As BMMI confirms the results and milestones achieved in 2019, the year proved to be a particularly successful one for the Group. To learn more about these achievements and what’s in store for 2020, we recently sat down with our CEO Marek Sheridan.
Tell us more about what we faced and what we achieved in 2019.
I am incredibly proud to represent this team; a team that exceeded the 2019 budget, delivering 9% Net Profit growth in a year that has been fraught with all sorts of challenges, whether globally, regionally or locally. From local VAT implementation to social destabilisation on a global scale, various factors ensured that most of the markets we operate in have not provided for organic growth. At best these markets have been flat, and this means that any growth would be through driving market share gains, driving efficiencies or by identifying new revenue streams. Therefore, the fact that we experienced growth in 2019 makes the team’s achievements even more admirable.
What approach did the team take to ensure these results?
2019 was a year where we said we need to continue our program of making ourselves tighter and more effective by making some tough decisions.
For example, we changed the model of our operation in Africa to be doing business with countries rather than necessarily setting business in the country. In this way we can minimise our risk profile. This approach helped us evolve our commodity supply chain business, which is very different than commodities trading. We have the experience in those markets and we truly understand sourcing and what’s required. Our procurement teams can very effectively fulfil those demands. So, by using existing resource and competence we have successfully opened a new revenue stream – albeit an embryonic one in 2019.
Another example is how we changed the model in the way we go about our business in the restaurants industry. We now approach it by identifying the right partner to work with. This not only reduces our risk and the drain on management time, but we also get the benefit of our partner’s expertise. A prime example of us having the right joint venture partner is the tremendous success we have had with McGettigan’s.
Will this approach continue into 2020?
There are still some areas where we can get tighter and manage our costs more effectively. In fact, one of the achievements of last year was the way we managed to attain growth without necessarily significantly increasing our cost base. In terms of investment, we will continue to try and get more, from the same or less. This means that we will continue with our re-engineering process to ensure we can maximise our genuine core competences for existing channels - such as driving greater profitability for the Alosra, Consumer and Beverage divisions - but then also to drive new potential revenue streams.
Driving efficiency and cost effectiveness are always important in good times and tough times, but we must constantly look at alternative revenue streams to fulfil our goal of sustainable profit growth. Therefore, a key focus for 2020 will be about identifying sustainable growth opportunities by leveraging what our core competencies genuinely are.
A great example of this is our e-commerce business that was initially created to support Alosra and our Beverages division. The opportunity exits to make it a significant part of our business model moving forward. As such, we are forming a dedicated e-commerce division, but before we launch new platforms that excite our customers, we really need to make sure we’ve solidly built our back office first. No matter how wonderful all the latest digital platforms and advancements are, unless you can actually deliver on your promise, and ideally exceed the expectations of your customer, you won’t be able to retain them. Our philosophy is all about sustainable profitable growth and we have to make sure we have the infrastructure in place to ensure that the stock people want is available, easily accessible, and that the right product is delivered, in the right condition and at the right time – ideally with some benefits too.
To support this initiative and others we continue to invest in one of our major core competencies which is logistics and supply chain. More news on this will follow very early in 2020.
What do you expect from the team in 2020?
We have certainly driven harder against our performance culture in the past few years. I believe we are instilling a sense of challenge for individuals and teams to continually challenge themselves and others in a polite, respectful and positive way. We encourage each other to be curious as to how we can do more or improve.
We need to continually identify how we can do things better. Think as to how we can make a difference, which is linked to our evolving corporate values where we updated our ‘R’ value to ‘Responsibility’. We want to make sure when we take something on, that we not only deliver what is expected but that we also think of how we can deliver beyond. We must not allow barriers to halt us but, rather, we need to be creative on how to break through or simply avoid those barriers by better planning and teamwork support. ‘Responsibility’ also means ‘ownership’ – and we are all expected to take ownership of the issues we face, as well as ownership of finding the solution.
What should the team expect in 2020?
We all faced a number of changes in 2019 and I believe have come through the stronger for it because of the way we adapted to those changes and challenges. I believe in this team and its capability to adapt and change to the challenges that no doubt 2020 will bring, but again, we will be a stronger unit together. As a result, therefore the team should expect what I hope they have always expected: a sense of belonging balanced with challenge, excitement, hard work, reward and recognition and hopefully some fun along the way!
Our team can also expect the same level - if not more - in terms of being recognised and rewarded for the work they do and for the contributions they make! Recognition was upgraded out of our five Winning Hearts values because it is effectively inherent in our DNA. It is an overall arching element of how we do things rather than a single value. We live it every day when we identify people that are doing extraordinary things and making a difference - people that want to exceed expectations.
The team can also expect growth because they are responsible for driving that growth. When a business grows, it provides opportunities for personal growth. If the company is growing, this means we can invest in new areas, grow in new businesses, identify new opportunities – and this means more jobs, bigger jobs and better opportunities for people that live our values. We are all in this together, and if 2019 is anything to go by, I feel really confident and comfortable that the team we represent really buys into the idea of making a difference and taking responsibility for their part in the Group’s success, and therefore their own growth.
Do you have a message to the team as we start the year?
I would like to say thank you and that I am incredibly grateful for all their work. I present our performance to Board, and it makes me very proud when presenting such positive results delivered by this team.
I am also very proud of how hard I see the team working to exceed expectations and going above and beyond. I’ve seen people working into the night to ensure customer satisfaction, people coming in on the weekends to ensure end of month deliveries go out to meet peak demands, IT on call to fix issues 24/7 and finance teams working all hours to ensure end of month reporting is consolidated on time. People could say I am only working from 8 to 5, but they don’t. They take the initiative to go further, to fix it, to do more than tick a box because they know there are other BMMI teams out in the field that can’t do their job properly unless they do theirs. I love that and I think that’s something we’re incredibly grateful for and that is a big part of our success.
I also am grateful for the fact that the BMMI team continues to take time out of their busy commercial lives to think of how they can help other people too. This comes back to this sense of responsibility - we all feel a great sense of responsibility in making sure we support the environments we operate in and the communities around us. An example of this is the recent MoU we signed with INJAZ to provide 20 scholarships a year for students. It really gives me a great sense of pride when I see all the initiatives we take to support all different segments of society. It’s incredibly fulfilling when we get to do that, and I thank the team for their efforts in this regard. I think that BMMI and our Board have always taken that responsibility to support Bahrain and the places we operate in very seriously, and we continue to contribute with a number of programs. I am very proud to be a part of this family and to represent this team. Thank you all again for all that you continue to do to make BMMI such an exceptional organisation.