Valued independent family business stands the test of time

Business: Barwon Timber
Owners: Bill Trengrove (Director), Anita Trengrove & Brent Trengrove (General Managers)
Location: Geelong, VIC
Buying Group: Natbuild

Established in 1980, Barwon Timber is an independent, family owned business that has gone from strength to strength over the years, due to its ability to not only maintain a strong understanding of the local market but also move with the times.

Founded by Bill Trengrove nearly 38 years ago, Mr Trengrove’s children, Anita and Brent, now run Barwon Timber as co-General Managers of the business. The core business is located in the heart of Geelong, a large bayside city 75 kilometres south-west of Melbourne. 

Barwon Timber started its business by cutting Oregon and cedar. From these beginnings, the timber and building product offering was introduced and has continued to grow over the years. A small hardware section was also created within the business in 1998.  

This small hardware store grew very quickly inside the new timber yard and it was moved to its own building just one year later, Barwon Timber Hardware Manager, Mark Adams said. 

Located in the heart of Geelong, Barwon Timber boasts a timber yard and sales office, hardware department and showroom all located in three separate buildings.

“The hardware offering proved popular with Barwon Timber customers and the store was expanded to its current size,” Mr Adams said.

Mr Adams returned to the business a couple of years ago, bringing with him a very strong background in power tool and fastener sales after being out on the road for many years. He was previously employed at Barwon Timber as a hardware sales person.  

“I have worked as a sales representative for both retail and building supply companies for many years. I also ran my own business for some time which gave me a very good understanding on how a business operates on a day to day basis. This experience has helped me run the hardware department over the last few years,” he said.  

Development of the store 

Barwon Timber has several diverse departments offering its customers a broad range of building products and services. This includes an extensive range of trade hardware and building products in stock.  

While the dry mill continues to operate on-site, producing timber cladding, lining, bespoke architraves and cut to size Oregon, Barwon Timber also supplies and offers an installation service on solid and engineered
timber flooring.

“We have a timber yard and sales office, then we have a separate building which is the hardware department and we also have another showroom building which displays doors and floors. So, while it is all on one site, the departments are all located in separate buildings,” Mr Adams said.

Barwon Timber continually supports Natbuild’s promotional programs including its Red Balloon Voucher program and Bike promotion.

Primarily well known as a trade business, Barwon Timber consistently remains trade focussed by implementing an extensive range of trade hardware and trade brands, according to Mr Adams.

“Our customer service is also very well known, particularly because we have the ability to transact sales on the shop floor using our popular mobile devices. This is so our customers do not have to walk around shop and yard areas and then bring everything to the front counter for processing. Our staff can simply sell products on the floor and then scan those products straight into the device. From mobile devices, invoices are also automatically generated and emailed to customers,” he said.

“The new technology was introduced around five years ago which allows staff to simply walk around with our customers, scan the products as they go and then customers just sign for payment. Our shop floor is also an open store format which makes it a lot easier for our customers to find what they need.”

“Our sales have definitely increased over the years because we are fortunate enough to be building a business in an area which has had a high number of building approvals of late. We have also been actively approaching new markets and continuing to grow our customer base. Our store also boasts a significant reputation for stocking high quality products for the trade market,” he said.

Local competition

Located centrally in the major town of Geelong, about an hour’s drive from Melbourne, Barwon Timber competes directly with corporately owned timber and hardware suppliers, as well as a large number of independent specialists and after-market stores. It makes for strong competition across all of the business’ product and service categories, according to Mr Adams.

“A lot of the time Geelong residents still really appreciate purchasing their products at an independent store. There is also quite a bit of development going on around the town of Geelong, which is also certainly assisting our businesses as well. We are very lucky because Geelong is experiencing such strong growth at the moment,” Mr Adams said.

That being said, the business is always looking ahead to market opportunities and ways to improve its current service offering.  Barwon Timber takes a collaborative approach and continually involves its management team and staff in the directions it takes, he said. 

Aligning with Natbuild

Just on three years ago, Barwon Timber made the move to the Natbuild group as they found the group to be more aligned with the business’ strong trade focus.  

“We also believed Natbuild was a firm supporter of independent trade-based stores and they fitted in well with what our customers were demanding from us also. The Natbuild group not only has a strong trade member base, but they also fit in well with who our customers are,” he said.

While making the move to Natbuild has certainly assisted Barwon Timber in its future endeavours, Mr Adams said Barwon Timber will also continue to implement new product lines it believes its customers will use, whilst constantly looking at new products and services and how it can improve customer service.

While it is getting harder to find industry experienced staff and the average duration of employment has reduced, Barwon Timber has combatted this by taking a different approach to recruitment by focusing more on structured industry and product training.  

“We are developing a staff training plan across the business to improve our staff knowledge, ensuring all staff are up to date in regard to their product knowledge as well. We are also looking at and analysing the next generation of customers and continuing to look for innovations to ensure the next generation of builders is sufficiently catered for,” Mr Adams said.  

(L-R) – Hardware Manager, Mark Adams with Barwon Timber staff members Madelyn (front), Ron and Jesse who are all highly trained in product knowledge and quality customer service.

Barwon Timber’s current staff training not only includes Natbuild TradeNet training modules for products, but also has a personal development program planned for 2020, which aims to cover topics such as digital skills, financial literacy and personal confidence.  

In addition to its employee rewards program, which is a system for peer-on-peer recognition and reward, the business will continue to offer employees a stimulating work environment, that is fun and friendly to work in as well.