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A Year on with Paul Jenner, IBA's Chief Operating Officer

1st October 2014

Today is a full year since Paul joined the IBA as their Chief Operating Officer. We asked him about his journey so far ...

It has been a year since you’d joined the IBA, how was the journey so far?

The first year has been a blur. It is important in my role to get to know the members and the existing preferred suppliers. The best way to do this is to visit them so you can get a feel for the operation. With some 120 preferred suppliers and 74 members this is a task that takes up a lot of motorway mileage! One car later I have now visited 90% of the membership and 80% of our existing preferred suppliers.

Add onto this the necessity of closing the Chalgrove office and finding and relocating to Newton-le-Willows. Recruiting and inducting an Office Manager whilst keeping to the never ending routine based around the quarterly events, management committee meetings and annual supplier negotiations has kept me very busy.

In the beginning, you have a motto, ‘Evolution, Not Revolution’, how much of evolutionary changes have you implemented and what else should be expected?

The motto was important as the IBA was passed to me from my predecessor as a vibrant and successful group. It has seen steady growth and improvements in all its key measures… membership, spend, rebate generated. The change in Management and the accompanied personnel changes meant that change was inevitable however it was important to only make changes that took the group forward. This year therefore has been a settling year. Significant work has been done in strengthening the group foundations. By documenting the governance and laying down in black and white the group’s foundation of one member, one vote.

In terms of the future the fundamentals remain true. The group is strong and growing stronger all the time. There are always ways to improve particularly when the market place is going through the changes currently being experienced such as the rise of new product technology (LED Lighting) and marketing and selling platforms (Internet trading).

What is your Vision for the IBA in the mid and long terms?

In terms of changes going forward I am looking for a steady and manageable growth in new membership coupled with optimising buying power by looking to reduce the number of preferred suppliers. By targeting our spend more on fewer suppliers we will look at optimising growth elements of rebate schemes. I also want to look at ways to improve and enhance the membership meetings. Ensuring all members feel they have a significant part to play in the running of the group.

What would you say to prospective new Members?

I think I would say three things:

Firstly whilst the reward for membership may seem too good to be true… It is true! Secondly in order to gain the benefits they need to be prepared to put their time and effort into the group activities. A group that relies on membership involvement really needs membership involvement.

Finally to get the full benefit they need to ask themselves ‘if their existing non-preferred suppliers are really adding value to their business?’ If not, then they need to be prepared to take the sometimes difficult decision and drop them for an IBA preferred supplier.

What are the main criteria you look for when selecting suppliers on ‘Preferred’ status?

As a group we need to ensure that suppliers joining the group really bring additional value and are not ‘me too’ suppliers who will just succeed in fragmenting our spend. I think we also need to understand a supplier’s intended market place. If they share a vision of growth coming from the independent sector then this bodes well. Equally critical is their pricing strategy. A poorly formulated pricing strategy particularly in a world where wholesaler pricing is more visible than ever via the internet can lead to unacceptable margins. Likewise a differential between the market giants and the independent sector can lead to unbreakable market dominance by the nationals. Finally I like to know that a potential supplier has a well thought-out distribution strategy. Are they trying to sell to everyone or have they identified the independent sector as their preferred ‘go-to’ sector?

IBA Office 2014 (PJ/CJ/Marketing) 

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