The car dealers driving sales from their sofas

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The lockdown may be causing a wide variety of problems for small companies – but many, like those featured on this page – are defying the odds by continuing to operate as normal with inspiring results.

Fledgling car dealership heycar, for example, is targeting a whole new brand of online customer while continuing to recruit staff and last week successfully completed its first virtual onboarding process.

For engineer Neda Kinduryte, from Lithuania (pictured) this meant meeting all her new colleagues at online via video calls while she gets to grips with her new role from the her sofa of her London home.

The used car marketplace recruited Neda, 23, days before the whole country was told to stay at home, meaning she’s never met her workmates in the flesh.

All of her onboarding and training for the role of Front End Engineer has taken place remotely, along with the vital workplace bonding of team socialising sessions.

Key to its success has been the way it is tracking a new breed of ‘lockdown browsers’

Neda said: “I was excited to meet the team. However, when I learned I’d be working remotely, I wasn’t too disappointed. As companies increasingly move towards remote working possibilities, I saw this situation as an opportunity to test something that might be considered a new normal in the future.

“Everyone was extremely supportive and made sure I felt welcomed, which made me think that in many companies work is becoming less about the physical location and more about how people leverage technology for effective communication to make it feel as if we are all at the same place.

“I’ve done so many video calls. My first week was almost fully booked with one-on-ones and group calls, and I was very much encouraged to ‘show my face’ and speak to everyone. I messaged many people to introduce myself as well, just like I would do it in the office.

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“I’ve had the same introductory presentations that you would normally expect to get in-office when starting a new job. I feel like it was a challenge for heycar to do something that’s not been done in the company before and the success of remote onboarding proves how agile the company is and paves the way for the next new recruits who join during this period.”

heycar launched last August and lists tens of thousands of used cars from more than 3,500 dealerships nationwide on its site.

It’s all about keeping people positive, connected and the culture of the business means we have a strong starting point to build on

Key to its success has been the way it is tracking a new breed of ‘lockdown browsers’ who are planning their next motor purchase.

Although most dealerships are closed, interest in cars – especially used cars – remains very strong online, with heycar website traffic spiking by 35 per cent week-on-week in the first two weeks of April, peaking on Easter Sunday and Monday.

Reactive measures on the company site have been put in place to keep a pipeline of customers for the future have included a ‘register interest’ button on all makes and models, allowing heycar and the relevant dealership to keep in touch until the time is right to buy.

Chief Commercial Officer Karen Hilton, said: “It’s so interesting to look at the numbers of people who are coming on to the site. The visitors, the cars they’re browsing and the numbers who are registering interest suggests a pent-up desire to buy when the time’s right.”

On lockdown, Sarah Juniper, Talent Acquisition Partner said: “As a young, tech-forward business we are lucky that we are set up for remote working and attract candidates who are comfortable with it, who tend to have plenty of get up and go.

“Even so, this has been a very different experience, but it’s one we have handled well as a business.On a new starter’s first day, they will get a one hour, virtual induction with HR, covering the purpose and values of the business, our vision an d strategy, how we work and staff benefits.

“Thereafter, there is an HR check-in daily for about 15 minutes for the rest of the first week. These have been done virtually with Neda and it’s all gone very smoothly.

“Finally, one allocated person from each team will meet every new starter in their first week to explain what they do and how that team fits into the overall picture of the business.”

As well as onboarding challenges, heycar, which is usually based in King’s Cross, London and employs 57 people, has been stepping up measures to keep its entire workforce together while everyone is forced apart.

Sarah adds: “The weekly all company meeting is very important and it has switched to a virtual get together every Tuesday, led by our CEO.

“Team socials are now happening weekly too to keep the team feeling close to one another and especially people they might not interact with on a regular basis. We have had a games session and next week it’s a quiz.

“People are taking things day by day, but it’s all about keeping people positive, connected and the culture of the business means we have a strong starting point to build on.”

More about heycar here