Multi-million pound business man Roger Young is really just young heart
- Credit: Archant
He’s the man whose name adorns many of the luxury cars being driven around our county. But how did Roger Young get to where he is today? CHRISSY HARRIS meets him to find out.
He’s the director of a multi-million pound company but that doesn’t stop Roger Young getting his hands dirty. Dressed in an immaculate grey suit and freshly polished shoes, this quiet, shy gentleman seems to come alive under the chassis of a Land Rover Defender 90.
It’s because that’s where his heart lies. Roger Young is one of the South West’s most successful businessmen, selling some of the most expensive vehicles money can buy, but it all started in a workshop on his father’s farm on Bodmin Moor – and he’s never forgotten it.
“A farmer I knew at the time brought an old Land Rover to me and asked me to put a roof on and sort it out for him,” he says in his soft, Westcountry accent.
“I’d never done anything like it before but I thought ‘someone else has taken this apart and rebuilt it, there’s no reason why I can’t’. You know what it’s like – you’re young and foolish and you just go ploughing in and work it out that way. I fixed that one and it just grew from there.”
And grow it did. Roger told Land Rover he’d be interested in becoming a dealer and in 1984 he set up shop selling Defenders on his father’s farm in Bolventor. The business soon outgrew its home (the transporter lorries couldn’t get down the narrow lanes) and the firm found new premises at Saltash in 1992. By 2011, Roger, who was now working with son Matthew, 28, took on Isuzu and Nugent trailers. Three years later, the new Jaguar showroom opened at the Saltash site and it’s certainly an impressive rise to stardom but Devon-born and Cornish-raised Roger, 57, is cheerily modest about it all.
“I’m just taking life as it comes,” he says. “I’ve never had a grand plan. I’ve had luck and opportunities come my way, that’s all. People say you make your own luck but you have to take these chances when they come to you.”
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By his own admission, Roger “hates putting his head above the parapet” and is happy simply to get on with the day job, which, for him starts at 5am. Because as well as overseeing three car dealerships, Roger manages to squeeze in a spot of cattle farming. He and wife Erica provide a year-round supply of high-quality beef from their 200-plus-strong herd of Maine Anjou cows, in 320 acres in the heart of Lamerton, West Devon.
For any normal human being, this would be quite a juggling act. But Roger takes it all in his stride and says doing one job helps him work the other.
“Farming folk will wonder why I say this but I couldn’t cope on the farm all the time,” he says. “There wouldn’t be enough going on, enough people to talk to.
“I need to keep the old brain going but at the same time, it would drive me bonkers if I had to spend eight hours a day here (at the dealership), six days a week. The balance works well. I need both.
“I do a lot of thinking when I’m away from the business,” he adds. “If I’m driving a tractor up and down, cutting grass or something, I go on to autopilot – I think clearer.”
So after a good breakfast and a quick patrol of the cattle sheds, Roger arrives at his other workplace and does the same. He always makes a point of wandering around every workshop, every office, checking on his staff, making sure everything’s in order.
He’s not a shouty boss, but this is a man you would come to respect and want to do your best for. Some of the staff have been here from the start, working their way up from young apprentices. Roger knows every single one of them – and he’s come to rely on the younger generation for their technological know-how.
“There was a time when I could go through the specification of a Defender 90 hardtop, no problem. I knew how much it would cost: the mudflaps, radio cassette,” he says.
“Now the specs are all on these bleedin’ computer websites. It’s complicated. If I get a deal now, I tell the customer that I’ll just get salesman to come and sort it out the rest for them. He’ll tell you how the Bluetooth works.”
Land Rover is due to end production of its Defender range at the end of this year to concentrate on its more luxury models, such as the recently launched Discovery Sport, where optional extras include a rear seat entertainment system and a subwoofer. Jaguar too is launching new models.
As a new granddad and owner of a beautiful and rare pre-production 1947 Series One Land Rover, how does Roger Young feel about being in the car business these days? “I was at the Discovery Sport launch recently and I got the fastest lap around the track,” he says. “And I showed them all how to drive it off road too.”
Roger Young certainly still has his foot on the gas.