We live at a time when the average lifespan of a Fortune 500 Company is around 15 years and a business which has lasted for decades often catches our eye, as if to find out whether there is some secret recipe for commercial longevity.
Distributor of FG Wilson generator sets, Blackwood Hodge, have been part of the Kenyan economic landscape since 1949, 70 years. Since 1993, they have been an official distributor of FG Wilson branded generator sets, covering Kenya and Uganda, in a working relationship which dates back even further. FG Wilson themselves have been around for more than 50 years.
In 2018, Blackwood Hodge came under a new management team from Tamgo International, a Zahid Group Company. The new Blackwood Hodge Country Manager Kenya and Uganda, Ahmed Elbehiry, says it’s been a time of reflection and renewal.
“We’ve been celebrating the past, conscious of Blackwood Hodge’s great history. Moving into our 8th decade, we’re now thinking a lot about the future, reflecting on what we’re here for. We’re fortunate in that the generator sets which we sell are of excellent quality. And our role is to surround them with all the service and support that a customer could need. So our starting point as a team is how we can effectively deliver great service for the 21st Century.”
The guiding principle was: look after the organisation and team, and that will look after the customer.
First came a complete end-to-end refurbishment of the facilities, and within the industry, it’s a place anyone would be proud to call their place of work. But as Ahmed is quick to highlight, “It’s not just about having a good-looking facility, it’s about how efficient and effective we can be in satisfying our customers’ needs.”
Within the team, there was a tightening-up of structure and clear demarcation of roles and responsibilities. Operations Manager Kenneth Muindi says, “In small and medium sized enterprises, sometimes roles evolve organically. Now we have our people and their expertise all tightly defined. There’s very clear demarcation of the departments and very good communication between them. We’re seeing a lot more interaction which of course makes operations very efficient. This is important because the service a customer gets is only as good as the service we give each other within the organisation.”
Customer service functions were given special attention. Judith Wangui from the Parts Department says, “We restructured our warehouse which means we can access and pick parts faster and new processes are helping us communicate more quickly with customers. And with additional customer service people, we can follow up more effectively with customers, give better after sales service and support.”
Technicians are now freed up to spend more time with customers which means more support for more people and they’re more able to bring back feedback and learning which is shared in a structured way within the organisation.
Customers have started to feel the changes. Joseph Maundu from Joe Invesco Agencies says, “The changes have come with a lot of benefits. We’re getting parts slightly cheaper, from ready stock, which reduces our turnaround period for all the products we are dealing with. In a modern business, time and reliability are of the essence. If we’re getting the parts, and the right parts, then that is a plus for us.”
You can see the vigour and energy in the people at Blackwood Hodge when you speak with them. Ahmed is excited for the future: “The team works. Actually we feel like we are in a family. If you look after Blackwood Hodge, the resources, the expertise and the team, everything is possible.”
It’s a view echoed by TAMGO International General Manager Fadel Hassan: “As a part of our long-term expansion strategy in East Africa, Blackwood Hodge Kenya is the first step in our African journey.”