Doug's driving ambition

12th September 1997 at 01:00
If you have ever encountered an Arthur Daley car salesman and been sold a duffer, then you need someone you can trust who will do all the leg work for you. Step in ex-Hackney College lecturer and staff development manager Douglas Coker, who runs Cars for Customers.

If you want a decent second-hand motor, Douglas will get one from the car auctions, check it over, deliver it to your door and take all the hassle out of the deal.

Douglas never planned to become self-employed. He started his career in FE at Hackney College as a lecturer in social and life skills, teaching mostly youth trainees. Promotion to staff development manager catapulted him into the maelstrom of incorporation and organisational change. Restructuring in 1995 meant that his post was "deleted".

"People react to redundancy in different ways. I was, literally, stunned, in a state of shock. My escape was to go to one of my favourite haunts - the car auction. It was there that the idea of running my own business - as a buyer's agent - came to me. I knew about cars. I also knew, through the trade press, that there were people offering this kind of service."

Subsequently, through redundancy counselling offered by the college, Douglas discovered that he had the skills and determination to operate on his own. The business is now nearly two years old and ticking over nicely, although Douglas doesn't earn as much as he did.

But there have been interesting spin-offs. He has appeared on a video commissioned by the Halifax which advises people on how to buy second-hand cars.

Does he have any regrets about leaving FE? "Absolutely not. Further education now is horrendous. People are stressed through the speed of change, too much decision-making and never having enough time. It's ironic that three of my potential customers who can't give me the go-ahead to buy a car because they have too many demands at work are all working in FE. Their working life is so stressful that making decisions outside has to be put on hold."

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