Preparing a ‘business of families’ for the future



Date Published

June 19, 2020


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(Edited from Better Wholesaling Magazine - article by Paul Hill)

Companies regularly refer to themselves as “family businesses”, but this is something JW Filshill managing director Simon Hannah stays clear of when describing his company. “We’re a business of families,” he says. “There’s an important differential between the two. We have 26 different families in our business, and the vast majority of our customers are the same. I like to think of that as our USP.”

This business of families has established itself as one of the most forward-thinking and largest companies in Scottish food and drink wholesale. But Hannah is not one to rest on his laurels and is currently going through a number of important changes as he looks to evolve the firm.

He explains: “In the past five years, we’ve hired a new sales director, a new commercial director and a new financial director.

“There’s now a generational plan in place. My brother and I are custodians of the company and it’s up to us to get in a position so that the business is equipped for the new generation,” he explains. “We need to stay ahead of the curve. If you don’t adapt, you get left behind. The good news for an independent business like ours is that we can see what needs doing and make a change as soon as possible.”

Investment in new technology is one way he is achieving this, with the help of Retail Sales Director Craig Brown. Joining in 2017, Brown came with a retail background and a host of new recommendations. “He brought a completely new direction to our sales strategy,” Hannah says. “Craig has armed our teams with a load of new technology, which allows them to analyse the data and analyse how profitable certain algorithms are, and, in turn, analyse that against other shops in the same geographical footprint, in order to see if they are under- or over-indexing. He has revamped how we do things, with 75% of orders that are placed with us now captured through web, app or tablets.”

However, Hannah is consistently targeting new areas to explore in order to grow and future-proof the business. “As of yet, we’ve not had much involvement in the foodservice category, but we now have thoughts on how to approach the market,” he says. “Over the next few years, expanding into the on-trade is something we definitely want to do. With all the road miles we clock up each year, we pass by so many foodservice opportunities, so there’s no doubt we need to identify how to service those in a particular way.”

Always looking forward, JW Filshill is a wholesaler in a continued state of evolution and consistently on the hunt for new areas of diversification.

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