Better Late Than Never

Colquhouns: One year later

When we spoke to Rob Colquhoun, Managing Director of Alexander Colquhoun & Son, over a year ago he was just starting out on his marketing journey.  At the time, Rob delighted us all by his candour in confessing that he didn’t understand how marketing could play a role in generating revenues for his 5th generation family business.  Indeed, he called marketing ‘the dark arts’.

A lot has changed since Rob last spoke to us, so he sat down to update us on how Colquhouns has spent time working with 9 Strategic to re-define their position for the future and has embarked on a process of broad cultural change to better reflect a modernised new approach to their business.

Not just a new logo

Alexander Colquhoun & Son is a rare find these days: a family-owned, Australian company, it has been in the Colquhoun family for an astounding 125 years and five generations.

Far from simply using Alexander Colquhoun & Son’s 125th year in business as an excuse to commission a new logo and website, Rob and his management team engaged 9 Strategic to work with them to discover what they stood for in the market, via a process we call the Insights program.

“In response to what we found out from our customers, employees, suppliers and industry, through 9 Strategic’s Insights program, we modified what we stood for in the market,” said Rob.

“Rather than trying to be all things to all people, we have adopted a sharp focus around bags and sacks; a part of the business we are best at, our customers told us they valued most, and a sustainable segment of the market in which we can further enhance our reputation. So our new positioning statement is:

“With 125 years of experience, Colquhoun’s is a specialist bag and sack supplier working with primary industry to deliver quality packaging solutions that our customers can rely on and trust”.”

Rob understands that both the process and the change are about Colquhouns culture.  He knows that, as Managing Director, it is his responsibility to drive a culture that will build and strengthen the brand.

“As an extension of this, we are also working to reflect our values in what business activities we focus on, how we benchmark our current performance, what targets we are shooting for, who is responsible for what, and how we plan to measure success.”

“This is ground-breaking for our business because previously we were not reflecting our values in our work in any way.”

Licence to ‘grow a pair’

While he was already a formidable CEO, Rob himself jokes that the process has helped him ‘grow a pair’ by giving both him and his staff guidelines on how to behave.

“Since embarking on our repositioning journey I’ve been empowered as CEO to step up my leadership.

“As a result I’ve had to make some tough decisions, but at least now I know where the line in the sand is to enable me to make those decisions.

“And for all of the employees, knowing what we stand for and what we are reaching for, enables everyone to prioritise and make decisions that are aligned to our business objectives. “

Getting the whole team onboard

Rob involved his leadership team in the process from its inception, guaranteeing that the culture is led from the top.   To ensure this isn’t where the culture remained, before communicating to any customers he set about talking to all staff across the country via communication sessions.

Rob was impressed at how receptive the whole company was to the changes.

He recalls, “One employee asked: “Why didn’t we do this ten years ago?” But considering we have been around for 125 years that’s like ten minutes, I think “better late than never”.  However, we also know, as with any change, it will have its challenges.”

Employees have been particularly excited by the new systems the company is putting in place to measure the extent to which they are living their new values.

Colquhouns are acting on their promises by delivering an “Achievement Reward- Career System” (ARCS) which will extend the standard employee review process to measure values, behaviours and competencies against the company’s new position. This is supported by a quarterly review of KPIs for the overall business.

“The sense of anticipation and optimism around the business is really pretty exciting and makes me feel a great deal of confidence about the future of our business,” said Rob.

The market response

Rob reports that customers have been particularly welcoming and their feedback has been really valuable.

“People are a bit taken aback when you state, “we don’t want to be the cheapest.” Then I explain we want to offer the best products and service within our focused speciality area to provide the greatest value.  And they have bought into that.

“As a result I believe I am selling more to existing customers because they do see the value in that offering – now to show them we can consistently deliver on our promise.

“We are still maintaining all of those values that allowed us to reach our 125th birthday. However, things have changed over the course of 125 years.

“We wanted to build on the values that our customers’ value and have made Colquhouns unique, and acquire attributes that would enhance our reputation and give us another winning 125 years.”

Get started on your own journey with 9 Strategic.  Contact us via email, or ring Nicola Dent-Votier on 0466 980 076 to find out more.