PBM visited Snows Timber’s National Sales Office in Towcester to discuss the company’s recent management buyout with its new owners, Ian Church, Craig Willoughby and Adam Cray.
A commitment to “offering a service that is second to none in the sector” is the key message presented by the three new owners of Snows Timber. Respectful of a heritage that stretches back to the company’s foundation in the late 1800s, the successful management buyout from the Bradfords Group brings Snows Timber back into independent ownership and marks the next phase of a period of modernisation and transformation that has been taking place over the last two years.
Following a strategic review to focus on its core merchanting operations, Badfords had made the decision to divest its interest in the Snows Timber distribution business. Snows’ Managing Director Ian Church — alongside Craig Willoughby, Supply Chain Director, and Finance Director Adam Cray — had their MBO bid approved by Bradfords in January, with the deal finally completed in March.
The new leadership team say that the deal puts the business on “a very strong financial footing” with its new-found independence from such a well-known merchant organisation enabling it to reach out further to the market as a whole.
Ian said: “This is great news for us and for Snows’ customers. It enables us to create a truly agile business and to continue investing in the areas that really need it. In our customer service proposition, we aim to be the very best in our sector. What excites us the most is the fact we are now truly independent.
“We could all see that there was value in the business and we are confident in underlying strength of market and that we can increase market share. Independence has been very well received by the customers.”
Leading up to the MBO, the company’s former head office and distribution centre in Glastonbury was sold to Sydenhams,however under its new independent ownership, the leadership team plan to build on the work that had already taken place following Ian’s arrival in April 2017.
For example, in May last year the firm moved its regional sales offices to a central location in Towcester, Northamptonshire to implement a more “streamlined and consistent service” to customers. Supporting a team of five business development managers on the road, this facility now acts as its new head office.
A major £500,000 refurbishment of Snows’ facility in Mansfield was completed late last year which saw the installation of a new high-speed line in the mill to increase processing capacity and the site reconfigured to accommodate more warehousing space and hard standing ground.
In addition, a new ERP system has been introduced within the last two years, whilst the implementation of routing and scheduling software from Routyn quickly improved transport planning, resulting in “more accurate deliveries, a reduction in human error, and increased ability to meet customers’ bespoke needs.”
In turn, this enabled the business to refocus resources in its distribution centres (a second DC is located in Andover), enabling it to concentrate on even more activities to benefit the customer including the “increased capacity to pick and mill product” and allowing the firm to develop better and more integrated sales and operations planning processes.
The changes allowed Snows to deliver the same volume of products with 25% fewer vehicles covering 10% fewer miles. As a result, the company has been able to review its fleet and introduce seven new curtain side lorries to complement its already extensive range of vehicles whilst it also earned recognition by winning the award for Innovation at the Logistics Leadership Awards.
In addition to the focus over the last two years on the ‘behind the scenes’ work to improve the service proposition to merchants, Snows has also taken a close look at its product provision. Whilst it has looked to streamline its range — in essence, eliminating the ‘near duplication’ of certain profiles — and to simplify choice for its customers, the company imports, processes and distributes over 1,000 timber lines including PSE, skirting & architrave, interior mouldings, panel products, carcassing, cladding, flooring and fencing & landscaping products.
It has pledged to “continue working towards a more sustainable environment and build on (and improve) its existing sustainable business practice” which sees it already offer certification on 99% of its timber products. Similarly, a commitment to innovation will also see it take on new ranges such as the hardwood ‘Provincial Plank’ premium interior cladding introduced last year.
Looking ahead, the company is striving to become even more responsive to the needs of its merchant customers. Ian explained: “I’m not sure it has totally sunken in that we own the business, because it really is different to working for someone else. The fact that we are now totally independent is the biggest thing for all of us, however we recognise that we’ve got a long way to go yet.
“Customer expectations have changed. Fulfilment and speed of delivery are part of the world were living in. We’re part way along the journey, but we have a clear vision and a clear strategy — and we are genuinely excited about the opportunity that’s ahead.”
Craig concludes: “We’re really proud of the work over the last 18 months, as there’s already been a massive amount of change. We’ve got to take our customers on the journey with us, but we’ve got a really strong footing to get our service to be the best in the industry, and that’s what we’ll do.”
Meet the team:
Ian Church, Managing Director
Ian joined Snows in April 2017 having previously held the position of Operations Director with Bradfords Building Supplies. Ian’s earlier career saw him working within the Travis Perkins Group where his roles included MD of TP Midlands, MD PTS & MD Group Trade Parks & Managed Services.
Craig Willoughby, Supply Chain & Logistics Director
Craig joined Snows as Supply Chain and Logistics Director in 2017 from Bis Henderson Consulting where he was Operations Director for five years. Prior to that he held senior positions in Supply Chain Operations & Planning for Wincanton and J Sainsbury.
Adam Cray, Finance Director
Adam has extensive knowledge of the commercial and operational aspects of the business, having been with Snows Timber for five years. He is an ACCA qualified accountant and prior to joining Snows, he spent seven years in accounting practice with PwC.
For more information, visit www.snowstimber.com.