Back in 2011, the main Hobart UK equipment departments were segmented into Hobart Warewash and Hobart Cooking Solutions. But now the manufacturer has effectively reversed this decision with the announcement of a merger of the two back into the Hobart Equipment Division.
David Riley, who previously headed up the Warewash division, has been tasked with running the merged entity. He explained: “Segmentation was done for all the right reasons – to try and drive those products’ growth. So when we were looking to get back together it was to accelerate that growth even further.”
The merger was first mooted around the middle of last year and the Hobart team brainstormed and analysed the idea, focusing in particular on the benefits it would give its customers, 70% of whom are now dealers. Iain Munro, previously Hobart Cooking Solutions director, is now taking on the wider role of business development director, and said of the reunion: “The dealer relationship has become far more mature since 2011, so now we don’t necessarily need that segmentation.”
Hobart’s percentage of its business through the dealer channel has been steadily increasing, especially from the government sector, which the manufacturer has been successful in steering away from direct supply. However, large retail groups and the like still insist on a direct route, so Riley feels that the dealer business percentage will plateau at around the current 70% level.
But with the warewash department more aligned to the drive towards the distributor market, he added: “Merging together the existing team members will increase dealer relationships. As well as pushing through the dealer channel we need to pull products to them via the end user.
“We wanted to establish greater co-operation between the two divisions and maintain a common message; the greater back office resource of the warewash department can now support cooking too.”
This is reflected in the aim to leverage more joint national account business, with just one Hobart salesperson able to discuss both equipment types now. “A lot of the growth we can find from the emerging national accounts is via the dealer route, so we can try and grow in conjunction with the dealer,” said Riley, emphasising: “We are not cutting headcount, we are leveraging the benefit of the two departments added together.”
In fact, staff numbers are increasing, with 66 personnel within the warewash division and 19 in cooking, creating a total of 85. In essence, Hobart has folded the cooking department staff into the warewash structure, with four main regions covered, plus the separate Ecomax (dealer channel) division, which remains unchanged.
Munro’s role has grown to encompass the national account team (itself divided by market sectors, with managers for each), the projects department and newly appointed product managers, who liaise with the national account team, the marketing department, sales director Tim Bender, and Hobart’s factories.
Riley explained: “All of the cooking equipment sales executives have been folded back into the regions to operate as specialists, maintaining our specialist ability within the group. Only the reporting line has changed. Each region now has sales executives, dishwasher specialists and cooking equipment specialist.”
Hobart is instituting a programme of cross-training to underline this initiative, so that each product specialist can discuss the manufacturer’s full portfolio. However, Munro underlined: “We still want them to have their own specialities, but it’s just making them aware of the opportunities that can arise.”
While Riley added: “A typical dealer would have one person covering their day to day needs but pulling in the right specialist as and when required.”
Another new hire will be a consultant salesperson, who will be charged with tracking specifications at source and focusing engagement. According to Riley: “By having the right number of people to focus engagement and with the excitement we can generate through our marketing activities we can pull sales through our chosen route to market. It’s about securing more specifications, whichever route that’s from.”
Therefore the manufacturer is on a recruitment drive to fill the consultant role, as well as technical manager sales which have become available. Riley believes: “Now is a good time to be joining Hobart if you’re talented. There are plenty of opportunities going forwards within this larger structure. We are a well-respected company with all the employee support you would expect from a company of our size.”
In terms of dealer feedback on the new set-up, he reported: “I’ve heard nothing negative. This gives them practical advantages such as a single invoice, purchase order and set of accounts. It makes us easier to
deal with. We will achieve our targeted growth by being simple to deal with, being better than our competitors and having high quality products. We’ll be aiming to maintain growth on both product types.”
Hobart’s Focus Plus 5 online dealer platform for its warewash products has been consistently developing since its initial launch to key dealer partners at the end of 2016.
For instance, last year the manufacturer added the ability to carry out online credit checks, with dealers making applications that go straight to Hobart’s finance team. Marketing manager Chris Birch revealed: “We mapped the previous credit checking process out and found it took around 5 days via email. This way we can get it down to about a day.”
Part of this reduction is due to the online credit application form within the portal, which features required fields that dealers cannot miss off. This went hand in hand with the introduction of longer-term interest-free packages of 18 and 24 months, which Hobart reports has been a significant sales driver.
Another Focus Plus 5 update was to link the platform into the manufacturer’s internal leads prospecting software. Birch detailed: “When we create an opportunity in one system, we can tag the dealer in and it automatically sends them an email notification as well as flashing up as an alert on their Focus Plus 5 dashboard. They can then view all the details of that lead and accept it – and if they do, the system then notifies our office.
“We don’t have to disturb dealers with many phone calls, it makes the process simpler, which is what dealers told us they wanted from us when we carried out research.”
The platform also contains interactive PDF price lists, and allows dealers to check and track orders, with the system linked to Hobart’s transport company so distributors can see the delivery’s location in real-time.
According to Birch: “We have seen a decrease in calls regarding orders and pricing, as dealers are using the platform. We have removed any barriers that were there and we have got order transparency. Dealers can now research the products online.”
The manufacturer is looking to fold cooking equipment into the system, following the recent departmental merger, and this will be done in an incremental way over the next year. Other site plans include aligning it with the latest corporate rebranding design, which will also apply to the Hobart UK website, and rolling it out to a larger, as yet, undefined group of dealers.
“We will make that decision based on who we feel can benefit from the platform,” explained Birch. “That will not necessarily be by turnover, but will take account of how willing they are to be committed to us.”