Formed in 2012 following a merger between the automotive interests of two legacy organisations – Gasan Group and Zammit Group – GasanZammit Motors is one of the leading automotive and marine distributors on the island today. At the helm, Directors Carolyn Zammit, Alastair Zammit and Mark Gasan, together with Chief Executive Officer Stefan Deguara, are tasked with steering the ship into the future.
“We like to think of ourselves as a multi-skilled team that works on different levels,” they explain, with the four sitting together on the company’s management committee, which allows them to meet up on a regular basis.
“Within this committee we work together to facilitate and lead a team of great co-workers on a strategic as well as operational level. The four of us are fully committed to steer the direction and problem solve different business challenges at GasanZammit Motors. This is made all the more possible through the hard work and dedication of our extended family of colleagues.”
On an individual level, they each bring their own areas of specialisation to the business.
Carolyn, along with her brother Alastair, forms part of the fourth generation of the Zammit family business, and has been an Executive Director on the Board of Zammit Group since graduating with a Master’s in Marketing. “I have been involved in the group’s interests, especially those of the automotive sector, since 2011,” she explains. “Besides being involved in the day-to-day operations of the group, I am also the Marketing Director at GasanZammit Motors and am responsible for the marketing communication and business development efforts of the company. I handle and oversee the marketing strategy, media relations, branding, advertising, digital presence and more.”
Alastair is also an Executive Director on the Board of Zammit Group, which he joined after graduating with Honours in Business Administration in the UK. “My expertise lies in operations management, having spent nearly two decades in the field overseeing our group’s involvement in the automotive industry, marine-related activities and other group investments. Over the last 10 years I have worked on cementing our relationship with Gasan Group’s automotive interests and watched it grow and develop into one of the most successful undertakings on the island,” he says.
Mark, meanwhile, is Chief Executive Officer of Gasan Group, which he joined in 2003 after completing his education in the UK, where he read International Studies including economics, politics and law. Describing the group as one of Malta’s most successful privately held business organisations, he believes that: “through a long-standing concessionaire appointment by the Ford Motor Company, the Gasan Group established itself as a leader in Malta’s automotive industry which in turn paved the way for the group’s expansion into other sectors, including insurance, building services solutions, and real estate development and management.”
Finally, a Certified Public Accountant by profession, Stefan holds the position of Chief Executive Officer of GasanZammit Motors, as well as Chief Operating Officer of Gasan Group, responsible for overseeing the group’s operations. “Prior to joining the Gasan Group I held senior executive positions with a multinational conglomerate, responsible for regional manufacturing plants based in Malta, France and Morocco. I also held the position of Finance Director with a local leading group of companies involved in retail, manufacturing and property development,” he says.
Speaking of the merger between the automotive interests of Gasan Group and Zammit Group, the GasanZammit Motors Directors and CEO explain that both companies had been successfully thriving in the automotive industry for many years, however, the restricted size and conditions of the local market limited further expansion on an individual level.
“It quickly became clear to us at the inception of the merger discussions, that the potential of the new combined entity would be much greater than the simple sum of its parts. Apart from the various synergies across organisational departments, it was apparent to all of us that there was a clear, complementary product fit across our combined brand offerings,” they say, adding that they also felt that every franchise they represented would benefit and grow further through this merger.
The process to execute the merger, following the necessary discussions and eventual agreement, took a substantial amount of planning, which included getting a formal go ahead from all the franchises they represented, as well as local regulatory approval.
“This required a significant amount of travelling, having face-to-face meetings with the franchises explaining the concept, showing renderings of the new showroom layouts and providing assurance that despite increasing our brand portfolio we would retain and increase focus on each aspect of the respective brand. This was a challenging but successful undertaking which was executed in less than two months,” the four maintain.
And once they had the official green light, it was time to address what the new setup required in further detail, including how to structure the new organisation chart and other HR considerations, corporate identity and PR, company policies and operations, as well as their vehicle and spare parts inventory.
“Key to the whole transition was a detailed plan as to how operations of the previously running companies would wind down and the new company would take over,” they note, affirming that this all had to happen in a short period of time, with predefined dates and milestones for every step.
Apart from the more obvious financial and operational considerations, special emphasis was given to the human resources aspect of the transition, they recount, including the timing of communication to employees, which happened on the same day and time to both employee groups.
“We were very transparent about the merger decision and at the same time we provided the necessary assurance that the move would offer more opportunities, not only from a commercial standpoint but also giving prospects for development and growth to everyone involved,” they explain, adding that an important and fundamental commitment was to ensure that the new entity would retain all employees from both companies and incorporate them into the new merged entity. “This, coupled with the extremely positive attitude with which our team members approached this merger, is a large part of our success.”
Delving into their thoughts on leadership, they reveal that all four have different traits which have helped to shape the strategy and policies of the company. Fundamentally, however, you need a sound understanding of the business including the dynamics of the operations, people and the financials.
“Empowerment is something we strongly believe in and our strategy centres around facilitating the success of every respective company division and supporting the respective leaders and teams to accomplish their own goals. The success of the company is achieved as one big team, pulling one rope in the same direction, allowing our team members to flourish by centring the respective corporate roles around each individual’s strongpoints and not vice versa,” they continue, adding that, “having a hands-on, open-door approach is a characteristic of our daily dealings, along with consistent open communication, acting as one team.”
As for lessons learnt throughout their journey so far, high on their list is to be increasingly open to change – that is, change not only in the commercial sense but also on a personal level. “Through this merger we went from competitors located on the same stretch of road to partners, one family; all pulling the same rope,” they smile.
Another important lesson they’ve learnt is that you should not be afraid of failure. “Being afraid will stop you from taking decisions, looking at new pursuits and the future. What is important is that we celebrate the various successes that we share, and at the same time work to overcome the daily challenges that the business brings.”
Looking to the months ahead, the directors and CEO reveal their plans for GasanZammit moving forward, highlighting that the global automotive industry is going through major disruptions brought about by new technologies and evolving consumer trends to transport; which includes an increased detachment from vehicle ownership.
“Locally we are not isolated from such developments. As GasanZammit we are constantly following such developments and taking steps to make sure that our organisation is agile enough to foresee these changes and to take a proactive approach. Going forward, we want to retain our strong presence in the market segments we operate in, as well as looking for growth opportunities in areas that are at the periphery of our current activities.”
Ending our discussion with a final piece of advice for aspiring leaders, they share, “we believe that staying true to your roots is a necessary aspect of every decision or strategy. Such an approach provides a firm foundation to the various decisions required in one’s daily business life.”
This interview forms part of the 50 Business Leaders 2022 project. The new online serialisation on MaltaCEOs.mt will feature 50 distinguished business leaders, CEOs, and emerging business minds to create debate and encourage business leaders to share their journey with our readers.
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