CSS reunites on 20-year anniversary

by | Nov 15, 2022

Construction Supply Specialists (CSS) has celebrated 20-years of success at its long-awaited conference held in Melbourne from October 19 to 21, with the event seeing a mixture of excitement and sadness as CSS Managing Director, Jeff Wellard announced his retirement.

CSS Conference Melbourne 2022

Mr Wellard delivered his final speech as CSS Managing Director to members and suppliers, during the 20-year anniversary dinner held at the Grand Hyatt on the final night of the conference, and attributed the success of the CSS group to what he describes as, “the army of members and suppliers that are all part of the group today”.

“It is so much easier to win battles in this industry when you are the General of an army that knows where it is going and is determined to achieve great things. This is our CSS army and I have had the absolute honour of working with some incredible people at CSS for many years,” he said.

“I want to thank everyone for all of the accolades in the lead-up to my retirement. In the end, I was the one who was fortunate enough to be standing on a sand dune with co-founder Peter Corstorphin of Kencor Sales 20-years ago. Peter was the one who suggested we should start a buying group for retailers in the fastening industry and it was he who suggested I take it on as a challenge.”

“He really is the godfather of CSS. It has been a wonderful ride over the past 20 years and this group’s successful trajectory will carry on for all of you if you keep working with each other, inspiring each other and have the desire to do business together,” Mr Wellard said.

While Mr Wellard’s successor is still yet to be decided, the CSS board of directors has vowed that they will ensure that the new person in the slightly modified role of general manager and any ongoing changes made within the structure of the company will prolong the group’s success.

“To date, as a collective, we have purchased more than one and half billion dollars worth of product in the last 20 years. We are now adding to this at the rate of $120 million plus per year. Our growth is always in double-digit figures and this success can be attributed to most of you here,” Mr Wellard said.

“For me, seeing results such as this is a wonderful thing and I am lucky that I can say I had a little bit to do with this alongside many others who also made it happen. Thank you. I am honored by what has happened here tonight and the words that have been said and I hope you all enjoy this special, 20-year celebration,” he said.

As Mr Wellard left the stage to a standing ovation, CSS Company Secretary and Managing Director of Allfix Fasteners Queensland Michael Dann then thanked delegates for the incredibly successful 2022 conference, which was also the perfect send-off for Mr Wellard. 

Outgoing CSS Managing Director Jeff Wellard delivers his final speech to the group.

“I am not sure I have the right words that will do justice to the subject at hand. I am sure you will all agree that the interaction between members and suppliers throughout this year’s conference has been nothing short of fantastic and typifies what CSS is all about. The board, the CSS team, and all of our members and suppliers feel the same way,” he said.

Mr Dann went on to acknowledge Mr Wellard for his incredible efforts over 20 years, as “he transits into the next stage of his life.”    

“As a founding member, managing director, mentor, father figure, Jeff’s belief in the group is second to none. Every member is treated the same, big, small or in-between, everyone has a voice. Jeff has created a group that is not about one person or one company but more about people getting together and helping each other do business.”

“Throughout yesterday’s trade show and over the past couple of days I have asked many members and suppliers for one word that best describes Jeff Wellard. He was described as honest, wears his heart on his sleeve, unique, beloved leader, passionate, smart, inspirational and most of all, loyal,” Mr Dann said.

20-year reflection from original members and suppliers

One of the original suppliers of CSS, Iain Brown, Managing Director of Bordo International, who is well known throughout the CSS group, also spoke at the 20-year anniversary dinner and gave his thoughts on why he believed the group had been so successful over the past two decades. 

“I have been fortunate to be part of this journey from the beginning and it has been incredible to see how much CSS has assisted so many of its members. I believe that the CSS culture, which includes great values and treating people the right way, comes from the top as well and Jeff should be congratulated on the outstanding culture he has created.”

“The culture at CSS is what has fostered the loyalty and respect that people have for the group, be it members, suppliers or staff members. You all really should be so proud of this. Jeff is also a huge advocate of finding ways to work with others and making sure that both parties win a long-term mutual benefit. It is never about a quick fix. This group is such a credit to all of you, well done,” Mr Brown said.

Original CSS member Tony Halikos from NT Fasteners also took to the stage and thanked members and suppliers for their ongoing support, saying all who were present were all part of the success and DNA of CSS. 

NT Fasteners is the only CSS member that has been with the group for 20 years after joining and believing in the vision not long after the group was founded.

“Twenty years ago, a younger Jeff Wellard walked into my doors and pitched an idea to me of starting a buying group for those in the fastener business. His energy, passion and overall vision, along with his silver tongue won me and also won over everyone in this room as well.”

Mr Halikos said that one of the best decisions he made in his career was to join a group that catered specifically to the construction industry. 

“It is incredible to think that now we are celebrating 20 years of consistent success, growth, and a bigger and a better CSS family year-on-year. It has been three years since we all gathered together at our last group conference after COVID separated us logistically. What the pandemic has done is unite us in the journey of implementing systems, learning and changing to adapt to all of the changes brought on by the pandemic,” he said.

“This year’s conference has also been special in that it has given us the opportunity to rekindle the CSS fire and catch up as we share stories and experiences of what we did to get through the last three years.”

“But that is what CSS is about – sharing information and knowledge. This has been one of the most amazing conferences I have been to when it comes to size and participation. It is a tremendous effort to leave your businesses and come to this event, and we thank you for that. I have loved the first 20 years of being part of this group and I very much look forward to the next 20 years of this adventure,” he said.

Record funds raised for CanTeen

As a major sponsor for CanTeen, an organisation that provides support for children with cancer, CSS runs many fundraisers throughout the year to raise money and support young people while they undergo cancer treatment. 

This year was no different with a raffle and silent auction during the CSS conference raising over $76,000 for CanTeen. The funds will go towards purchasing interactive robots so that young cancer patients still have the ability to interact with their friends during treatment, and reducing isolation during hospitalisation.

During the 20-year anniversary dinner, CanTeen’s Head of Relationships, Simon Davie thanked the CSS group for their passion and the funds raised by the group over many years.

“Nothing is ever too difficult for CSS and it really is so special to be working with people who really know how to make a difference. We can’t do anything without people like you so thank you to all of you.”

“The money that CSS raised through raffles and silent auctions throughout the conference will go towards purchasing virtual robots for kids with cancer so they can easily socialise with their peers at school while conducting their treatment. The support that CSS provides allows us to reach as many patients and families as we can who need our support,” Mr Davie said.

Bumper trade show

There was plenty of chatter and excitement as 76 suppliers gathered at the Melbourne Showgrounds on a perfect spring day. As one of the largest tradeshows ever held by CSS, there were plenty new and popular products on display throughout the show, along with virtual horse racing on offer for those who wanted to get into the spirit of the Melbourne Cup.

Loyal suppliers of CSS were also presented with 20-year, 15-year, 10-year and five-year awards during the extensive tradeshow. The following recipients were presented with awards:  

CSS 20-year Supplier Milestone Recipients:

Bordo Industrial Tools

CSS Conference Melbourne 2022 - Bordo

Bostik Australia

CSS Conference Melbourne 2022 - Bostik Australia

Bremick Fasteners

ITW Polymers and Fluids

CSS Conference Melbourne 2022 - ITW Polymers & Fluids

PFERD Australia

CSS Conference Melbourne 2022 - PFERD

Ramset Australia

CSS Conference Melbourne 2022 - Ramset Reid Construction Systems

Sika Australia

CSS Conference Melbourne 2022 - SIKA

Sheffield Group

CSS Conference Melbourne 2022 - Sheffield Group

Tridon

CSS Conference Melbourne 2022 - Tridon Australia

CSS 15 Year Supplier Milestone Recipients:

Flexovit / Saint Gobain

CSS Conference Melbourne 2022 - Flexovit

Josco

Beaver Brands 

Sentinel Systems

CSS 10 Year Supplier Milestone Recipients:

Position Partners

CSS Conference Melbourne 2022 - Position Partners

Austlift 

CSS Five Year Supplier Milestone Recipients:

Cement Australia

CSS Conference Melbourne 2022 - Cement Australia

Power 10 Gases

JPM Tools 

CSS members and suppliers said the 2022 trade show and conference was one of the best held, particularly after the three-year break between shows, and there was plenty to see and catch up on during the event.