NMBS, the UK's largest buying society for independent builders', plumbing and heating, timber, and hardware merchants, has staged a highly successful all-industry conference.
More than 500 delegates representing both merchants and suppliers attended the three-day event, which ran from 14 to 17 June at the Grand Hotel Dino on the shores of Lake Maggiore, Baveno, Italy.
Centred around the theme ‘Industry Matters', the conference offered attendees a packed and commercially-focused itinerary designed to encourage collaboration, knowledge sharing and networking.
The conference began with an activity day enabling delegates to acclimatise and relax after their journeys.
Sponsored by IKO and Alumasc Water Management Solutions, the day offered mountain biking or a golf tournament at Golf Club des Iles Borromées.
During the first evening, a welcome dinner was held in the Grand Hotel Dino's Royal and Panorama Gardens. This featured pre-dinner drinks sponsored by Marsh Industries and a buffet dinner sponsored by Dickies.
The conference's business programme started on day two. After a welcome from the conference host, behaviourist, broadcaster, keynote speaker and award-winning author Jez Rose (whose appearance was sponsored by Encon), delegates were given an update on NMBS' current performance and future plans.
Delivered by senior members of the NMBS team, including MD Chris Hayward, FD Julie Langford and Commercial Director Andy Hextall, this outlined how NMBS plans to ‘automate and innovate' to build on its success.
The buying society is aiming to complement its core activities with an increased focus on maximising digital technology and best practice data management in order to achieve a turnover of £3 billion within five years.
Following the NMBS team, a line-up of respected speakers delivered presentations on a variety of topics.
• Economist Mark Berrisford-Smith, who spoke about the UK and global economic outlook before taking part in a Q&A session.
• Georgie Barrat, tech journalist and presenter of Channel 5's The Gadget Show, who spoke about millennials and how to get the best from this new generation of talent.
• Vit Kutnar, founder and CEO of DEK - the largest distributor of construction materials in the Czech Republic and the second largest in Slovakia. He spoke about the innovative approach that has helped him to take DEK from a standing start to a £650M business in 25 years.
• Neil Munz-Jones, Director and founder of mdj2, who offered insight into digital disruption of the building materials market and how merchants can effectively compete with businesses like Amazon.
• Andy Scothern, MD of eCommonSense, who spoke about effective data management and the tangible impact this can have on commercial success.
• David Meade, keynote speaker, trainer and TV personality, who inspired the audience with his ability to tell people what they were thinking from subtle nuances in behaviour.
• Jez Rose, who spoke about how a small shift in the way we think can deliver enormous benefits in the results we achieve.
A number of these speakers also hosted smaller breakout sessions.
Day three started with a ‘Meet the Merchant' networking session, which proved highly popular with attendees. It enabled them to book ten-minute appointments with contacts.
For merchants it was an effective way to meet existing and potential suppliers and to outline their business needs. For suppliers, meanwhile, it was an opportunity to meet prospective and current customers and to promote the benefits of their offer as well as any new developments.
This was followed by the conference's two keynote speakers.
Kevin Gaskell, whose many notable achievements include leading the turnaround of the UK operations of Porsche and helping BMW (GB) to achieve record growth and a 500% increase in profitability, spoke about inspired leadership and how this can be used to deliver world-class service and achieve business transformation.
Hamish Taylor - who has worked in brand management for P&G (Procter & Gamble), as a management consultant at PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers), as head of brands at British Airways and as CEO of both Eurostar and Sainsbury's Bank - drew on his experience to speak about his success in helping these businesses to achieve either significant growth or a major turnaround in performance thanks to his willingness to challenge industry and organisational norms.
John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation, announced Dubrovnik as the location of next year's BMF All-Industry Conference, before Jez Rose brought the conference to a close.
In the evening, a gala dinner featured pre-dinner drinks sponsored by HiKoki and dinner sponsored by Crystal. The entertainment consisted of circus acts and a female opera singing trio, while Jeremy Miller made his first address as NMBS' new non-executive chairman.
Commenting on the success of the 2018 All-industry Conference, Hayward said: "We're delighted that this year's event was so well attended and that the feedback received from delegates has been nothing short of exceptional.
"Many of them have praised the conference as being our best to date and also commented favourably on the calibre of the speakers and on the relevancy of their content.
"I would like to thank everyone who made the trip to Baveno and trust that they found the three days to be useful and commercially beneficial. In addition, I'd also like to thank our event partners, First Event, and the NMBS events team for their excellent work in organising everything.
"Finally, our appreciation and gratitude must also go to all the sponsors whose commitment and support help make the conference possible. This includes headline sponsor Makita as well as IKO, Alumasc Water Management Solutions, Encon, Marsh Industries, Dickies, HiKoki and Crystal."