FWD Chairman’s Comment

How can wholesalers drive better returns and be more successful through collaborative working?

A joint business plan with a similarly aspirational company is the start. Correctly implemented, it can be productive, effective and mutually beneficial.

A joint business plan should be the foundation on which two companies can build a marriage not a one-night stand. And, like a marriage, both parties need to recognise what they will each contribute, as well as work out how to create a fair deal and, most importantly, establish what they are trying to achieve.

In joint business planning, you get only what you give. So choose a partner with whom you can share expertise, and to whose business you can also add value. Logistics, for example, isn’t the business of many suppliers. Their focus is the manufacture of products. Wholesalers can have much more than merely a transactional relationship with suppliers. Look at what they are doing and what their objectives are are they looking to get their product on shelves fast, or cut costs on delivery? Of course they are.

Listen, acknowledge, respond to each other and explore ways you can improve your business relationship going forward. Find ways to work with each other more effectively. This might include backhauling, for example, if you have the capacity. At Palmer and Harvey, our suppliers might deliver to only one of our depots, from where we then send the required stock out to the rest of our network. Our suppliers also take advantage of our ability to make small drops every day. There are small changes we can all make to the way we collaborate that can have a large effect on the bottom line.

Cadbury is a good example of a company leading the field on service levels, business planning and collaborative working, advertising and promotional support and in best-in-class execution. For these reasons and more, it is also a company with which Palmer and Harvey works closely. As a result, Cadbury is not only driving market share in P amp;H with a sales growth in excess of 10%, but in the market as a whole. It’s a very creditable performance, given the competitive nature of the category in which Cadbury trades.

The relationship works because there is dual ownership and responsibility for the success of the joint business planning that forms the foundation of our collaboration.

Like a marriage, you have to work at it. Build in a month-by-month execution plan, with the flexibility to correct your course with regular reviews.

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