Independent builders merchant buying group Fortis welcomed 300 people to its first lightside conference in Leicestershire today (April 29).
Fortis operations director David Hebdon told delegates that over 1,500 meetings would be held between the 90 suppliers and 33 members attending.
“This conference is about business to business opportunities”, he said. “We have encouraged our members to ensure that key decision makes are here.”
Fortis, formed in May 2013, is the result of the coming together of two existing independent buying groups – CBA and CEMCO and the subsequent merger of some of the members of each to form the new group. The group held its first conferences this year at the Hinckley Island Hotel in Leicestershire. The heavyside conference was held at the end of last month.
Fortis’s beginnings lay in a meeting between key members of CBA and CEMCO to set up a joint deal for buying cement and the discussions as to where to go from there led inevitably, Hebdon said, on to “should it be another buying deal for another product or should we be talking about a coming together of the two groups?
“We believe this is an industry defining buying group,” he said. “Whilst we are defining a new look for buying groups in our sector, we are also here commercially to offer key business solutions to our suppliers. We are not going to be another national merchant who only have their volumes to offer you. We have our volume but we also have the ability to work closely with you.
“We want to give to our suppliers the benefit of trading with the best known independent s in the country with all the advantages that an independent has of trading in its local area. Whilst volume is important in the economies of scale, it is not Fortis’s aim to have hundreds of members. This is about having a small number of like minded members working closely together, so whilst we will grow the membership we will stick to our principles of having members who can deliver what they say they can deliver, not just to our suppliers but also to us in the membership.
“We do feel that national coverage is vital and we are discussing the sell-out opportunities that exist and what interest that holds for our supplier partners.
“We have spent a lot of time bringing together teams of people to make this work, although Fortis is a strong team in itself it is also about building a high performance team between Fortis and its suppliers. We need to have shared values between us, we need to set clear goals and have a vision of what we are trying to achieve. Getting the basics right is key and this needs to happen every time. Simplicity is best and we need to have some tangible wins for both sides. There will be members who are already buying into suppliers deals; we need to work to bring all the members into that fold.
“The culture we develop at the beginning between us all is vital. If we can get it right we can build on trust and that will give us a competitive advantage.
“We must never stop learning, we must keep evolving our goals. We at Fortis believe there is a fantastic opportunity for all our members and suppliers.”