Follow the Leader, Peter Daly of Synergy Vehicle Refinishing Solutions Ireland (Synergy VRSI)


In the latest in our series of interviews with business leaders about their journey so far and plans for future success, we speak to Peter Daly, managing director of Synergy Vehicle Refinishing Solutions Ireland.

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If companies had go-faster stripes, Synergy Vehicle Refinishing Solutions Ireland (Synergy VRSI) would be first in the queue. It’s less than four years since Peter Daly left his post as MD at AkzoNobel Car Refinishes to set up an independently-owned distribution partner – but Synergy VRSI has already won four national industry awards. However, he says, those honours are secondary to contributing to his customers’ success – and “working with great people…”.

What’s your business’s elevator pitch?

“Synergy VRSI is a complete solutions provider to the crash repair industry. We work with customers, suppliers and stakeholders as partners. We supply a complete product range of top brands to the vehicle paint and refinishing industry. Above all, we provide the technical support, service and advice to make our customers profitable and successful. We strive to be the best, working with the best. We believe real success is only achieved through real partnership.”

What was the key motivation and raison d’être behind the business?

“Our original team worked for AkzoNobel Car Refinishing as part of a multinational business. When AkzoNobel decided the business in Ireland would be better served by an independent importer I saw this as a positive opportunity – not the end of an era but the beginning of a new, very exciting phase. We saw the potential for a new company, continuing the ethos of AkzoNobel but being small and flexible enough to meet the changing demands of the Irish refinishing market.

We had worked hard to establish AkzoNobel and its paint brands Sikkens and Lesonal as Ireland’s market leading vehicle refinishing products. We knew we could build on that hard work and grow the business with the potential to add to our brand portfolio as an independent, which would enable us to offer a complete product and service portfolio to our customers.”

Recommended reading: Follow The Leader: Declan Mahon, Collar & Cuff

Looking back at the early days of Synergy VRSI, would you do anything differently in terms of leadership?

“It can be difficult to stand back from something that’s been such a part of your life for so long and take a more detached and objective view. We prepared well for the change; we closed AkzoNobel on a Friday and opened Synergy VRSI the following Monday, initially operating out of my kitchen. The smooth transition was a great credit to our team. But over time it just wasn’t possible for everyone to fully adapt to the new company, and it probably took me too long to face up to this fact.”

What keeps you engaged and motivated to drive the business on?

“It may sound corny but working with great people is what motivates me most. The accident repair business is so dynamic and changing constantly – it’s a new challenge every day. It’s safe to say there is never a dull moment.”

What does achievement and success look like for Synergy VRSI?

“Running a profitable growing business and providing security to our stakeholders, business partners, staff and customers. Driving innovation and providing leadership in our industry. Celebrating and supporting our customers’ success – because their success is our success.”

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

“Nothing is sold until it’s paid for. Salespeople – myself included – get a huge buzz from every sale. It is what keeps us and our business going. But it is vital to remember a sale is only complete when it’s paid for. Managing accounts and debtors is the most vital part of the sales process. In my experience a well-managed accounts process means everyone in the supply chain has to do the same, and we all benefit with lower debtor days and improved cash flow.”

“It may sound corny but working with great people is what motivates me most. The accident repair business is so dynamic and changing constantly – it’s a new challenge every day. It’s safe to say there is never a dull moment” 

Peter Daly, managing director, Synergy VRSI

What is your proudest achievement to date?

“Considering we only launched in November 2015, we’ve had quite a few – being named Paint Brand of the Year 2017 and 2019, Equipment Supplier of the Year 2018 and winning an Innovation Award in 2019. But maybe our proudest is an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry for being one of the main organisers of the Climb4Cancer Event, which raised €64,000 for the Irish Cancer Society.”

Which three words sum up your leadership approach?

“Lead by example.”

Did you have a role model or mentor in business who helped you establish and grow Synergy VRSI?

“I’ve been lucky to work with some great people and learned a lot from them. My father taught me about work ethic and the value of hard graft. He was a master butcher managing a busy meat factory and was held in high esteem by his team. Sadly, despite his hard work he arrived one day after over 30 years’ service to find the business closed. He lost everything – his redundancy was like a bereavement and he never got over it, meaning a great talent and his years of experience were lost to future generations.

I promised myself that would never happen to me and learned from that to be self-reliant, to take responsibility for my own destiny. I plan for and look forward to change and view it as an opportunity.”

How are you preparing and planning for Brexit?

“We’re working closely with our suppliers to manage our business exposure. It is a huge concern for me and our industry. We are already seeing the first ripples of its effects in customer confidence and the beginnings of some supply issues, including longer lead times and increased carriage cost from Europe.

“We have had to increase our stock levels to ensure continuity of supply in the event of Brexit but without the final decision, we, like everyone else, are left guessing. In my early days in the motor trade my patch was the north of Ireland, when the Troubles were at their height pre the Good Friday Agreement. The queues at the border checkpoints and the customs documentation involved in carrying samples was the stuff of nightmares. It’s impossible to imagine anyone would want to go back to that.”

Parting shot: what’s next for Synergy VRSI?

“We’re preparing a move into a new, bigger and better premises to accommodate our growing business. Our plan is to introduce a unique new training experience for our customers, concentrating on nurturing new apprentices, as well as master painters and refinishers, so we can all look forward with confidence to a sustainable future.”

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