Get the right stuff!
About 12 years ago Aaron Stefanin, a young builder, joined a small truss and frame operation in Griffith as their manager.
A mere six months later Aaron owned the struggling business.
His first employee was another builder and friend, Nathan Brand, and together in a small 18 x 18m shed they started a journey that now sees Griffith H Hardware as a thriving enterprise, employing a dozen people set on a multi-acre site in the Griffith Industrial area.
Very early in proceedings Aaron realised that to survive and prosper the business had to expand. In 2003 he added hardware to supplement the growing truss business and hasn’t looked back. Each year the business has grown and employee numbers along with it. The name was changed to Griffith Home Improvements, and in September last year they adopted the distinctive gold livery of HBT’s premier banner, and the name became Griffith H Hardware.
Aaron says “We joined the HBT group in 2005 at the urging of Jeff Cornford from Temora. The expanding group not only consists of businesses with similar style operations to ours, the other members are so approachable and always ready to provide helpful advice. The group has a culture of friendship without pretence and this has extended to the suppliers they select. HBT lets us deal with the companies we want to deal with without any pressure … and their conferences are legend. I would not hesitate for an instant in recommending HBT to anyone in the timber and hardware game.”
Aaron believes the move to rebrand the business to Griffith H Hardware has been the best move he has made since he opened the business. “The name and the colours of H Hardware are so distinctive that our profile has benefitted enormously. We needed a unique identity which we successfully obtained with the new branding. It was a brand in a box. Since we refitted and painted our building our YTD sales are up 35% on last year. The encouraging sign is the 20% increase in our retail sales because historically we concentrated on the trade market. With our new branding, no-one is in doubt about what we do or sell and our walk in DIY sector is growing rapidly. That is why we needed a system to manage our pricing in our display areas. ProStix will do that for us and allow us to run regular promotions to match those of the competition, especially Bunnings.”
While employee numbers have grown, so has the division of responsibilities. Nathan juggles his roles as chief truss and frame estimator and detailer along with management of the manufacturing division. He even manages to turn out each weekend for the Darlington Point-Coleambally “Roosters” Rugby League team, and reportedly has been known to score the odd try. Duane Bastianon manages the machining side and helps out with the timber ordering.
Rob Bianchini joined in February this year bringing with him a wealth of industry and computer systems experience. Rob looks after system administration and maintenance of the back office data that is so crucial to smooth business operations. He is very much a jack of all trades and is well known to most tradesmen in the area. Aaron is in the process of delegating responsibility to this management group to enable him to concentrate on planning the future growth of the business.
“Times are going to get tougher over the next 18 months or so and tight control over cash flow, costs and margins is vital. Bunnings have just put on a good outbound sales rep and I expect that to have some effect on our figures. It shows how aggressively Bunnings are targeting the trade sector, not just their traditional DIY market. Customer service remains critical and will be the thing that sets us apart over the next few years. The ProStix Dashboards will automatically provide me accurate information to make decisions quickly and will allow me to spend more time with my customers to counter the effect of the Bunnings reps.”
Although employee numbers are on the increase, it is still very much a family business. Aaron’s wife Renee keeps a close eye on the dollars, spending a couple of days each week balancing the books, doing the banking and liaising with the accountants. Renee says “At first I was concerned at the cost of changing to ProStix, but then I looked at how much time it would save me due to its fully integrated financials. We will have our financial reports at the press of a button and this will allow me to accurately and proactively manage our cash flow and spend more quality time with our young daughter Myah.”
Aaron agrees. He is looking forward to getting his evenings and weekends back. “Time with Myah is so important to us both, but I find most of my spare time is spent fixing problems created during the day because we have outgrown our current system. QuickBooks was great when I did all the deals and set all the pricing, but now our trade has increased to a point that I find myself losing control. I have to delegate responsibility but need the tools to do so. ProStix will give me the control I need and that is the key reason for installing it.”
“Griffith will continue to grow if the authorities can sort out the water licensing issues. It is the lifeblood of the area and so necessary to the economy.” “And then there is the talk of Woolies opening a hardware store in town. I want them to see me as quality opposition – then they can buy me out if the price is right!” says Aaron with a wry grin.