A '˜proper start-up story' that is moving through the gears

Tom Marley realised there was room for a disruptor in the online car buying industry. He spoke to Ismail Mulla about his entry into the market.

Tom Marley, founder of The Car Buying Group in Wakefield. Picture: Tony Johnson

Three years ago Tom Marley rolled the dice and decided to launch his own business.

Armed with his motor industry experience and the technical know-how of a digital marketing agency, he established The Car Buying Group.

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Mr Marley says the formation of the business is a “proper start-up story”.

Tom Marley, founder of The Car Buying Group in Wakefield. Picture: Tony Johnson

“We started in a little store cupboard in Bradford. It literally was a store cupboard surrounded by toilet rolls and everything,” he said.

Having seen WeBuyAnyCar establish itself as the number one online car buying and selling business, Mr Marley decided there was room for a disruptor in the industry.

“WeBuyAnyCar are a clear number one and ripe for disruption,” Mr Marley said.

The young entrepreneur concedes that WeBuyAnyCar’s offer of allowing customers to sell cars conveniently was already “pretty slick”.

Tom Marley, founder of The Car Buying Group in Wakefield. Picture: Tony Johnson

“But actually there’s a gap there,” says Mr Marley. “We can take that convenience and take it to the next level.”

The next level entails cutting down the amount of time it takes for a customer to receive their money, appraising the car over the phone, going to the customer to collect their car from them rather than them having to drive to an appraisal centre.

Things have really taken off for The Car Buying Group. The company has gone from turnover of £3m in its first year to £10m in its second and this year it is projecting turnover to be in the region of £24m-£28m.

Having self-funded at the start, this year the business secured a multi-million pound investment from motoring giants Greenhous Group.

“We got to the point where we needed to secure that series one funding to drive the business on to the next level,” says the managing director of The Car Buying Group.

The investment from Greenhous turned out to be more than just about money. Mr Marley says he didn’t set out to look for someone within the motoring trade but is glad that they ended up partnering with Greenhous.

Mr Marley said: “There’s a lot of synergy in our two businesses, there’s support that we can both give to each other, and they understand. They’re entrepreneurs. They’ve been through the process themselves – the highs, the lows and the challenges.”

Despite the success of The Car Buying Group, Mr Marley wasn’t always in the motoring industry.

The entrepreneur actually started off life as a holiday rep for First Choice Holidays. He got promoted in the company and ended up managing some of its resorts overseas before ending up at First Choice Airways managing the cabin crew at Manchester Airport.

Mr Marley worked his way up to regional cabin services manager, leaving the company once First Choice’s merger with Thomson was complete.

He ended up in Yorkshire as his wife was originally from Leeds. Using motor industry contacts Mr Marley became general manager of a small independent car auction in Leeds and so his career in the motor trade began.

It also led to him developing a love for the region. The fact that The Car Buying Group was founded in Yorkshire is something that he is very proud of.

The Car Buying Group, which currently employs 15 people, is looking to expand its workforce over the coming year.

“I’m a firm believer in bringing jobs to the local area,” says Mr Marley, adding that Bradford, Leeds and Sheffield is a great catchment for talent.

He added: “The North of the country has a wealth of talent that is untapped. There’s a wealth of proud Yorkshire people that don’t want to go to London. They want to make a difference up here and we can tap into that.”

The business’s rapid growth saw it recognised with the Young Business of The Year accolade at The Yorkshire Post Excellence in Business Awards this year.

Mr Marley says he was really proud of his team when they won the award.

“I didn’t win that award,” he said. “I was a facilitator to enable the team to win that award.”

Being based in Yorkshire has other advantages, aside from the wealth of talent, such as the closeness of the business community.

Mr Marley said: “Particularly off the back off this award we had a Yorkshire-based business that rang us up and said it’s good that you’re pulling in jobs in the area. We like doing business with local people. That’s amazing.

“You don’t often get people down in London saying it’s great that you’re down in London we like doing business with London people. It doesn’t work like that.

“I love that closeness about it. We’ve got a lot of contacts here and they support each other from a local point of view.”

Looking at the industry, Mr Marley thinks online will continue to play a big part in innovation with less of a reliance on physical dealerships.

He says: “You will be able from the comfort of your own chair on a Friday evening with a glass of wine order your new car or used car. You will be able to agree your part exchange price, get your finance package online and all your add-ons sorted.

“You will be able to tax it and have that car delivered to your doorstep and your old car picked up.”

Mr Marley’s ultimate aim was to “create something big” and to create a good environment for staff to work in. “That was one of my drivers. Creating a fun and rewarding environment, which is very relaxed. The guys out there they love coming to work. They’re rewarded for what they do and we have a laugh doing it.”

On both those fronts he seems to be well on the way, even if this young firm’s story is in its infancy.

Tom Marley factfile

Title: Founder and managing director of The Car Buying Group

Date of birth: 01.04.79

Lives: Wakefield

Favourite holiday destination: If it’s on the beach – Maldives, if it’s a city break – Venice

Last book read: What You See Is What You Get – Alan Sugar

Favourite film: Quadrophenia or Rocky IV

Favourite song: Chocolate, Snow Patrol or S.O.B, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats

Car driven: Range Rover

Most proud of: My three amazing children and all the crazy things they do!

Education: Gordano School Portishead Bristol, University St Mark and St John, Plymouth, BA Hons Public Relations in Business/English Language