HBT honours Tim Starkey at 20th national conference

A standing ovation for the late Tim Starkey marked the beginning of HBT’s 20th annual conference, held at the newly built International Convention Centre, Darling Harbour, Sydney.

A record number of stores and exhibitors attended this year’s conference, held from May 10 to 12, including over 240 member stores and 160 exhibitors for the trade show.
While the historic conference detailed several of the group’s plans for the future, it also made a point of celebrating HBT’s 20 years in the making.
Before kicking off proceedings, HBT Chief Executive Officer, Mike Coates, presented a fitting tribute to HBT Group Manager, the late Tim Starkey, detailing many of Tim’s achievements throughout his 60 years.
“Before we get started, I would like to talk about our friend Tim Starkey. Tim was a very private man, so most of us don’t know what he achieved in his 60 years. Here is my unauthorised, condensed version of Tim Starkey – ‘This is your life’,” Mr Coates said.
Details emerged of Tim’s extensive and colourful career, which began with a degree in Law and Economics, as well as a Masters in Law. He also joined Rural Press as company secretary and internal legal counsel, helping to grow the the business ten-fold in just three years. Tim also headed to New Zealand at one stage, buying and selling businesses, before co-founding a business development firm in Windsor NSW in 1995, where several clients were in the hardware game.
“HBT then began using Tim on a casual basis to help at our conferences, but in 1999 the group grew big enough to employ Tim full time. While the outstanding success of
the HBT group is due to the efforts of many people, there is no denying that throughout its formative years it benefitted greatly by Tim’s ever present, steady and thoughtful hand on the tiller,” Mr Coates said.
“We at HBT will be forever grateful for the years of effort Tim put into the group. We know this conference will be tinged with sadness but we will do our best to carry on and do him proud, while making sure he is never forgotten,” he said.
It was then that attendees gave Tim the perfect send off by standing and delivering a round of applause. With so many HBT staff members, suppliers and retailers clearly missing the presence of such an iconic figure, the upstanding tribute was the perfect way to begin proceedings as Mr Coates and new General Manager, Mike LoRicco, took to the stage.

Opening address
Although traditionally the opening address at each conference would oft en consist of Tim’s state of the nation summary, Mr Coates said it was still important to know what is going on in our industry, especially during these times of great change.
“As you know I am from a five generation timber milling and hardware family. Over the 100 year plus of the life of our company, we saw massive change. Adapting to change
is an essential skill needed by all business operators,” Mr Coates said.
“I have travelled extensively throughout the US with some of the best retailers and if I could take away one thing from my experiences, it would be the knowledge that our group, and the stores that take an active part in the group, have a future in this industry. Th ere will always be a place for a well-run small operator, who knows the market, finds the niche and can exploit the advantages of being an owner operator,” he said.
Mr Coates also pointed out that HBT’s main job going forward is to assist its members to meet the challenges of staying in business, particularly with the national business environment increasingly skewed to large corporates.
“In small business these days, there is so much regulation and compliance that oft en the only way to continue to move forward is to take calculated risks. A small owner operator has to be so many things to their business that it is nearly impossible to cover all bases. This is where we come in, because our group recognises that we have to do more to support our stores and it is not just about deals. In fact it’s not just about stores. Our suppliers need our help too,” he said.
“Perhaps this is best explained through the organisation’s core beliefs. Our group has a mantra that has never been seen by our members but today I want to share this with you. ‘To give our member stores and suppliers the tools and support they need to survive and thrive, because family businesses make communities stronger.’ Our core values also include: total transparency in everything we do; everything is at the member’s option; always provide great value; work together as a team – no egos, no politics. In a nutshell, we want to be absolutely indispensable to our members and suppliers,” Mr Coates said.
For now the HBT team remain focussed on several aspects of the business including ensuring, “our deals provide good value for both our members and our suppliers. Sometimes we need to remember for a deal to be good, it also needs to be a win for our suppliers just as much as our members.”
“We have a good strong group with a broad stable membership, and our job is to increase the support of our member stores for deals offered by our suppliers. I think we have a good reputation in the industry for being commercial and fair minded. This is very important to us because as things get tougher, we want our established relationships to be the glue that binds us all together,” he said.

Group update
On the first day of the conference, HBT’s member count stood at an impressive 647 members, along with 453 suppliers who are now part of the group. During the group update, Mr Coates said HBT has had an eight per cent membership growth since the group last got together, with the biggest movement being in Victoria. There are also now 21 stores in H Hardware, with seven more to come over. Led by Steve Fatileh, the H Hardware Group has also just launched a new committee to assist with some of the initiatives, including the development of the group, providing feedback and also approving H Hardware products.
There are also now 152 members in the Industrial Tool Traders (ITT) group, led by Gavin Keane.
Mr Keane said, “One of the great things about HBT is that we are a bizarre and unique group because of our diversity of memberships. Diff erent types of retailers in our group bring different strengths and ideas.”
During his presentation, Mr Keane pointed out that within the HBT group, power tools remains a $40 million business growing 11 per cent in the last 12 months, hand tools are up 15 per cent to $20 million, while abrasives are at $3.7 million, which includes just two suppliers.

Major IT refurbishment
Another major announcement during the conference was the substantial refurbishment of HBT’s information systems over the last 12 months, after it was found the company’s current systems were unable to keep up with HBT’s growth.
“Central to the refurbishment was the system that tracked our member purchases and distributor rebates. We have rebuilt this system. Now we have greater fl exibility to improve reporting from suppliers, streamline processing and collect data that will help us see opportunities,” according to Mr Coates.
HBT has also made major changes to its website, which is set to revolutionise how members and suppliers deal with the group on a daily basis, according to Mr Coates. Just some of the new initiatives introduced onto the website included a new forum for members to exchange ideas, a news area to maintain information between members and suppliers, a specific area to showcase promotions and deals, and a new product directory which includes a wealth of supplier data.
The new product directory is part of a strategic alliance between HBT and Vesta. During the conference over 140 suppliers had committed to the directory with over 30,000 products ready to be loaded. Th e new directory is designed to give members access to supplier product information in a way that has never been seen before, while also allowing members to open the door to their own ecommerce offering.
On closing his address, Mr Coates said that although he spoke on the development of the group moving forward, it was equally as important to acknowledge where the group had come from.
“Can you believe it has been 20 years since a group of 13 stores came together at our first conference in Canberra? We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved as a group of like-minded, but individual retailers.”
“We feel we are pretty much the same organisation as we were back then. Th ere are a few more of us and we are a bit greyer around the edges, but the feeling when we get together is largely the same. Our total focus in moving forward is to give our member stores and suppliers the tools they need to thrive and survive,” he said.

A word from the General Manager
HBT General Manager, Mike LoRicco, then took to the stage to walk members through some of the programs that were recently implemented.
“I have been in the hardware industry for over 40 years. My store in Canada Bay was a founding member in HBT and over the years I have owned a number of stores that have belonged to the group. My initial focus in my new role will be sourcing timber deals and getting closer to our key suppliers,” Mr LoRicco said.
“Going forward we are totally committed to our primary directive, wanting to ensure that our suppliers will thrive and survive as long as they want to in this great industry. We can’t control what is happening to our industry going forward. What we can do is ensure we understand the needs of our members and suppliers and that these relationships are harmonious and fruitful. I am excited to be part of this group. I completely get the importance of group culture and I promise you that the group is in safe, capable and enthusiastic hands,” he said.
When looking at programs to be implemented in the next 12 months, Mr LoRicco said the key supplier program, which is now in its second year, will ensure members show support to the suppliers who are showing the greatest commitment to our group.
“Our group has been criticised in the past for being a bit too relaxed in deal support. Th at might be a fair criticism but we have also shown some incredible displays of solidarity when rallied into a good cause. We are going to do our best to encourage a cohesive approach to our group’s purchasing,” he said.

Conference presenters
Four outstanding speakers also presented during the conference plenary sessions, with speakers chosen specifically to challenge members to not only think about their own business, but to also consider possibilities for improvement.
Speakers included:
• Chief Executive Officer of the National Retailer’s Association, Dominique Lamb, who spoke to members about the current industrial landscape.
• Pauline Nguyen, owner of Red Lantern, the most awarded Vietnamese restaurant in the world, who shared the crucial skill of responding positively and resourcefully under pressure.
• Craig West specialises in helping businesses identify their succession challenges and plan for the future. Mr West said this is one of the biggest issues facing retailers now and into the future.
• Tom O’Toole, one of the best self-made retailers in Australia.
Mr O’Toole spoke to HBT 16 years ago and he continues to practice what he preaches, which is not easy to do consistently in business over decades.

Supplier and store of the year awards
On the first day of the conference, the supplier and store of the year awards were also presented, aft er being appropriately re-named the Tim Starkey Memorial Awards. Presented by HBT’s Conference MC and Coordinator, Ashlin Fisher, the awards were decided by members who nominated those they felt were most deserving and who continually paid rebates on time, attended conferences and displayed on-going deal support etc.

HBT award winners:
Supplier of the Year 2016
Grand Champion Timber – Simmonds Lumber (Jacinta Colley)
Growth Champion Timber – ITI Australia (Michael Shadbolt)
Grand Champion Hardware and Building Supplies – Romak Hardware (Lawrie Peck)
Growth Champion Hardware and Building Supplies – Spear & Jackson (Australia) (Mark Rowley)

Store of the Year 2017
HBT Store of the Year 2017 – A Wood Shed, QLD (Richard Ford)
ITT Store of the Year 2017 – Boss Industrial, WA (Tony Smith)
Store of the Year 2017 Achievement Award – Wynyard H Hardware, TAS (Wayne & Leslie Littler)

Pink themed trade show
HBT Manager of Member Services, Aimee Innes also announced during the conference that HBT members had raised over $51k for the McGrath foundation, solely through fundraising programs held within stores over the last 12 months.
McGrath Foundation Ambassador and Director, Tracey Bevan, also spoke at the conference explaining how McGrath Breast Care Nurses assist those with breast cancer by providing complimentary physical, psychological and emotional support, throughout treatment. During the trade show, on the final day of the conference, HBT members were out in force showing their full support of the McGrath Foundation, which is a primary charity for the group.

HBT’s 20th birthday celebration dinner
The conference concluded on a high note with over 800 attending HBT’s 20th birthday celebration dinner. During his presentation on the night, Mr Coates noted that it was great to see so many of the stores who attended the very first conference in Canberra in 1997. Mr Coates then welcomed his daughter to the stage, Alexandra Coates, who was born in the same year that HBT became a group and who addressed the group at its 10 year anniversary, aged just 10 years old. She addressed the group at the 20th birthday dinner, after Tim Starkey asked her to speak before he passed away.
Alexandra said she attended her first HBT gala dinner in a pram, aged just six months old.
“There were 22 people at the table representing the first 13 stores in the group. I am told we ate at the hotel buffet and everyone paid for their own meal. There are over 800 people sitting here this evening in a pretty stunning display of what a group of like-minded individuals can achieve when they work together,” Ms Coates said.
“As life carries us along, people and stores come and go, but it is wonderful to see faces here that have been here from the start. This culture of family and friendship is deeply ingrained. So congratulations HBT, I think you might be on the right track. I hope to see you all in another 10 years or perhaps next year in South Australia. That’s right we are going to Adelaide next year,” she said.
Proceedings during the night included the Haymes Paint Draw, with Wendy Payne presenting three prizes including: a trip to Darwin, won by Gary Dywer of Paddington Hardware. The second draw prize, an AFL Experience in the President’s Lounge of the MCG was won by Travis Taylor of Heathcote HBT, while two final draw prizes of AFL footballs were awarded to Chris Moorfoot of Yarra Junction H Hardware and Dave Kent of Kent’s H Hardware in Orange.

2016 Supplier Support Program
Close to $85,000 was also given away during HBT’s popular Supplier Support Program, with all winners announced during the birthday dinner celebration. The lucky winners drawn out of the barrel on the night included:
$25452.60 Barrenjoey Timber
$16968.40 Berry Hardware Store
$12726.30 Handyman Timber Sales
$8484.20 Gin Gin H Hardware
$4242.10 Cooma H Hardware
$4242.10 Th e Gap Handyman Centre
$4242.10 A Wood Shed – Brassall
$4242.10 Max Maclean & Co
$4242.10 Bordertown Hardware & Building Supplies