MANAGING DIRECTOR, ASIA PACIFIC MCLAREN AUTOMOTIVE
IN Asia, a company’s head honcho is usually someone with grey hair. Traditional thinking dictates that one’s experience and expertise only come with age.
Fortunately, 32-year-old George Biggs does not work for such a firm. If he did, the Briton, who still has a full head of hair (and not a single grey strand in sight), would probably be in a junior management position for another decade.
But since McLaren Automotive is a young company (seven years old, to be exact), it is perhaps fitting that the one overseeing the carmaker’s Asia Pacific operations has a youthful face, too.
Prior to joining McLaren, George began his career at Deloitte Management Consultancy in 2007 as a management consultant. Over the next five years, he specialised in commercial strategy development and execution across industries such as healthcare and fast- moving consumer goods.
In 2012, he left Deloitte and spent some time travelling. But it wasn’t long before a friend told him about an opening at McLaren for a Global Sales Planning Manager.
George jumped at the chance. In 2014, he was posted to Singapore as McLaren’s Head of Sales & Operations for Asia Pacific. Two years later, he was appointed managing director for the region. In his current role, he oversees sales, aftersales and marketing in 10 countries.
George sat down with Torque to discuss how he plans to overcome the challenges faced by the carmaker, and reveals that despite his age, he is actually an “old soul”.
Did you work with any car manufacturers in management consulting?
I did some work with the Volkswagen Group. I also worked with Ford when they were in the process of selling Jaguar Land Rover to Tata.
What attracted you to McLaren?
McLaren has everything that I want in a career. It’s a smaller company that’s globally focussed, producing high- performance and high-tech products. But the difference between the company then and now is like night and day.
So age doesn’t determine your position in the company?
I’m the youngest director in the firm. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.
What was McLaren like when you first started?
When I joined, we had only been producing the 12C for six months, and we had about 50 people globally. Now we have 200. I still know some customers’ names and their cars’ VIN numbers from working so closely with the production team.
What was the biggest challenge you faced then?
Our mission is to produce the world’s best supercars. We’re all car nuts. We have experienced people who had worked in different car companies and are from different walks of life. So we all believed in this mission, but we didn’t know how the market would react.
But very quickly, we saw that the response was very strong. To be even considered in the same breath as the Ferrari 458 was a fantastic achievement. That’s a testament to the people who have been with us on this journey.
How close is the automotive division to the F1 division?
Each one has its own board and CEO. When we started, we had a number of people from the F1 team who moved to our division. But there’s no “popping over” to see what the other side is doing. We’re not here to win F1 championships.
How have you adapted to life in Singapore?
This is a fantastic and convenient place to live. Adapting was really easy. But from a business perspective, there are so many things moving and changing. I thought, “This is a very stimulating place to be!”
Was there anything about Singapore that you found weird?
I liked laksa until I discovered how much oil goes into the dish!
I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it’s strange for someone like me to live in a place where the sun always goes up and comes down at the same time. That is odd for a European who is used to different seasons.
How are you growing the brand in the face of competitors and changing regulations?
We must understand our customers and listen to our business partners so that we can deliver products they want. We want to bring customers closer to our brand.
At the same time, we also have to be humble and understand what our competitors do, admiring them in some cases and outperforming them in others.
McLaren is known for being high-tech. Do you admire advanced technologies, too?
I enjoy the engineering and technical aspects of the job, but outside of work, I’m a bit of a Luddite. I collect vinyl records and play them on an old record player which is hooked up to modern speakers. And I have a number of film cameras as well.
I want cars that have a mechanical connection to the driver. My dream cars include the Porsche 356 and Jaguar E-Type Series II Coupe.