. But if you didn't have a good formal education, there weren't a lot of options. I went in as a trainee salesman and I loved it. I got promoted; and each time I got promoted it became harder to leave. But the higher I got the less authority I seemed to have.

Then Terry came to work at the same place and he was a phenomenal salesmen. By far the most successful in the group.

I started to get a bit restless. I'd seen the internet getting bigger and bigger. Terry and I had talked about it. He was a Microsoft certified programmer. I put a proposal together for setting up an online sales operation. I set up a meeting to present my ideas to the bosses. The night before, I told my wife, "I've got a meeting tomorrow. I'm either going to be very late home or very early." It turned out to be the latter. I presented my ideas and said we could sell 2,500 cars a year over the internet. They literally laughed in my face; they said the dot com boom was over. So I left.

I was going to set it up on my own at first. I took a few months off and started fiddling around with a website, buying and selling a few cars. I'd spoken to Terry about it. I knew him very well by then, through our wives and then at work. I knew he would be good for the business, but he wasn't ready to leave his job at that stage. He eventually resigned about six months later and we started the business in 2002.

Terry is incredibly bright. If he reads a book about something, he'll pick it up immediately. He thinks at a million miles an hour and expects everyone else to do the same. Sometimes you just have to got stop him while everyone else catches up.

Because I knew him so well, I trusted him completely, which isn't something I do easily. He had a very different skill set to me. I'm a people person, I like managing and motivating people, building relationships. Terry is more focused on detail. When he starts something, he makes sure he finishes it. I'm not very good at that. I'm much better at getting other people to do it while I move on to something else.

It was a big transition from working in a noisy, busy car showroom to it just being the two of us. The first thing that I realised was that I missed the people I worked with; I missed the banter. It was just the two of us and there's limited scope for banter with only two of you.

I'm at my element in a busy meeting of 15 people, all talking together. Terry is not as comfortable in those situations. If he's having a bad day, he just shouts and moans. I'll just shrug my shoulders and keep my head down. But we never hold grudges. That's essential.

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