HBT Business Workshop
HBT's special event for members
Left, Mike LoRocco, and right, Greg Benstead
Left, Mike LoRocco, and right, Greg Benstead
 
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Held at the RACV Royal Pines resort in Queensland, the Workshop event showcased the best of HBT values: strong leadership ideas, member engagement - and lots of good conversations
HI News Vol. 4 No.7
If you wanted to find a subtitle for the strategic content that HBT's CEO, Greg Benstead delivered at the conference, it might well be "How to avoid becoming collateral damage". What he has clearly understood - and this knowledge is surprising rare in the leadership of independent hardware retail groups - is that Bunnings (and other companies) are not, in any sense, out to "get" independents.

All that Bunnings cares about, in a strategic sense, is continuing and increasing growth, by finding new markets, and improving prices and efficiencies in existing markets. In the process of doing that, it can certainly harm independent retailers - but they are, to use a modern term, "collateral damage", not targeted victims.

As a consequence, what Mr Benstead understands and conveyed to HBT members in his opening address, was that what you need to do to survive one of Bunnings' periodic growth surges, is to make sure that you are, strategically and in your market orientation, not in "the wrong place at the wrong time".

Once you are clear that this is a good strategic goal, it's not really all that hard to do, as Mr Benstead showed by many of his comments about the market. You just have to get one of those conditions right - where you are at strategically, or the timing - to stay on the safe side of the market.

Probably the most laudatory part of what Mr Benstead and HBT's general manager, member services Mike LoRicco had to present is that they deftly avoided the trap that many small business groups fall into: they didn't press the "greed" button. It's always tempting to promise growth, to talk about profits, highlight canny deals and so on. The reality, though, for the solid, professional small retailers that make up most of HBT's membership, is that "security" will win out over "greed" anytime.

While that might seem like a cautious approach, the truth is that behind the scenes the new leadership at HBT has been anything but cautious. As Mr Benstead no doubt knows from his years of working for a large corporation, if you want to change things as a new CEO, the time to do that is right away, after you assume the position. While the temptation is just to stick with the expected practice of the past, and make changes in the second and third years, that just about never works.

As a result we've seen Mr Benstead moving to shake things up right from the beginning. One reason he's been able to move so fast is because Mr LoRicco has been his co-manager on many projects, acting like a personal database of the history of the past 25 years of the home improvement industry, and HBT in particular.

Recently those changes have meant shaking up the way HBT handles its buying, with three new buyers joining the group. But perhaps the most exciting news is that HBT is looking into launching its own tools brand. While HBT is not sharing many details on this, we can say that there was one session for ITT members that went on for a suspiciously very long time.

All we really know is what Mr Benstead had to say in his opening remarks:
Just as we launched H brands many years ago, it has been very successful rolling out, we also see an opportunity for the ITT Group to develop a tools brand as well, so we are going to show the look of that as well to the relevant members. We will be doing that a little later on today.

If they can bring this off, it will be not only significant for HBT, but also for hardware industry buying groups in Australia. Own-brand tools are one of the advantages that IHG enjoys, and is also a technique that Bunnings uses very effectively. This kind of partnership and sourcing for HBT could have very wide significance to the overall industry.
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To read more, please download the current issue on the following link:
HBT 2018 Business Workshop - HI News Vol. 4 No.7
HI News Vol. 4 No.7


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