The Forte Group has dropped ‘buying’ from its name to be more reflective of the new consultative direction it has taken.
And that one-word edit was the focus of the decorative plumbing and hardware group’s February conference at the Naples Grande Resort in Naples, Florida.
“As I started calling our members the feeling I got was shareholders vs. vendors instead of shareholders with vendors,” new Forte Group CEO Cindy Hall told Supply House Times during the conference. “One of the things going forward is full commitment to both. Each can stand on their own, but showrooms, manufacturers and a new corporate team working in tandem will lift us all. More value and more exposure happens with everyone pulling in the same positive direction. We will be able to attract more best-in-class partners across the board and we can go where it previously was not possible.”
The change was evident immediately in Naples where a kickoff meeting included both shareholders and vendors. “My job and the Forte executive team’s job is to make sure we keep it balanced and offer programs that continually are value-added, exclusive and promote growth,” Hall said.
New Forte Group President Jimmy Georgitsos of Astro Design Centre in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, who started his two-year term in Naples, said a partnership between shareholders and vendors equates to more strength in the group.
“We offer more to the group besides the traditional buying group model of rebates,” he said. “We have transformed to a sales and marketing group offering more platforms for shareholders and vendors to grow the group together. In the past, my feeling was it was an ‘us against them’ kind of a scenario. There was a separation between shareholders and vendors. Now, we’re all members. As we continually evolve and move forward as one, the future of Forte is bright. “
The group, which has rebranded with a new logo and website at fortegroup.com, unveiled a number of new initiatives during the conference centered on innovative digital marketing, user-friendly and wide-reach training, and fun.
“One of the benefits of participating in Forte, especially at the annual conference, is dealers get together peer-to-peer and share best practices,” explained Forte Group Board of Directors and Vendor Committee member Erin Bittner, the president of Dallas-based Pierce Hardware and JCR Distributors. “There is unquestionable value in vendors meeting face-to-face with the owner/shareholder. The challenge is there are about 1,000 salespeople in our showrooms back home that don’t have the benefit of coming to conference.
“Forte Group has developed ways to help the manufacturer convey pertinent information directly to the showroom in a much more effective and digestible way. It’s a very effective platform designed so the manufacturer feels as much value as the shareholder does being a part of Forte. It’s all about being better together. Forte Group is not a one-way street. Our leadership is continuously reinventing old methods to add efficiency, grow relationships and value with the intent that our manufacturers insist on being in the group.”
Georgitsos has been impressed with the changes Hall and her team have rolled out in a short amount of time. “In today’s world, especially with how technology has taken over businesses, transformed them so quickly, this is the only way to survive,” he said. “You collaborate on best business and marketing practices while working together to bring useful tools to streamline your business. We can’t do this by ourselves and now we don’t have to.”
This article was originally titled “Forte Group Conference: ‘Better Together’” in the April 2018 print edition of Supply House Times.