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Stacking Up - Business Insights from Aaron Young: Customer Relationships

Customer relationships - they’re the cornerstone of our business and an undeniably huge component of our success. At Storepro, we pride ourselves on our customer focus, on knowing the customer and their business intricately, and delivering a solution that meets their needs both now and into the future.

Having recently attended the Material Handling and Logistics (MHL) Expo on October 11-13, I was reminded how valuable trade events can be for networking and getting face to face with our customers. Over those three days, I accomplished something that would normally take months – I personally spoke to dozens of our valued customers and associates, past and present, and laid the foundation for future relationships too.

Working alongside Storepro’s sales team at the MHL expo, I saw first-hand how we as an organisation interact with our customers. Over the past few years, we’ve grown considerably and I’m convinced more than ever that I have the right team on board – one that understands the importance of relationships, but also in selling a solution, not a commodity.

We are in the business of shelving and racking, but more importantly, we are in the business of providing a solution that allows our customers to reach optimum efficiency and profitability. The only way to achieve this is through a comprehensive understanding of our customers’ businesses, their needs and their values.

Recently, we completed our largest installation to date, providing wine bottling specialist WineWorks with a 17,000 pallet position automated shuttle racking solution, up to 15m high, for their new warehouse and bottling production facility in Auckland.

Our synergy with WineWorks was evident from the outset. A solid relationship was developed on the shared values of enthusiasm, experience and expertise, as well as a shared vision of providing a service that allows customers to be successful. The result was a project completed on time and on budget and we have a very satisfied customer.

There’s no denying there’s a lot going on in the world, particularly with the race to American presidency upon us. Only time will tell how our economy is impacted by the elections, but now is not the time to get complacent about efficiency. This is particularly true as we head into the silly season, where retailers get busier; we all spend more money and there is increased pressure to optimise pre-existing warehouse capacity and efficiency.

You might be surprised to see how much more efficient you can be, and how much your business will benefit through a solid partnership with us.

Stacking Up - Business Insights from Aaron Young: Decisions, Decisions...

Decisions... decisions...

We all have some to make right now with local body elections. Yet only around 65% of eligible voters actually vote. Is this because we don’t know who to vote for? Or the fact that the voting process is very old fashioned, posting an envelope back rather than a more current and immediate online facility? Or is it that we just don’t know anything about the candidates? Ultimately it effects all of us and to get to the right decision perhaps we should all play our part.

This is also true for business - a poor decision on key suppliers can result in a potentially disastrous outcome. Choosing a supplier involves much more than scanning a price list - it could depend on value for money, quality, reliability, timing, and service. It’s likely that a combination of all of these things are what will create a relationship, and hopefully a partnership, that benefits both parties. To get the best out of the relationship it is wise to spend some time on research to find one that aligns with your values and business.

The same could be said for the elections - those who do vote will likely have some empathy and feel a tie between voter and candidate, realizing the benefits that one provides the other. Perhaps we should all spend a bit more time looking at the candidates and decide which board members, councillors and mayor most closely fits with our needs and those of our businesses, not just for tomorrow but as a strategic fit for the future.

Storepro sees the same short term approach versus a strategic view in the world of logistics and warehousing - where the wrong decision around suppliers could ultimately lead to higher costs, increased maintenance, time delays, or lack of back up service - all affecting the bottom line. Consequences that could have been avoided had that decision been made much more wisely with some research.

While you wont see us on your ballot list, I genuinely believe that Storepro are candidates for growth, can control your costs, pass on extensive experience to your business and will be your long term partners. But even if your own plans for growth or change are not complete, you may be surprised just how much you can achieve in your business with early engagement and understanding of the supplier - it will likely result in the right decision for the long term.

Stacking Up - Business Insights from Aaron Young

Another month has passed… another Olympic Games; the Unitary plan has been all but confirmed by Auckland Council; Storepro has started fitting out arguably the largest racking installation for New Zealand this year.

Whilst the Unitary Plan may affect some of us and our houses, it also affects the commercial sector with a lot more property becoming zoned for mixed use or restricting certain types of business operations in some areas. We have already seen a shift of large scale industrial business moving to the likes of Auckland Airport, Wiri, East Tamaki and Albany, with less of this type of activity continuing in the suburbs nearer to the city.

Transport, logistics and time are all becoming an even more important part of the equation to ensure optimum efficiency in the warehouse and supply chain is achieved. Storepro has the enviable reputation and years of experience helping with this - the right design, clear understanding of your requirements; complete solutions delivered on time and on budget are capable of delivering efficiencies that flow through to more profits for your business.

With the same desire to reach their ultimate goal, our New Zealand Olympians achieved many successes in Rio, and across the whole team… something we firmly believe in at Storepro. Having met a few of the athletes personally, I am still amazed by their absolute single minded determination. That is what it takes to be the best, coupled with a genuine belief. Back in 2004 when Storepro was established - in the home office like so many other Kiwi businesses - I had that same belief and determination. To succeed and be the best in your game you need to leave no stone unturned and commit to winning.

2016 is also providing Storepro with many successes. We are moving into a new 50,000 sq foot facility and have three branches nationwide, with a fourth planned for next year, plus firm growth plans for expansion in Australia over the next 12 months. These developments have been requested by our very own customers, for which I am very grateful - without our customers we don’t have a business, together we can achieve great things.

Stacking Up - Business Insights from Aaron Young

Wow, it’s been a fast paced month since my last NBR column - how time flies when you’re busy.

Business in NZ must be strong - Storepro has had an all-time record month and quarter for sales. This means the retail sector must be solid; if we are spending in the shops then the warehouses and distribution centres need to be full to keep up. We are certainly having to think of new ways to maximise capacity!

We have seen considerable growth with automated satellite shuttle systems around the country lately, with the ability to store and select a pallet using remote control - much safer, faster, sustainable and accurate than traditional racking with forklifts. For example, Storepro are currently in the midst of a 16,000 tonne (1,440,000 bottles) wine project in Auckland - mostly for export. This utilises under 70,000 square feet of warehouse with Storepro’s latest design and technology. A few years ago the same project would have possibly required 300,000 square feet of storage space, so the cost saving and efficiency in Storepro’s innovation is significant.

At the other end of the spectrum Storepro have a dedicated surplus racking division that specialises in recycling and reuse of second-hand materials. Not only a saving for the customer, but helping to save our planet. This area is also busier than ever - perhaps the old Kiwi ways of trying to save a dollar never really change!

We are also seeing continual growth from Christchurch with new branches and divisions opening up again. Our Christchurch operation is very busy supporting the local business community, taking on new staff to keep up. Hopefully we are past the worst of the earthquakes. One benefit for the industry that earthquakes did have was making our whole warehousing and racking industry safer. Higher standards and new health and safety laws have meant re-engineered base designs; thicker and stronger profiles; and greater levels of compliance. Although compliance is costly for all, Storepro’s in house design team and independent engineering team ensure standards are met and ultimately safety is paramount.

To close - I was in Melbourne last week at a trade show and bumped into a customer who said “You understood my business and you saved me $1m last year… thank you.” In short, this was done by simply designing and building the warehouse storage systems correctly, directly attributing to his bottom line.

After twenty years in this industry, for me, its not about the product itself but how it is used and applied to benefit and provide a genuine solution to our customers. As our company vision states “we seek to develop the most innovative, professional and profitable experience for our clients. Our passion is for our customers, and providing them with an unparalleled level of service”

This is what keeps us at Storepro motivated - a loyal happy customer.

Stacking Up - Business Insights from Aaron Young

In 2004 when Storepro Solutions was established, 6 metre high warehousing was considered high stud and the All Blacks weren’t the world champions.

A lot has changed - and we have all matured, but even though we are still doing the same things, the All Blacks are now world champions and Storepro fit out warehouses up to 17 metres high!

Over this period New Zealand began to import more and manufacture less, which has led to a greater need for warehousing and distribution. This has required a lot of new commercial building and, with rising land prices, greater efficiency and storage within a given footprint is now more important than ever. Advancements in machinery and technology has assisted this - we are able to fit much more into the same space.

Like most New Zealand businesses, Storepro began with the idea that a founder with considerable experience in the industry could achieve more, so a business was formed. While over 80% of start-ups fail or turn into hobbies, Storepro has excelled, with 35 staff in Auckland, branches in Christchurch and the Waikato, and expansion limited only by the assurance that every member of the team know and understand the Storepro way. The knowledge and culture must be strong or we will grow too quickly and not keep up internally.

In 2004, when racking and shelving was still manufactured in NZ, Storepro began importing from Asia and Australia as well. Now 90% is imported and the product, out of China for example, is a far cry from even 12 years ago. When I was younger people used to call Japanese cars ‘Jap crap’ - how far that is from the truth now! The Japanese produce arguably the most reliable cars in the world. So too for China - when Storepro began there were many skeptics over the quality of product, speed, and service levels. These have all vastly improved. Take a look at the computer or device you are reading this on, the chair you are sitting on, the phone you use…there’s a high chance these are made in China! High spec racking and shelving is no different, even automated racking shuttles are now all made in China.

Over a decade on, Storepro has become a genuine market leader, supplying and fitting out some of NZ’s largest companies, including: Fisher and Paykel Healthcare; Air New Zealand; Mercedes Benz; Chrysler Jeep; one of NZ’s largest DIY chains; as well as numerous logistics providers. Storepro is now the go-to for many organisations because we provide the right product, at the agreed cost, and on time. We have solved customers’ problems and deliver the complete ‘Storepro’ solution. Providing genuine solutions for customers gives us immense satisfaction and ensures they keep coming back 12 years on.