‘Do something you’re passionate about’ McLaren CEO offers advice for business success

McLaren CEO

Mike Flewitt is the CEO of McLaren automotive, who since coming into the business over six years ago has overseen the brands rise. To do this he has implemented a business plan called Track 22 which will see the firm invest £1 billion over six years.

BLM spoke with Flewitt about leadership, what steps he took to build its brand and what the vision for the company is.

Let’s talk about the Geneva Motor Show which happened just two weeks ago, you unveiled something rather spectacular, didn’t you?

Yes, we showed the McLaren Senna GTR for the first time, it is designed to be a pure track car, free of all the constraints and certifications. The Senna borders on a race car, but it’s not. This car is road legal, it’s very lightweight and comes in at under 1,200kg, which is quite exceptional.

What do you think it takes to be a success in life and business?

It’s a difficult question. It takes a host of things, but my personal belief is you need to do something you’re passionate about. If you’re passionate about something, you do it better and to be successful in business you need to be on top of your game, really motivated, fired up and be the best that you possibly can.

How do you best measure success? Frankly, the best measure of success is whether you’re enjoying what you do.

How important has the role of PR and marketing been to the success of McLaren automotive?

It’s key because you need to communicate with your target audience. We have a vision at McLaren, whether it be on road or track, to give an amazing driving experience and we try to back this up with a great relationship and customer experience.

When you think about it we’re in a luxury end of the car business, nobody needs to own a McLaren, it’s a choice, one that’s emotionally driven and one our customers want to enjoy. You need to build a brand and feeling around this.

McLaren automotive, as a business, has only been going eight years. Can you tell me about the journey the brand has been on?

One of the advantages we’ve had is that we’re McLaren, one of the most successful motor sport companies and we’ve been around as a motorsport brand since 1963. We started in 2010 as an automotive brand and we sold our first car in 2011.

We understand that we didn’t have to start from scratch, we have a level of understanding and expectation of what customers expect from McLaren. We needed to live up to that expectation and that has shaped our journey.

Since coming on board you started the Track 22 business approach, can you tell us about what it is and the impact that’s had?

Track 22 is the name of our business plan. Some of the feedback we received internally was that we should share our vision more widely to inform people where we are going as a company.

Track 22 is a seven-year business plan which runs from 2015 until 2022. It takes into account how we want to remain independent and to re-invest in new products and the business.

What has been the biggest learning curve for you since being a part of McLaren?

I previously spent 20-years with Ford, starting with a manufacturing background and moving to a senior position as a corporate officer, but I wasn’t engaging directly with customers.

When I came into McLaren I had other skills but what was unique were the customers. McLaren is selling cars into a very, very different market, where the customers want a very personal relationship with the company. At McLaren you get to know each and every individual customer very well. These are emotional purchases and you need to engage with them because if you don’t they’ll go elsewhere.

What are the biggest changes you have made?

There were a few. We were very much a start-up when McLaren automotive started. Initially, it was a project within the McLaren Group, but it went from being an engineering project to building a factory in 2011, coupled with selling its first car.

This April we will sell our 15,000th car and we have 85 dealers worldwide. What we needed to do was mature that operational process, develop new vehicles and the distribution of them. We needed to also continue to communicate and engage with our customers and build that relationship with them.

How do you see Brexit impacting McLaren?

Until it actually happens we don’t know how it will impact. If I look at the 30-odd markets we operate in today, we work with different vehicle regulations, different tax regimes, tariffs, governments and social behaviours.

The key for me with Brexit is we need to know the rules. We need time to plan to those rules and then I believe we’ll be very successful within them.

I’m aligned with what the UK government is trying to do but it’s a negotiation and we don’t know the final outcome yet. I think the transition period will hopefully give us that time to adjust to the rules which come into place.

What’s the overall vision for McLaren?

What we’re doing is a progressive development, it’s not a revolution.

We need to continue to build a relationship with our customers, and appeal to them with great products and services.

We need to continue to evolve as we build up the brand and this will be done with events and different products. It’s about providing great driving cars and great driving experiences.