All-Industry Conference Day Two Review: Part one

Published:  15 June, 2019

The incredibly high standard of expert speakers continued for day two of the BMF All Industry Conference in Dubrovnik.

The day kicked off with a talk from Mark Vandecruys, Chairman at Fedrus International. He explained his business strategy which led to success, saying that you must keep trying new ways of doing things until you find something that works. He talked through the ways he got the company out of trouble in 2002, which included investing heavily in both people and also marketing, using a buy-and-build strategy. Fedrus has grown into a huge multi-national company, and now supplies its own zinc, with sales performing well. He encouraged delegates to find a way to add value to their products and services, and to “keep trying – but don’t bet the house”.

Next up was Neil Lawrence from Jewson and Gibbs & Dandy. He played a video which demonstrated the innovation Saint-Gobain lead all over the world, and discussed the importance of building new, sustainable, energy-efficient homes. He talked through Gibbs & Dandy’s history and the milestones it passed as the company became an industry giant during Lawrence’s illustrious career. When talking about his work with the Local Merchant Group and its growth within Saint-Gobain Building Distribution, Lawrence emphasised that we must build a culture of people, where staff can feel proud of where they work, and be trusted by colleagues and customers alike.

Another point Lawrence made was to focus on employees’ strengths and how those can best be used, rather than trying to fix their weaknesses. This, he said, is how to get the most out of people. He recommended delegates always ask the customer how they think the company is doing and get feedback, to keep developing an Omni-channel approach, and to consider your colleagues’ needs, for example helping them with financial concerns by awarding bonuses, and offering support with quitting smoking. He also advocated hiring smiley, happy people, giving staff yearly appraisals, and, most importantly, empowering your employees.

Bradfords’ David Young was next to take to the stage, celebrating the company’s near 250-year history and taking delegates through the past five years in the business, explaining how they managed to “build excellence”. This involved better pricing clarity, and changing the health and safety procedures “from reactive to proactive”, by carrying out comprehensive risk assessments and identifying issues before accidents occur. Bradfords has also become more flexible as a workplace invested in its technology, and explored self-service sales to reflect the changing shopping habits of today’s customers.

Bradfords recently joined H&B buying group, and launched a loyalty scheme, a TV advert, and they are currently working on building an app. Young said, “The environment has never been so high on the agenda”, and the market is changing to mitigate the effects of climate change. Young believes the market is changing and being disrupted, noting how many new key players there are now, and how those that have lasted for a long time have altered their strategy to keep up with the times.

Next up was Gethin Jones’ “man crush” Tony France, Sales Director at Ibstock. He talked through his 34-year long career in the industry, and gave some insight into how the brick market is performing. He discussed on the success of Ibstock’s new energy-efficient factory, Eclipse, in Leicestershire. Finally, France reflected on the poignancy of his handing over of the business to his son the day before Father’s Day, as he retires.

Delegates then divided up into smaller groups for four different industry forums of which they could pick two. These were Plumbing and Heating, Marketing, Young Merchants, and HR/Mental Health.

You can read about these sessions in the extended version of the Conference review in our July/August issue.

Read our review of Part 2 Day 2 of the Conference here.

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