When their father retired as a tradesman, identical twins Ian and Craig Baldwin set up a website to shift their dad's leftover materials. Following the website's success, the pair decided to create their own construction supply company which was primarily based online. Craig speaks to BQ about his and his brother's journey so far.
What is it the company does?
We are a technology-led distribution business which distributes an extensive range of quality building materials products at competitive prices to a wide range of customer types.
Our business is driven by innovation and is ‘online-first’ which allows us to provide exceptional customer service and value for money via an extremely user-friendly online store.
We have strong and valuable relationships with all our suppliers, so we ensure customers receive the best products in as quick a time as possible.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
Joint CEOs and shareholders of Building Supplies Online LTD. Our role evolves around executing our growth strategy over the next 3-5 years along with our partners, Cairngorm Capital. Ian manages the website and marketing function of the business and I oversee the operational side and fiscal management of the business.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
Both myself and Ian have had our own business’s previously, Ian owned an online mortgage brokerage and worked as a partner in a construction consultancy. We ultimately wanted to create our own business together and initially saw a niche in the market for an e-commerce business in a traditional sector. This was driven by the drive towards online and the movement away from big box shed business.
In 2017 we were ready to enter next phase of growth and we entered a partnership with Cairngorm Capital, who’ve been instrumental in unlocking that growth via capital investment and the influence of their leadership network and sector knowledge.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Since starting the business our main focus has been people and ensuring the cultural fit. Great leaders have to motivate and inspire those around them. This has and will continue to stick with us no matter what scale the business reaches. Seven years on we still have the same management team which speaks volumes.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position?
Growth presents a number of challenges. Recruiting the right people who are a great cultural fit for the business is hard, finding five is ok but scaling 30 and beyond whilst keeping your identity is tricky.
Scale can be an issue too, because the business is growing rapidly we constantly review our in-house technology and innovate to keep ahead of the competition.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
Myself and Ian both have young children so spending time with them as much as we can helps us get perspective. Ian is actively involved as chairman of a local football team and as a Rugby coach.
I like to play golf and am studying for my Private Pilot’s License.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an RAF fighter pilot and Ian always wanted to be a musician.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Not embracing change – being open to new ideas is a key driver for our business, we constantly debate internally via Ideas hubs with all employees and implement change if we feel something is not working, we have to, everything moves at such a pace in the e-commerce space that the old saying about not changing and dying is very real.
If you look at some of the traditional retail businesses that have disappeared I think in large, it’s because they have not adopted change within the organisation.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
BSO achieving our hyper-growth aspirations and being a widely recognised brand in the online Building and DIY market with a reputation for delivering outstanding customer service, underpinned by the latest technology.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
My first piece of advice would be to do with culture – get the culture of your business right from the very start, happy employees mean happy customers, engage with your employees regularly, no matter what size the business is.
I often walk into businesses where the atmosphere and culture isn't there. I think it would be really hard to grow a great business if we didn’t have a great culture and good engagement levels with our employees.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
From day one, focus on understanding your customer. When we first started the business, our aim was growth and numbers, however, since our partnership with Cairngorm Capital the focus has completely shifted to understanding who our customer is and what motivates them to purchase with us.
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