Stihl Shop Wanganui

International experience enhances business profitability

Lean Management principles combined with attention to detail, have been integral to the performance and efficiencies of John Bartley’s business.

In the first two years of operation, the Stihl Shop Wanganui has experienced a year-on-year growth of 10 percent and the future is looking even brighter. Quite an achievement for a business that was opened in the midst of a global economic recession.

John attributes the success and growth of the business in large part to the Lean Management principles and practices he learnt when he travelled to Japan on a study mission. Back in Wanganui, he applied the principles to the business with dramatic results.

Lean principles, which can be applied across all industries, were developed by the Japanese manufacturing industry. The core idea is to maximise customer value while minimising waste. Put simply, Lean means creating more value for customers using fewer resources.

Increasing efficiency, using the Lean principals in all aspects of the Stihl Shop business, was essential to its productivity. The business not only stocks leading brands of outdoor equipment, it also has a workshop and a parts department. The focus on back-up service gives the operation its point of difference from ‘big box’ chain stores.

John and his team have worked hard on lifting the image of the industry. Gone are the grubby overalls and grubbier calendars from the workshop and with a clean, tidy operation, people have commented it looks more like a doctor’s surgery rather than an outdoor equipment workshop. And it’s worked; the Wanganui Stihl Shop is now recognised as one of the leading Stihl Shops in the country.

John has always worked in the machinery industry, firstly in a sales role for the family business manufacturing bullbars and then as owner of a machinery business stocking both Stihl and Husqvarna products.

“Owning the Stihl Shop business has been a steep learning curve, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Although it was tough, we cut our cloth accordingly and employed the Lean business principles that have improved our systems and processes. We now are more efficient with fewer overheads,” he says.

Some tough decisions needed to be made in the early days but with the help of Rex McKinnon and Michael Dwyer at Markhams Wanganui, John met the challenges.

“When I started out, Markhams was absolutely brilliant. The guys were my mentors and gave me sound advice about the financial aspects of running my own business. They also helped me through the difficult decisions such as when I needed to rationalise staff numbers,” he says.

Markhams’ involvement didn’t end once the business was established. Michael and Rex are actively involved advising John on all aspects of the business including accounting, stock control and margin retention.

But it’s the people aspect that brings pleasure to John. “I love dealing with the diverse customers we have – forestry workers, contractors, farmers, lifestylers and the home handyman. The diversity also helps continuity in the business – if one sector slumps, the others invariably are buoyant.”

Providing exceptional customer service is what drives John and he clearly loves what he does.

Published Summer 2011.

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