New Omni buying group President John Aykroyd calls his first six months at the helm “a blur.”

Aykroyd, most recently the executive vice president of business development at Sloan Valve, sat down with Supply House Times during the buying group’s January Spring Meeting at the Grand Hyatt in San Antonio, Texas, to talk about new initiatives he’s implemented as well as what the future holds for Omni, which celebrated its 35th anniversary in Hawaii in January 2016.

“There has been a lot of good transitioning over the last six months,” he said. “I needed to understand and learn the Omni business as quick as possible and then make that transition from Bob (former longtime Omni president Hoff who has retired as president but remains with the company as a consultant). There was a succession plan in place and steps to follow along the way. The transition has been a success.”

Aykroyd has implemented numerous initiatives since taking over, including the transition of the large spring meeting (that this year attracted more than 800 people) to a paperless event that included the use of a new mobile show app. Omni members heard a presentation on succession planning, while members and vendor partners took part in a young leaders gathering as well as a women in industry breakfast.

On the back-office end, Aykroyd introduced a KeyBank program, which provides Omni members with a group-related credit card to be used on operational expenses. “If you think about operational costs such as fuel, office supplies and phones, everybody takes a credit card,” Aykroyd explained. “Our members get a certain percentage of that back and over time, whether you are a small or large member, that percentage is going to add up.”

Aykroyd also introduced a dashboard-type computer program that will provide Omni members with critical data related to the purchases they make. “The dashboard is going to be beneficial for both members and vendors,” he said. “With the data staring them right in the face, this allows our members to make better purchasing decisions.”

On the vendor side, a series of vendor roundtable discussions were held the afternoon prior to the annual Omni Reunion kickoff party.

“A lot of good information came from those meetings,” Aykroyd said. “Everybody wants to be heard. I showed them some of the changes that have been made. I listened to the vendors and told them here’s what we can do to help and I believe they appreciated that.”

Omni also has added an irrigation vertical to its mix. “That’s pretty big news,” said Aykroyd. “We have a lot of synergies with our current membership and vendor partners. It’s a natural fit.”

Aykroyd said another goal of his is to continue to develop the group’s relationship with the American Supply Association. “ASA is a wonderful organization and I would like to align my new organization even more with them,” he said.

With is first spring meeting under his belt, Aykroyd is excited about Omni’s future in a constantly changing marketplace.

“We ended the year (2016) right in line with the market,” he said. “We had some members leave due to acquisition and I think we are going to see a lot more of that the next couple years because interest rates are going up and money has never been cheaper. The time to take on debt is now. The ultimate goal for me is to protect Omni’s purchasing power and we have some initiatives in place to definitely do that. The first six months have been very positive.”


This article was originally titled “A new era begins” in the March 2017 print edition of Supply House Times.