The journey to building a strong relationship

1 September 2020 • 3 min read

Andrew Acheson, Commercial Fuels Customer Manager

When Fletcher Building Ltd, one of New Zealand's largest building materials and construction companies, began a formal supplier review for its entire fuel needs, it marked the start of a journey of collaboration and openness with Z.

Think of construction – residential and commercial housing, roads, infrastructure, cement, steel or aggregate – and there's a good chance Fletcher does it.

With a mission to build better communities, economies and living, Fletcher Building companies depend heavily on their fuel supply. To ensure their suppliers can deliver to their needs, and are aligned with where they are headed, Fletcher Building undertakes a rigorous supplier review every five years.

Andrew Acheson, Commercial Fuels Customer Manager at Z takes up the story.

"Fletcher Building approached Z in April 2019 stating their intention to go to market by releasing a Request for Proposal (RFP) and would we be interested in taking part?"

Naturally, Z were excited to be asked. And the initial scope arrived; delivery of 38 million litres of fuel annually and fuel cards to all business units (3,500 cards), all with a strong focus on competitive pricing, safety, continuity of supply and network strength.

But that wasn't all. Fletcher Building signposted a strong desire for a competitive staff offer and solid bona-fides on sustainability.

"The weighting they applied to sustainability and a comprehensive staff offer took us aback initially. It's not something that everyone comes to us with a focus on."

With the wheels in motion, Z got to work. "We effectively gathered a team of people from across the business, which included representatives from our Mini-Tankers division, assets, legal, marketing and customer operations… to name but a few. We started by pulling together content even prior to the tender RFP arriving. We pressure-tested our capabilities. And we set up project timelines."

But above the practicalities, a guiding principle was created: to place a pure focus on listening and asking. As Andrew says, that principle helped guide every interaction.

"Fletcher Building really responded to our collaborative approach. In terms of what we were offering – new bulk tanks, new ways of managing inventory and reporting, new on-site equipment, a bespoke staff offer and the ways we could manage that for them – they appreciated we were coming in with fresh ideas to improve their business, not just, 'Here's a bulk tank. See you later.' From there on, it just became continual engagement."

That early engagement set a positive tone. But building a relationship takes time. It's all well and good putting an offer down on paper. Convincing a customer you can transition 27 bulk tanks, replace them with new ones and do so without disruption – those were assurances Z had to work hard on. And so a transition plan and a deepening collaboration led to presentations to demonstrate Z's capabilities to the entire Fletcher Building business.

"Whichever supplier the Fletcher Building procurement team ultimately recommended, they had to present their case to key stakeholders within their business that the move would be better for them, that it would cause minimal disruption, and that the entire business would be better off in the long run. We were really happy to support the procurement team as they saw fit within that internal process."

Honesty and transparency also had a vital role to play, too. Especially when it came to the new, app-driven approach Z proposed for the Fletcher Building staff offer "I guess we also put our hand up at times to say, 'If we do this, you'll be the first cab off the rank. And we're learning a little bit on this as we go. We're going to be transparent about where we are and the journey we'll be taking. So let's work on it together, because this is what we think we can do.' And the staff offer really pushed us beyond a default response, too. Instead of saying, "You will have to manage it. Here are the fuel cards, here is the price and here's how we can manage it", we asked, "What does the staff offer look like via the Z App? How can we help? How could we manage it? How could that work?"

But in the end, it was about showing up consistently and creating meaningful connections that really mattered.

"I believe we showed up as an adaptable and cohesive unit. We were thrown a few curveballs along the way. But we welcomed those. To work through them and say, 'we can do this' then actually do it – that was gratifying."

"I think the importance of personal connections – of making those connections to foster confidence and trust – it's extremely important in a process like this. I believe we'd already earned that with Higgins (a business within the wider Fletcher Building organisation) over the course of decades-long supplier relationship. And we really appreciated the opportunity to be able to extend that across the wider business. Personal connectedness, that's something everybody here with the Z whanau really looks to create. Making it happen was a huge, huge undertaking by so many people in the business."

And as for how the transition has gone? So far, so smooth. Fuel continuity remains unchanged. All 27 new bulk tanks have been installed and work as promised. 2,700 fuel cards across 27 business units have been issued and are working too. As is the staff offer. 2,800 staff have signed up to it and are getting used to how it works.

Are there still some improvements to be made? "Of course," says Andrew. "There always will be. But that's part of the journey. And we're thrilled to be on board."

Tags Business Case Study

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