What a journey!

At a time when change and disruption are the norm, it’s almost unheard of to meet a man who has worked for the same company for 50 years. Alf Buccella is a sales ‘superstar’ with 3 Point Motors in Fairfield, Victoria, and this is his journey, which I was proud to have played a small part in bringing to life. Before heading out, I threw Alf a couple of questions.

Could you give me some background on yourself; where and when you were born, schools attended, parents nationality? I was born in Italy in 1951 and migrated at six years of age with my parents to Australia, settling in Preston.

 When did you become a sales consultant at 3 Point Motors and which jobs did you do along the way? I started, as a motor technician at 16 then became a road tester and service adviser while still an apprentice, then moved into sales in 1980.

What advice would you give someone who is considering an retail automotive career (especially with 3 Point Motors)? 3 Point is a great family business to work for – do it if you enjoy people contact and cars.

In three words what sells cars? Quality, needs and personality.

Do you have clients who have become close friends? Yes, because my work is my life and my life is my work.

What is your “sales” philosophy? Only advise to the benefit of the customer.

What separates you from other sales consultants? Always listen and be sincere.

AFL, cricket or the “world game”? Snow skiing and travel.

What do you like most about working in the retail automotive business – especially at 3 Point Motors? It’s not monotonous, there’s always something happening and I’m always meeting new people.

Are you a “petrol head”? Yes, more so when I was younger.

How old were you when you sold your first car – and do you remember your first customer? I was 29 and sold a silver blue 450SE to an insurance broker. 

Your favourite Mercedes-Benz model is…? C63

What’s the secret to selling cars? Understanding people’s needs.

Favourite travel destination? Europe.

Key achievements? Helping negotiate a major deal with a national company when multiple most dealers were just negotiating on price.

What was your most unforgettable moment since joining 3 Point Motors?  The day I joined 3 Point in February 1967.

What does a typical day look like to you? You can plan your day with appointments but it doesn’t always go to plan – there’s always activity on the showroom floor.

If you weren’t selling the world’s most prestigious brand from one of Australia’s foremost Mercedes-Benz dealerships, you’d be…? Bored!

Most exciting car you’ve ever driven and why? 1956 300SL Gullwing – a true hand full when driving it. Not fast by today’s standards but memorable.

Finance made easy

How many finance brokers do you know that rock up to the office in full leathers on a BMW R1150GS – the same bike made famous by the UK TV presenter and actor Charlie Boorman in his highly successful adventure travel series?

While the choice of commute is a little unorthodox for the Managing Director of one of Australia’s leading equipment finance brokers, his company’s tailored solutions to providing clients with out-of-the-box solutions and stress-free personalised service is what sets Finmax Finance apart from its competitors.

In this interview with Wheel Spin Media, the company’s Managing Director Lawrence Hohnjec reveals what it takes to stay ahead of the curve.

What were you doing before you started Finmax? I started in sales with Xerox Canada then progressed to sales trainer with finance being an additional tool. In 1988 I founded Hampton Group Leasing Inc., which I sold 10 years later and moved my family to Australia. That same year I launched Hampton Group Finance and in 2006 HGF transitioned to Finmax Finance specialising in Equipment Asset and Vehicle Finance.

How did the business come about? I felt there was an opening in the market for a company that could provide a much better service and make it easy to access crucial funding allowing businesses to function at their maximum capacity.

What is your most unforgettable day since starting Finmax? Had many. And they always consist of the day we secure vital funding or make someone’s dream come true, whether it’s a piece of equipment or that new car, the feeling of gratitude and relief of delivering a successful result to a business or family which allows allowing them to fulfil their dreams and passion.

If you weren’t the MD of Finmax you’d be…? Couldn’t imagine being anything else.

In one sentence, describe your key consumer benefit? Simple, personalised service made easy.

Generally speaking, how much can you save a client if they finance through you? If you put it into terms of time and effort spent with the large banks and corporates, almost priceless. 

What does Lawrence Hohnjec do to relax? Ride motorcycles, play with cars, and go boating (POWER boating of course).

What’s the biggest challenge in running a finance company? Compliance, and having to deal with the negativity of the general finance industry’s reputation, being greed and dishonesty.

What’s been the highpoint of Finmax to date? Steering Finmax through the GFC, maintaining 83 percent retention and referral business. In addition having an average 18 percent per annum growth rate since the GFC.

Who inspires you? Anyone and everyone who tries to make their world and the world around them a better place every single day.

Would you encourage your son to follow in your footsteps? I would encourage him to follow his own path first, and then only second if it doesn’t interfere with his first.

Apart from your business what are you passionate about? Homelessness, social justice and global politics.

What have you always aspired to own? A big boat called “HMS Pygmalion “(HMS; Hohnjec’s Main Ship)

Your favourite travel destination is…? Having travelled all over the world, it’s Tasmania for its beauty, simplicity and its purity.

In three words, what sells finance? Making it easy.

Finally, what makes Finmax successful? People – our underwriters, credit and settlement teams, and loyal customers.

“Paging Mr Morrow…Mr Tom Morrow”

How we get about town is a major question for politicians, businesses, tourists, children, parents, retirees – everyone. The table above shows the future of the auto industry (posted on April 11, 2015 by Dr. Alexander Hars in his article ‘…the future of the auto industry’ published on illustrates a set of interesting insights into the debate around transport planning and implementation.

What might Melbourne look like from a mobility perspective?

For me, this graphic encourages me to think about my experiences living around Melbourne. I happen to live in an apartment, which has no parking space provided. Consequently, my family get about using public transport (predominantly), car share (regularly), bike share (rarely), and by foot.

So looking at the graphic, I’m already crossing the boundary between quadrant (1) and quadrant (2). Judging by the proliferation of car share pods popping up around the city, it would appear I’m not alone. Members share each car with many other drivers, with an optimum number per car of around 20 drivers dictating a business model, which is clearly well developed, and growing.

If one accepts the overall premise of Dr. Hars’s proposition as outlined above, then mobility equation evolves as the confluence of ‘owned autonomy’ quadrant (3) toward the ‘shared autonomy’ – quadrant (4). So I might be subscribing to the use of a shared autonomous vehicle.

At present my car share usage is limited by a financial imperative to keep my driving hours and kms to a minimum. I’ll generally walk or hop on a tram if time and utility permit.

This situation may change if autonomous vehicles end up running more affordably thanks to reduced insurance and maintenance costs. I may be more inclined to use car share as my default mode, relegating public transport to my second tier position.

Taking this further – always a risky strategy – what does a city humming with autonomous shared vehicles look and feel like? Will it spell the end of heavy rail?

Fully autonomous vehicles may not even become a reality if they can’t be designed to provide equivalent or better decision-making and accident prevention smarts.

This assumes they’d be operating on the ‘roads’ as we know them now, a scenario which hamstrings the introduction of these vehicles. The lack of separation between heavy and light rail and other road users is to me, and my circumstances the defining issue.

The eventual arrival of the auto industry of tomorrow will impact many things. In my world, I’m interested in what our public and private roads, footpaths and intersections might look like and how they might work?

Equally pertinent to this discussion – what role will the auto industry play in developing the necessary infrastructure to support autonomous vehicles?

Is it then the role of today’s government to support new infrastructure development around today’s quadrant (1) or tomorrow’s quadrant (4)?

Image source: ‘This graphic shows the future of the auto industry’ posted by
Dr. Alexander Hars on April 11, 2015 on

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Butcher is a designer, maker and writer concerned with exploring the future of cities, homes, houses and artefacts with a focus on domesticity, business and production trends.

That exploration inevitably includes broaching the ‘sustainable’ – but why sustain the status quo of a system, which is in decline? Hence, he’s more inclined to use the word ‘generative’ in describing his work. He’s for developing techniques which generate profitable outcomes, such as developing innovative CRM strategies which deliver award winning results, or furniture that is recognised in the New Italian Blood / ‘SkyOffice’ international furniture competition as being a way to the future for high rise tower offices.

Richard’s career kicked off as a model maker and designer of high volume injection moulded air conditioners for Seeley International, followed by a co-directorship of DesignMakers industrial design. A subsequent internship at the Jam Factory Centre for Craft & Design in Adelaide gave Richard the forum to cross-fertilised furniture and fit-out projects with 20th Century arts and crafts and modern industrial design. Feeding the unpredictable, he then went on to HWT in Melbourne as designer, artist and 3D modeller. This highlights his practice of showing and telling both past, present and future within popular and diverse media!

A healthy dose of agency design and creative direction in California and Melbourne in the retail automotive sector has been interspersed with occasional sessional teaching in design and technology at Monash and RMIT. These all inform his current writing and practice around artefacts, infrastructure, metropolis and community engagement.

Call Richard to grill him about his current practice as a ‘Design generator’. m. 0413 168 741