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.
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