Bowen’s Builders Bulletin is a great forum for dad and I to express our views on the housing industry, business leadership, the company to which our name is attached and a variety of other musings – about life, the economy or whatever is on our minds.
For our ‘few’ avid readers, we hope you have recognised this as an appropriate medium to share our inner selves. We are a private, family enterprise and while we look back with pride, we realise our future lies in the company’s ability to do the simple things well. This starts with us being the ‘Best at the Basics’, before all else.
Most of all, these pages are a public channel for you to better understand how we tick. It’s our way of giving customers, suppliers and staff an understanding of the business they work with or for. I hope we are humble and objective.
In the final month of 2022, I would like to share my Christmas message to the Bowens team. Leading into the holiday season (each year) I hand out a small gift and convey my written reflections on the past twelve months – expressing my ruminations on the company’s performance and the importance of their contribution. The following is an excerpt from this year’s letter …
Another Christmas break is imminent; thank you for playing your part in helping Bowens bounce back after two years of turbulence, worry and confusion. I am very proud and grateful for the contribution you have made and look forward to making the business bigger and better in 2023.
The year began with the cloud of a continuing public health crisis, inventory unknowns and promises of new opportunities for Bowens to pursue. As it is each year, when approaching the festive season, I begin to score the company’s performance. I think it would be fair to say 2022 has been a success when measured against such trying times.
“I think it would be fair to say 2022 has been a success when measured against such trying times.”
Through multiple episodes of self-reflection, gritty resilience and long periods of patience, we fought past the backend of a pandemic. You worked together to fill the disruptions created by staff absences, we communicated with customers digitally, via our phones and face-to-face, to ensure they were kept up to speed with gaps in our offer or altered plans. Collectively, we abided by government guidelines and followed the fine leadership of our boss in all things safety (Ana). Eventually, we prevailed.
Of course, labour shortages were not limited to our branch network. From the Marketing Department to the Warehouse, IT to accounting, HR and beyond, ‘easy’ days have seemed hard to come by in our recent history. While Bowens’ issues with absences were navigated well, many of our suppliers were not as proficient. Significant stock outages led to some long delays and many, unfortunately, let us down in previously unimaginable ways. Our customers also suffered through the same challenges, with their issues necessitating further operational adjustments across the branch network. Even so, we found a way and maintained our standards through months when giving up would have been a lot easier.
Despite the many barriers, we still managed to get things done and build a better platform from which we hope Bowens’ long term future will be secured.
“Despite the many barriers, we still managed to get things done and build a better platform from which we hope Bowens’ long term future will be secured.”
Through 2022 we had the good fortune of purchasing a great business in Melbourne’s north-west, the highly respected Melton Timber & Hardware. We acquired two very good buildings in Warragul, which were converted into a fantastic branch by mid-September. Both operations have added to the company’s reach; I can’t wait to see what they do across the next 12 months.
Bowens Melton, 45 Reserve Road Melton VIC 3337.
We received the keys to a new facility in Cheltenham on 15 November and, finally, after too many promises from me, we have started the rebuild of our Hastings facility. When finished it will be Bowens’ largest location, housing more products than any other store.
Our eComm platform and its trading portal have developed incredibly well. As each month goes by a seemingly endless list of improvements are made; we are very proud of our digital platform.
Our Hastings Training Centre survived a makeover and is hosting many professional trades each week. ‘Showroom by Bowens’ transformed into Circa to attract more architects and designers, while continuing to prioritise visits from our builders and their customers (homeowners).
Beyond the physical changes introduced through 2022, we also reminded ourselves it is a priority to have FUN. Apart from initiatives led by various branches or departments, in the months of March-April we enjoyed Wednesday lunches across all locations. We followed this up with our second ‘Women In Trade’ event at an amazing off-site venue in Port Melbourne. With over 450 people in attendance, it was a great success. We’ll be repeating the effort in the New Year, with some different themes and many more boys joining this important initiative.
Bowens Women in Trade Event 2022
In April we held ‘Bowens Unearthed’ at The Esplanade Hotel, a cracking night for over 500 energised team members. Performances by some very talented Bowens’ musicians and vocalists were incredible; a never to be forgotten experience. And then there was Expo. After four failed attempts (due to matters outside of our control) we finally celebrated Building & Innovation in style, at the magnificent Royal Exhibition Building. With over 5,000 registered guests, plenty of noise, learnings and prizes, objective industry commentators have been calling it the best building event in Australia. Again, it was also a lot of fun.
Bowens Building + Innovation Expo 2022
The year ahead will see us open Cheltenham, renovate the Belmont store, extend Epping, dabble with some tech innovations and discover better ways of completing our most basic tasks, ensuring we are easier for our customers to deal with. We want to develop our range to make us more attractive to building professionals, while reducing our reliance on internal stock transfers and special orders. We will develop you, our team, to assist with your responsibilities today and prepare you for the future. As always, I am sure unknown opportunities will be presented – we are in a good place to take on the unexpected.
“We want to develop our range to make us more attractive to building professionals, while reducing our reliance on internal stock transfers and special orders.”
Once again, thank you for the part you have played in rolling with the many changes and challenges across the year. As we strive to be Australia’s best supplier to building professionals, your participation is incredibly important. I hope you are able to enjoy a Merry Christmas and a restful holiday period. I look forward to seeing you again in the New Year.
Ho ho ho,
I wish a Merry Christmas to all our Builders Bulletin readers, our great customers, and our suppliers.