A sense of belonging

by John Newcomb, CEO of the BMF
22 October 2019

John NewcombAt last month’s BMF Members’ Conference I outlined the next stage of our plans to work more closely with all our members.  

Over the last 12 months we have undertaken a “deep dive” review to better understand the varying needs of each different segment of our membership.  In particular, we are seeking to improve levels of engagement through our new Building Excellence Strategy, introduced last year, which aims to make BMF membership essential within the industry, rather than merely desirable.

The strategy has at its core our desire to continue to build membership value by providing a more personalised membership experience.  Through our research we have identified six different groupings of merchant members each with roughly similar needs.  

We discovered that the proactive groups are engaging with us because they believe strongly in the BMF and as a result, they feel they belong.  Our priority is to engage with the three member groups that are predominantly reactive at present, so they come to believe strongly enough in the BMF to feel that they too belong.

Next steps

Our initial focus will be on three categories. Plumbing & Heating Merchants are the specialist independents operating in this segment.  Unignited Advancers are mainly smaller independents who currently make zero use of BMF services, and Aspiring Progressors who make only ad-hoc or minimal use of BMF services.

We are encouraging all members to complete a short on-line survey, which will give us a better idea of their service requirements. Our Regional Managers will be talking to members in the priority categories about the specific needs of their businesses both to provide focused service bundles, and to develop ways to reduce the amount of time required to attend meetings and training at regional centres. The Regional Managers will also provide prompts, to members who request this, so they don’t miss opportunities that may benefit them.  

Regional services

We know that taking time out of the business can be a problem, particularly for smaller businesses. Over the last two years we have been developing a network of Regional Centres of Excellence around to country to make it easier to engage with BMF events and training closer to home. There are 29 centres already in place and we hope to have 30 by the end of the year.  In addition, we are adding another tier, branded BMF Regional Training Centres, which will be ideal for smaller groups to meet on an even more localised level.  For example, the first Regional Training Centre, at Independent Slate Supplies in Saltash, will provide an excellent base for members in Plymouth and parts of Cornwall.

Political representation

These initiatives have largely stemmed from the 2018 Member Survey, which highlighted what members most wanted from the BMF. Political representation was another area highlighted by this research. With BMF member numbers now above 700 for the first time since 1992, we now have a voice that can and will be heard. 

In the current climate, post-Brexit trading issues – particularly relating to VAT, customs duty, dockside delays and timber imports – are top of the agenda in our dialogue with key ministers and MPs.  At this Autumn’s party conferences BMF Policy and Public Affairs’ Brett Amphlett and I met the new Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson and Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell. We will also be at the Conservative Party Conference and look forward to taking members to our second Parliamentary Reception, at the House of Commons on October 29th, where Nadim Zahawi, Minister for Business and Industry will be speaking.

There is no doubt that “Together we are Stronger” - the theme of this year’s Members’ Conference.  We truly believe that together we can strive to achieve excellence throughout our industry. We will no doubt face significant challenges and changes in a world post Brexit but, as I said at our Conference, I am confident that by working together we can rise to meet those challenges.

This article appeared in the October 2019 edition of Builders’ Merchants News (BMN)