This week on Talk Learn Connect, Writer Yvonne Reddin asks Founder & Managing Director at Next Eco Car, Simon Acton to share some TLC (Talk Learn Connect)

Can you give a summary about what your business involves and where your passion for cars came from?

My business is about helping people transition to more sustainable transport options. Primarily, that is by selling electric and hybrid cars but I don't see myself as a car salesman in the traditional sense. I see my role as educating people about the benefits of driving electric, both financially and environmentally and then helping them choose a vehicle which best suits their needs.
I then support them through the journey of their transition, typically that involves advising on charging options while also arranging finance if needed, extended warranties and other relevant matters. We provide a personalised end-to-end service.
My passion for cars undoubtedly came from my Dad. He had raced in his earlier years and always had some car in the garage he was restoring while I was growing up.  So, I inevitably developed an interest in anything with wheels and an engine. I started racing karts at 11 years old in my school and continued into my 30’s eventually competing in cars in a European endurance racing series.
I stopped for financial reasons but would love to race again one day.  Now I would understandably be looking at one of the electric racing series which are now starting to emerge.

"I also found myself working crazy hours and suffering badly with stress and insomnia which over a period of time led to depression"

Your previous 'life' was  quite a different profession, how did working in the IT industry lead you down the career you are in currently?

I worked in IT for 23 years altogether. I began as a software developer after graduating from university in 1994 and over time I worked in various different roles, eventually moving into project management. This is a route many career IT folk will be familiar with, but I eventually reached a point where I just wasn't enjoying what I was doing anymore. I missed the creative aspects of software development and was often frustrated in the management role by politics and bureaucracy.
I also found myself working crazy hours and suffering badly with stress and insomnia which over a period of time led to depression. I didn't understand what was happening at the time and it took a breakdown in 2016 and an abortive return to IT a year later for me to finally accept that I needed to do something different.
It took a while to figure out but I knew I wanted to do something with cars as I was ultimately fascinated by technology and the natural world. One day all the pieces just fell into place in my mind and I came up with the idea for Next Eco Car.

You have spoken very openly about your mental health in the past, was that time in your life a reason for diverting your career?

100%. If I hadn't changed my career, I'm honestly not convinced I'd be here now. I had become very unhappy in my previous career to the point it was making me ill. I tried to push myself through but in the end, I just couldn't do it anymore and I just felt like a total failure.
Determination and application had always got me through tough times in my career in the past but that just wasn't working any more. At the time I felt totally trapped; I didn't know anything else.  I'd spent my whole career in IT and I had a big responsibility with a wife and two young children.
What I learnt through extensive therapy was that I needed to do something which had meaning to me and that I was passionate about.  I consider myself lucky that I was able to figure out what that was.

How has the pandemic affected your business, and do you feel the motor industry will recover in time?

Basically, from mid-March we had no sales for three months at what would normally have been our busiest time of year. Business is slowly coming back now but I've not managed to pay myself in 3 months, so it’s been tough. We are lucky not to have too many overheads and we will bounce back. We believe that we are in the best possible motor industry niche moving forward.  The pandemic has led a lot of people to think more about the pollution they are causing by driving a petrol or diesel car.
With the lock down, cleaner air was evident globally and a lot of people are now rightly thinking about what they can do. Trends are already emerging to suggest that whilst car sales are still depressed generally, sales of electric and hybrid cars are increasing which is great news for us and the planet.

 "One day all the pieces just fell into place in my mind and I came up with the idea for Next Eco Car"

Can you share any words of wisdom that helped you in your successful career?

Three things: Listen. Be authentic. Say thank you.
These are such simple things to do and they cost nothing. So many people in business forget the obvious things. Most businesses are about people. You need to hear what your customers want and what your colleagues need to be successful.
Being authentic is so important, so many people wear a mask, I know I did for many years.  But it's ok to need help or to make mistakes, so long as you learn from those experiences. People relate to people who can accept they have flaws because everybody does.  Experience tells me that overconfident people are generally hiding something.
Thanking people is just polite, I've always thanked people.
It doesn't matter if they are just doing their job or what position they hold, be humble, grateful and smile!
To find out more about Next Eco Car, visit their website www.nextecocar.ie
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