Plumblink awards supplier of the year

By Benjamin Brits

Held at Katy’s Palace Bar in Johannesburg on 23 August 2018, Plumblink’s VIP suppliers were hosted for the annual awards.

Gary Chandler, commercial director for Plumblink, officially opened the evening. The venue, adorned with various trinkets and memorabilia, perfectly complemented the intention of a more informal and relaxed evening. “This is quite a different experience to the usual events hosted by Plumblink, which followed a more formal, structured programme,” said Chandler. The evening successfully promoted the theme of ‘getting to know each other better’ as laughs and serious conversations filled the venue while platters were shared and guests were entertained with live music.

Food1   Food2

Various delectable food platters were served to guests, followed by desserts and fruit.


Chandler, after his opening words of welcome, handed over to CEO Seaweed McFarlane, who set the casual mood by exchanging a few jokes before addressing the ‘serious stuff’, as he referred to it. “The way the business has grown, what we have done, and what we have achieved over the years, have been great. Looking back a couple of years, when we opened our first little express store, it was called a spaza shop, but we are proud to now be opening our 100th spaza shop this year. A special thanks to the people in all of these stores that have done us very proud,” McFarlane shared.

McFarlane continued that “There are still many opportunities for Plumblink as a business to grow. For the suppliers, there are many opportunities to be a part of that growth, whatever avenue the growth entails; so, ‘watch this space’ because Plumblink is not going to idle along. The executive members, management, and staff know the strategy and are committed to the growth of Plumblink.”

Whiskey   Wine

A variety of wines and single malt whiskeys were served as tasters.


Some of the more serious business challenges were also brought to the fore, of which the topic of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and specifically BEE scorecards were addressed, with an urgent appeal and encouragement to all suppliers to actively work on improving their own scorecards. McFarlane noted the staggering 55% of the top 20 suppliers being non-conformant, which heavily discounts the Plumblink scorecard on procurement. Essentially, this has forced a change in the business model to be adopted. “We appreciate that times are tough, but there are many opportunities to help South Africa move forward. I believe in this and support it, and I encourage each and every supplier to do the same,” McFarlane concluded.

Chandler, again addressing the guests, agreed and supported McFarlane’s stand on BEE, stating that “non-conformance should in fact be seen as criminal towards the industry. Suppliers cannot just sit back and say we have foreign investors and therefore we are not going to change. We understand you cannot necessarily do anything about a company’s ownership, but you can participate in social development programmes, supplier development, and so on — we have to work on these things, giving it enough time and attention. Businesses that operate in South Africa and take a portion of the market share must be following best practices, and yes, it’s not easy, but this [BEE] must really be taken seriously. Plumblink’s procurement bill is in excess of R1.6-billion annually and due to non-conformity, a large portion of this spend counts for naught on the Plumblink scorecard, and this may in future result in procuring product from suppliers who have a single-level better rating. This principle does not only apply to Plumblink, but to any possible purchaser of products. Change is afoot, and suppliers cannot keep on relying on their brand’s position in the market alone. If you don’t get on the train as we have been speaking about for years, this change is going to leave you behind.”

Group main

Chandler ended off the serious aspects of the speeches for the evening, and further encouraged guests to mingle and put names to faces — he jokingly added that everyone should find out each other’s BEE ratings. Guests were then invited to participate in wine or whiskey tasting (or both), as well as having something to eat before the supplier of the year would be announced.


Katy’s Palace Bar hosted Plumblink’s VIP suppliers evening.


After some further networking and live music, guests were brought together again for the announcement of the supplier of the year, which was revealed to be Heat Tech, having received three out of four regional votes. Wayne Vertue, commercial manager of Heat Tech, accepted the award and was greatly appreciative. “We are very happy to receive the award and thankful to Plumblink for the tremendous support they have given us. We are a young company in the industry, so for us to win an award like this is more than just a certificate; it’s the result of many hours of dedication and hard work,” Vertue said.

In his closing, Chandler thanked Janet Retief, organiser and marketing manager for Plumblink, as well as everyone else who had assisted in making the evening another successful event. He also thanked all the suppliers for their individual contributions to the successful partnerships that have been developed, before handing over to Howard Greenstein, CEO of Bidvest Commercial Products and chairman of Plumblink, to conclude the official proceedings.

“Thank you to you as suppliers — you are the lifeblood of the company. The success of Plumblink will be driven by those companies that are innovative and that will go the extraWinner mile to ultimately make our [Plumblink] customers happy. There is a great opportunity for each and every supplier, and those that will get ahead are those that seize the opportunities by making things happen. As we have spoken about BEE tonight, it is very important to Bidvest for a number of reasons, but it’s essentially a South African imperative.


Heat Tech was awarded the Plumblink Supplier of the Year Award. From left: Seaweed McFarlane (Plumblink), Gary Chandler (Plumblink), Wayne Vertue (Heat Tech), and Howard Greenstein (Plumblink and Bidvest).


In essence, Plumblink is an exceptional company with management that have excelled, and excelled because years ago, they collectively decided among themselves that they had to change. To Seaweed, Gary, and the rest of the Plumblink management, we salute you. There are not many companies in South Africa today that can tell you that their profits grew over the last year by double-digits — I am really proud of them and how they have grappled with the tough economic times in the construction industries. Our next challenge going forward is to double the size of this business. We have put a huge amount of money into our infrastructure. We have just built a brand-new, world-class facility in the Western Cape, and our future plans include building facilities like this in Johannesburg and Durban. As we grow, we want our suppliers to grow with us too,” Greenstein concluded.

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