The sweet ride to suc­cess

There is energy about Alessan­dro Garo­falo. It is re­flected in the way he leads. It is re­flected in the way he con­ducts him­self and it is ev­i­dent in his suc­cesses. He speaks with Bob For­shaw about the art and energy of dis­tri­bu­tion.

Business First - - PROFILE -

As he cy­cles through the streets of Syd­ney, Alessan­dro Garo­falo, Gen­eral Man­ager at The Dis­trib­u­tors is aware that any wrong move could end in a world of pain. How­ever, his busi­ness is dis­tri­bu­tion and he un­der­stands how to shift gears, change mo­men­tum and most im­por­tantly get from point A to B safely, in­tact, ef­fi­ciently and ef­fec­tively.

Point A for Alessan­dro be­gan with an MBA in Italy. Cur­rently point B is his po­si­tion with The Dis­trib­u­tors, a lead­ing in­de­pen­dent, con­ve­nience seg­ment whole­saler. The Dis­trib­u­tors was founded in 1981 by a group of five whole­salers. To­day, The Dis­trib­u­tors is a Public Com­pany lim­ited by shares and struc­tured as a co-op­er­a­tive com­pris­ing of 30 own­ers op­er­at­ing 38 ware­houses na­tion­ally.

The Dis­trib­u­tors ser­vice in ex­cess of 45,000 cus­tomers an­nu­ally and sup­plies a di­verse port­fo­lio of prod­ucts in­clud­ing Con­fec­tionery, Snack­food, Bev­er­age, Gro­cery Food and Non­Food. They stock on av­er­age 6000 to 8000 SKU lines per ware­house, dou­ble that in larger stor­age fa­cil­i­ties.

Their suc­cess is put down to their val­ues: 1. Be at­ten­tive to the needs of lo­cal as well as na­tional Cus­tomers. 2. De­liver su­pe­rior ser­vice to the con­ve­nience and route mar­ket. 3. De­velop spe­cialised mar­ket knowl­edge and en­sure our cus­tomers profit from our knowl­edge.

Alessan­dro has been with the com­pany for 18 months. In be­tween point A and B he has de­vel­oped global mar­ket lead­er­ship by suc­cess­fully es­tab­lish­ing FMCG and Of­fice Prod­ucts busi­nesses and brands across Europe, North Amer­ica, Asia, and Aus­tralia.

“I worked for Bar­illa for about 11 years, then I moved into the pa­per busi­ness with Dou­ble A,” says Alessan­dro. “I worked there for about six years in Aus­tralia while also look­ing af­ter the Com­pany’s US projects. Then I moved to New York as di­rec­tor of sales for pasta, pasta sauces, olive oil com­pany De Cecco. I worked in New York for about three years be­fore com­ing back to Aus­tralia at the be­gin­ning of 2012. I have been with The Dis­trib­u­tors since then.”

These 18 months have been ex­cit­ing, if not a lit­tle try­ing as the in­dus­try shifts its po­si­tion and more com­peti­tors fil­ter into the mar­ket. Some of those com­peti­tors are the very su­per­mar­kets that The Dis­trib­u­tors route cus­tomers com­pete against.

“You have new play­ers come into the mar­ket like Costco or you have ex­ist­ing play­ers like the big su­per­mar­kets that are whole­sal­ing di­rectly or in­di­rectly to our po­si­tional cus­tomers which are the in­de­pen­dents and petrol and con­ve­nience re­tail­ers.”

Mean­while, says Alessan­dro, man­u­fac­tur­ers are will­ing to cut the com­plex­ity out of their sup­ply chain. It means that dis­tri­bu­tion com­pa­nies have to look at sim­pli­fy­ing and op­ti­mis­ing their ser­vice to gain the best out­come for their sup­ply part­ners.

“This is an on­go­ing trans­for­ma­tion which will re­quire us to con­tin­u­ously look at new av­enues to sim­plify the way to mar­ket and be­come more ef­fi­cient and more ef­fec­tive.”

It also means The Dis­trib­u­tors must stand out from their com­peti­tors. Alessan­dro be­lieves they are do­ing this by be­ing a na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion with lo­cal reach.

“We have wide­spread cov­er­age of the mar­ket. We also have re­gional peo­ple who work on the busi­ness day in day out; they are pas­sion­ate about their busi­ness, about their cus­tomers and they can sell this lo­cally and much more ef­fec­tively than any­one out there.”

While dif­fer­ence is good, they have to re­main ahead of their com­peti­tors and this means look­ing to the fu­ture. It means ex­pan­sion and work­ing closely with cus­tomers and sup­ply part­ners to fa­cil­i­tate the growth.

“We need to sit down with our sup­ply part­ners to find the most ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive and sim­ple way to get their prod­ucts to mar­ket as we need to work be­side our cus­tomers to un­der­stand them more, gauge what they are look­ing for from the whole­sal­ing point of view and what they need from the sup­ply part­ners who work with us.

“That is prob­a­bly one of the ar­eas that we need to con­tinue trans­form­ing to­wards. At the same time we need to ex­pand our group. We need to have a broader port­fo­lio that of­fers bev­er­ages, gro­ceries and may po­ten­tially work with food ser­vice in the fu­ture.”

Sup­pli­ers are the key to this growth and Alessan­dro feels that it is not enough just to do busi­ness. Like any suc­cess­ful busi­ness, build­ing re­la­tion­ships is key. It is no more ev­i­dent than

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