James Brearley

Automotive Retail Professional

As a senior executive in the automotive retail sector, James Brearley has more than 35 years of experience with dealerships and sales networks within the United Kingdom, mainland Europe, and globally.

James Brearley oversaw a variety of premium automotive group brands as a Managing Director of Stratstone, part of Pendragon, throughout the UK he built upon this extensive industry experience to lead the premium motor retailer Inchcape UK plc as its CEO.

Employing roughly 4,000 people, Inchcape UK operates through a network of 90 to 110 sites that represent Jaguar Landrover, Porsche, Ferrari, Volkswagen, and Lexus. Inchcape plc operates in 36 global markets. Over his five years as UK CEO of Inchcape UK, James Brearley served on the executive board of the global company, helping drive a combined company turnover of £10 billion. He also led the UK business to top performance accolades from all its major automotive partners, including a Mercedes-Benz Dealer Group of the Year designation and two consecutive Lexus Dealer Group of the Year designations as well as awards from BMW, Mini, and Porsche.

In addition, to his professional accomplishments, James Brearley has a history of philanthropic involvement. For the past six years, he has served as a trustee of We Are All Making a Difference Charitable Trust in Solihull, England. This charitable nonprofit donates to a broad spectrum of causes that span the United Kingdom with a focus on homelessness, children’s charities, and advocating for those with disabilities.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

A typical day starts with looking at the “cash register” to see how many enquiries we have taken v stocks. How many orders we have taken, hours of labour we have sold, etc. That data allows me to adjust my day according to the results. My day is always pre-filled with meetings and reviews to balance day-to-day activity with the delivery of strategic key milestones.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I consult with the teams that are best able to deliver, then we agree on a plan and key milestones and performance indicators and monitor, monitor, monitor.

What’s one trend that excites you?

There are two, Digitalization of retail and retail processes which drive efficiency and cost out. Secondly electrification of powertrains which is driving huge change, change equals opportunity.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I keep a constant list of jobs and update it at the end of every day.

What advice would you give your younger self?

To trust myself and my instincts, they are sound.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

That plug-in powertrains are not the end/only solution to personal mobility and that the Government will wake up and extend the BEV deadline before 2030.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Use the two ears and one mouth rule. Listen twice as much as you talk.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I was sued when I attempted to start my own business. I overcame it by being strong and finding an alternative use for the land I had bought, to pay off creditors and investors in full. The lesson for me was to focus hard on what solved the problem not worry about what was happening and the downsides, to the exclusion of clear strategic thought.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I never give away good ideas.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Teams without any doubt.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I live by the principles, they definitely work and the book makes them easy to understand and apply.

What is your favorite quote?

“Never has so much been owed by so many to so few” by Winston Churchill after the Battle of Britain. It was so few words that were so accurate and so poignant at the time. It could easily have applied equally to our debt to him personally.