It’s a new start for catering equipment buying group Cedabond in 2019. After being beset by staff shortage last year, headcount was bolstered at the end of 2018 with the arrival of Mark Kendall in the newly-created role of commercial director.
Nevertheless, the existing office team of executive director Phil Martin and Donna Wooding, the latter of which has now been promoted to operations director, still managed to ensure the consortium grew by nearly £10m in turnover and attracted 11 new members over those 12 months.
The process of recruiting someone to allow Cedabond to take the next step forwards was in the offing for a while though, as Martin explained: “I have promised the shareholders every year for the last 2 years that we were going to take on someone to be out there actively working with the members. As we were putting the budgets together and started to look where we were going, we suddenly became aware that Mark was available. He’s well known and respected in the industry so he could hit the ground running.”
For his part, Kendall had decided to move on from the distributor he helped to found, Inox Equip, after spending 18 months getting the new owners, Photo-Me Group, up to speed with the business. He recalled: “I was looking at my options at that point and the support from the industry was amazing. I was offered a couple of positions in the distributor network by some quite recognisable organisations.
“But during that time Phil rang me and we met. So I thought rather than putting the comfort blanket back on and doing what I’ve always done, why not take on a new challenge? I can use my contacts within the industry and distribution network to come and join Cedabond and do something different, in essence building the role myself.”
And Kendall sees that role as being a bridge between the group’s 82 suppliers and over 100 members. “I’ll be bringing those two together and maximising revenues for our suppliers, which is important because we need to show that commitment.
“Consequently there’s an education piece for the members on what we offer – if they buy products from a Cedabond supplier their retro increases. We haven’t seen as many of them as we would have liked to, so the response I’ve had from members and suppliers is fantastic. Everyone is keen to see what we are going to be doing in 2019; the key thing is to maintain where we are and obviously grow.
“We’ve got five companies who are already keen to become members, as well as four major manufacturers who want to discuss becoming Cedabond suppliers.”
Martin welcomed Kendall’s arrival, detailing: “This has given us the impetus to say we can now strike out. I have spent my first few years here getting Cedabond to be run like a proper company rather than an old boys’ club. So now we are in a situation where we can drive.”
In Cedabond’s new structure, now that Wooding has also stepped up to a director position, she is responsible for the complete day to day running of the business, while Martin will govern the financial structure and the overarching management. The group is imminently looking to recruit an administrator too, to free up Wooding to carry out more member and supplier visits. Plus a new non-executive director will soon join Clive Groom and Mike Nunn on the board, roles which Martin described as being the “policemen of Cedabond”, adding: “Anything strategic or business critical I have to run by them.”
He continued: “The drive now for Cedabond is to work far closer with our suppliers and members, helping our members grow and maximising their income. And we can be more proactive. Part of Mark’s role is putting together a 3 year plan for the group.”
Martin was keen to bust some myths surrounding membership too, commenting: “There’s this perception out there that if you’re a member of Cedabond you have to pay all your bills in 30 days. That’s no longer true – I changed that very quickly when I arrived. You only have to pay your bills in line with your agreement with that manufacturer.”
One of the group’s aims is to become more paperless, and it has already reduced its paper usage by around 50% by moving its financial reporting across to electronic systems, though a small proportion of members remain resistant to this. Wooding said: “We appreciate that it does take time to change and we are listening to feedback. We are trying to adapt the software package to account for people who can’t necessarily commit to the way we do things.” However, part of the package for new Cedabond joiners does specify that they have to comply with the electronic financial reporting set-up.
In light of recent dealer demises, including a couple of Cedabond members, the consortium is going even further to ensure its supplier interests are protected, as Martin explained: “We will definitely be putting a credit insurance scheme in place in 2019. It will benefit those who don’t already have credit insurance, in particular, smaller companies. We are working with the UK’s largest credit insurance company to develop this.” Kendall believes: “This is probably one of the biggest things that’s happened in our industry for the last 25 years.”
The group is also investing in business hardware, such as an LED HD Smart TV for its office in Wyboston Lakes, Bedfordshire. Kendall explained: “When we invite members and suppliers to our headquarters, we can now display their reports on the screen and it’s easier to demonstrate and discuss them, as well as displaying any presentations they want to make.”
Further software investment may also come in the shape of a CRM system or similar, which can manage customer records and ensure dialogue and requests are followed up. Plus its website is gradually gaining traction, with suppliers reaping the rewards of running promotions and special offers in their personalised sections.
Other irons in the fire include investigating offering vehicle leasing schemes through the consortium’s bank, invoice financing and competitive loan rates. “We are trying to help members and suppliers reduce their overhead costs, adding value to our proposition,” said Martin. “We are quite fluid because our members receive 100% of the rebate income that comes into Cedabond.” Another idea under investigation is forming member think tanks, comprised of a cross-section of dealers and suppliers, to engage and generate feedback.
The consortium will be further reaching out to its members, suppliers and the wider industry through attending sector events. As well as the stand it had at this year’s Professional Kitchen Show (formerly the Great Hospitality Show) in January, it has also signed up for ScotHot 2019 at the SEC Glasgow, as it intends to focus more on the Scottish market.
Furthermore, it is intending to bring back the popular Heavy Equipment Forum dealer ‘round robin’ training sessions, likely to be around the end of September or beginning of October, as well as organising regional educational days at some of its suppliers’ facilities.
Going forwards, Kendall believes: “We need to be out there championing our members and suppliers, as well as attracting new ones. And to do that we are going to need collateral, and it needs to be consistent and repeating.”
While Martin predicted that in the next year or two: “We’ll see an increase in members and suppliers, and the membership and supply chain will be much happier. There will be a big change in the perception of Cedabond.
“I have made a commitment to stay until the end of 2020. We have a plan of what we want to achieve by then and I now know we can do that.”