Welcome to our inaugural edition of GNS “Chain Mail”. We hope that you will enjoy the content in this and future editions. We intend to use this Newsletter as one of our primary communication vehicles to our customers and key partners on all things GNS. This includes our people, products, promotions and other news that we feel will benefit our customers and make GNS more relevant to your business.

We have many things to share, and also understand that we have not been active in our customer communications for some time. We intend to change this so that you, our customers and key partners, hear the right information about the business, and not from other sources that may not have our best interests at heart. I’ve been made aware of many instances, even recently, of people outside GNS spreading bad and untrue statements about us. I hope to clear the air on these and will ensure we continue to maintain open, honest and engaging communication – for as long as it is received with the spirit of intent that it is provided.

I have been CEO of GNS for around 3 ½ years now, though it certainly doesn’t feel like it.  I came into this business with some knowledge that it needed some changes, and that the core market we serviced was undergoing massive pressures from multiple sources that continue to influence this significant channel being Newsagencies. Our revenue base was declining, our products were as stale as our promotions and offers, and we insisted on a recurring theme of repeated and regurgitated campaigns that required behavioural compliance that was neither recognised nor valued by our customers.

Having said that, we had a large and long term relationship with our customers who had, and still have, varying degrees of loyalty to GNS. We also had staff who were extremely loyal to the business having served the business for many years, yet were, for various reasons, stuck in the rut of legacy processes and programs. A lot had to be done, but we also had an amazing foundation and many years of hard efforts to deliver the results the business achieved.

We have implemented many changes in the business in the last 3 ½ years, and there are still many more required to become the business we need to be. I’d like to highlight some of these in this communication, and will continue to share information and what myself and the entire team at GNS are doing to make us more relevant to your business, which remains our abiding goal

Appointment of Independent Chairman

When Ted Rogan stood down as Chairman of the Board in July 2012, Allan Wilbers, who was the then Deputy chairman, was appointed as Interim Chairman of GNS. The board subsequently elected to seek an Independent Chair who was not necessarily involved in either the Newsagent or Office Products Industry, but had strong experience in Commercial business, current and/or previous Board experience, and demonstrated ability to manage substantial organisational change.

A Board Sub-Committee was appointed and an extensive search process was conducted. As a result of this process, Mr Martin Hartcher was appointed to the Board of Directors and then to the position of Chairman in August 2014.

Martin, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) comes to the role with a strong management and governance background.

He has degrees in law and accounting and will bring to the GNS Chairman role a fresh and unencumbered view of GNS’ strategy and performance.

He will work with the current Board of Directors in supporting myself and management team to achieve the company’s business and strategic plans.

Senior Leadership Team

Over the last 2 years, the GNS Management team and Board have been busy re-stating and clarifying GNS’s strategic direction and focus. This journey continues and we will evolve these plans on an ongoing basis to meet the changing needs of our market and customer demands.

A key factor in successfully implementing these plans, like in any business, is having the right people with the right skills with the goal of forming a strong senior leadership team (SLT) within the company. The SLT are ultimately accountable for building, training and leading their various teams through the significant transformation process GNS has undertaken.

To give you a view into the senior leadership team and to make sure you know who to call if needed, the SLT is made up of the following people:

  • Alex Stewart , Chief Executive Officer
  • Jason McLeod, Chief Operating Officer
  • Leigh Galloway, Financial Controller
  • David Gifford, National Sales Manager Retail
  • Simon Foster, National Sales Manager Commercial
  • Paul Middleton, Marketing and Digital Products Manager
  • Neil Sinclair, National Merchandising Manager, and
  • Jo Hanlon, HR Consultant from Mind Your Ps (guest member)

By investing in a strong leadership team who have a multitude of skills across all business areas, GNS is now able to focus on upgrading the infrastructure and breadth of products and services we provide to market to assist you, our valued customers, in building your own businesses.

Rome was not built in a day and nor will we be able to implement all the changes we are planning at once, but you can rest assured we are open to your feedback and suggestions and we believe we are positioned better than ever before to meet the wide variety of needs and requests that we receive, which are required for us all to succeed in these challenging times.

Over the coming issues we will be highlighting individual members of the SLT as well as other staff throughout the business, and you’ll find their input throughout this newsletter.

People Development

Our most important asset is our people. We employ over 240 staff across the country and we believe every single person in the business has the ability and the responsibility – to make GNS a better business.  We must look for ways to effectively service our customers starting from an account management perspective, right through to how you receive products and all of the associated processes in between.

We are working on many aspects of our culture and staff development, and one good example of this is where we have provided Certificate IV in Management Training to over 60 staff over the last 12 months, at no cost to the staff, conducted largely during regular business hours. We believe we can develop better results for our business by giving staff the training and resources they need to develop themselves and, in turn, help the business.

We are also cascading through the business formal job descriptions in the cases where they were either not present, or outdated, as well as KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) to ensure our staff are aligned and understand what they are and how they are measured.

Rumours….

And no I’m not talking about the great Fleetwood Mac album from the ‘70’s!

It seems that there are many unsubstantiated rumours out in market regarding the current and future status of GNS. I’d ask that you never believe what you read or hear from these sources and, if you have any doubts or concerns, please pick up the phone, send an email, or ask your GNS representative! We have nothing to hide. We are an unlisted public company and our financials are openly available to our shareholders and qualified third parties.

The Board and Management Team are working through many priorities in the business that will drive change, improve service levels, reduce operating expenses and generate incremental revenues for the business. This requires doing things differently – quite obviously. This may be viewed as GNS changing focus, severing operations or reducing staff. For the record we are investing in the business to facilitate and deliver growth.

We must offset the decline in our traditional Newsagents channel and this means either selling more to our existing customers – or finding more customers. We have introduced and will continue to introduce new lines and categories in the business that will appeal to our Newsagent customers for those wishing to source these products from GNS. We also invite your feedback whenever you identify an opportunity that you believe GNS is not yet offering.

Additionally, in order to continue to remain competitive and to be able to invest in growth opportunities we have had to find new customers to keep the momentum and offset the declines. Our focus is to be the best partner of choice for ALL of our customers across all of the markets we service. Some products and services will be more suitable for certain channels and some for others. We are creating and delivering products and services to find the needs of each of these segment – whether they are shared or unique for that specific channel.

So…..for the record;

  1. We are not closing Perth. We are reviewing our Perth facility as having two warehouses side by side doesn’t give us the facility we need for this market.
  2. We are not getting rid of Sovereign products. Some Sovereign products that we have sold in the past are either dated, or don’t sustain enough sales to warrant continued ranging. As part of a prudent stock management process, we review and change our products lines, and this will include Sovereign lines.
  3. We are not abandoning Newsagents in favour of Commercial Channels. For reasons stated above, we have been engaging with customers in the commercial dealer space for several years now, even predating my joining the business. We do this as we believe we can leverage the GNS infrastructure to provide commercial resellers, as well as suppliers to that channel, with meaningful solutions that provide supply chain efficiencies and reduce costs. By growing our other channels we can remain strong for our Newsagent customers. We will shortly be releasing products that are specific to, and directly targeting Newsagent businesses, and we are also looking to develop campaigns and services that are not just product related to provide added value to our Newsagent customers. The LAST thing we are doing is abandoning this channel!
  4. We are financially sound. The market is tough, the Newsagents channel is tough. There is no doubting that. GNS has a very strong balance sheet yet we are not leveraging our asset base. Additionally, GNS is required to purchase our shareholder’s shares back at the current price when they want to sell them, which must be funded from profits generated in the same period. Between share buy backs and heavy payment of amortisation on our bill facilities, it doesn’t leave much to reinvest back into the business. We have made many significant changes to address this and will share these here and over time. Be assured that the board and management team are acutely focused on building the business and making sure we deliver return on shareholder investment that is valued and recognised as a worthwhile investment.
  5. We are investing in more face-to-face sales staff. There was a time when GNS thought nothing of sending a sales person 500 kilometres to visit three customers and receive $1000 worth of orders – in total! Clearly the costs associated with this behaviour are prohibitive and of course this model is not valid for the entire market. It’s ultimately a case of providing the appropriate levels of service at the most viable cost to service. Our customers had, and some still do have, an expectation that the GNS Area Manager will come in to their store, count stock and build an order for them. Whilst we want to be increasingly relevant business partners to your business, we cannot keep doing the same things the same ways as we have done for in previous years whilst remaining a viable business. We must leverage technology wherever possible, use the market intelligence gathered individually or collectively to be better wholesalers, retailers or resellers in our respective markets. As I write our National Sales Manager Retail is in Perth interviewing for a New Business Development Manager for our WA team.

As I stated above – we will (both) only win when you understand what we can and can’t do, what you need or don’t require, and ultimately what you offer in both products and services to your customers – regardless of geography or demographic.

If you want to provide your input, feedback or ideas please reach out and let us know. I would prefer for you to know about GNS from GNS – and not from some unknown, unaccountable source serving their own agenda.

Staff News

Daniel Landers

Daniel was with GNS for over 19 Years and during that time held many roles in the business across most of the organisational divisions. In his most recent capacity, Daniel was responsible for the GNS Procurement function and Global Sourcing Programs. This covered a wide range of processes from finding and buying new products, local supplier management, developing our campaigns and producing our marketing materials.

Daniel approached me just prior to Xmas 2014 and advised he was leaving to start his own business. Daniel was able to stay with the business until Mid-March whilst we found a suitable replacement in Neil Sinclair, and now in working full time in his own business; Dynamik Carpet Cleaning. See http://www.dynamikcarpetcleaning.com.au and call Daniel if you want a great job done!

We do thank Daniel for his contribution and believe he will build a successful business.

Alex Stewart
Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
02 8708 3400
alex.stewart@gnswholesale.com.au