It was a close run thing fitting in a meeting before deadline with BuildLink Group’s General Manager Mike Bishop at the cooperative’s new Support Office in West Auckland.
Simply put, as it passes into its second decade, the co-op has a lot going on.
Out of the window there may be a distant view of Mitre 10 MEGA Westgate but the compact BuildLink team has been so busy with its own development that this simply isn’t even noticed, day to day.
So how has the cooperative been faring since the widely talked about soft patch around the General Election?
“Overall, we didn’t really see much of a reduction,” says Mike Bishop. “However the stores that are manufacturing definitely felt it.”
With such a diverse membership catering to a wide range of markets, overall though, there’s no single tale of the tape.
January was “a record for some and down for others” while, for the group, the current year is “tracking very well” and ahead of budget.
“The group is looking to make some good profits for the year and we’re looking to reinvest back into the group and provide additional opportunities for the members and continued growth for the group,” says the co-op’s GM.
A TEN-YEAR TIPPING POINT
Talking of opportunities, 10 years since BuildLink came into being, Mike Bishop feels the brand has now reached a tipping point, having created a certain momentum.
This momentum takes the form of not only growing business but also new members.
It’s partly due to brand recognition.
“As we continue to build our brand we’re getting a bit more exposure but we’re definitely seeing a lot more loyalty towards the brand and what we’re doing.”
Part of this is about social shifts.
“We have a very good culture from store to store and a very good community, with high level communication between the owners of the stores”
“When the big barns first came in people would drive 20, 30, 45 minutes to go to a big barn to buy product. But now I think people are coming back to convenience. Time is an issue.”
This momentum is also to do with plans put in place some years back.
“The long to medium-long term initiatives that we put in place three years ago are just starting to come to fruition now,” says Mike, adding: “We’ve got more to come as the group grows and expands.”
Some of the new membership is about the softening market.
“I think obviously when markets are good and performing people are quite happy just dealing with the influx of orders and business in general.
“But, as markets soften that’s when people look at new opportunities or how they can change their business and try and retain the level of volume that they’ve had.
“So the growth from new members is welcome and supports our initiatives and it can hopefully speed those initiatives up.”
IT’S ABOUT EMBRACING CULTURE
While he won’t detail what these initiatives are, Mike Bishop will let on that the group is in the process of finalising a handful of new greenfield stores.
“From December until the new financial year we’ll see five members and the majority of those would be greenfield stores.
“Some are existing stores looking to diversify and grow. Some are making lifestyle choices to move out from the main regions and purchase other businesses and adopt the co-operative model.
“Others see an opportunity in a particular area to open up new stores and some, from other markets aligned with the building industry, are looking to diversify incorporate a BuildLink membership.”
By the sound of it, BuildLink Group’s already diverse membership won’t be becoming any more homogenous any time soon.
Having said that, Mike Bishop says there has been an increase in the levels of dialogue and in the degrees of sharing and transparency between members.
“That culture is one of our strengths. We have a very good culture from store to store and a very good community, with high level communication between the owners of the stores.
“So I guess it’s a combination of having a ‘tribe’ mentality and supporting that culture.
“Our customers and our members belong to our ‘tribe’ for those reasons and support those reasons and [it’s about] allowing them to help grow the group with us and showing them the support that will allow us to grow.”
BuildLink – Snapshot
Gross revenue last full year: $200 million (est. for year ended 31 March 2018)
BuildLink stores: 38
Trowel Trade stores: 11
HandyLink stores & Associate Members: 11