Peter Hindle MBE: Enable will transform the construction materials supply chain

Peter Hindle MBE: Enable will transform the construction materials supply chain

The former Jewson and SaintGobain executive, and ex-chair of the UK Builders Merchant Federation, tells us why he’s excited to be part of Enable’s growth journey.

“One critical element of running a large merchant in the UK was rebate management,” says Peter Hindle MBE, former Senior Vice President of SaintGobain. “Scale economies meant rebate got increasingly complex, and there wasn’t any software available to manage it. We had to use manual systems, with all the risk that entails.”

It seems a startling admission at first, but as Hindle makes clear, it’s a problem that’s endemic across the industry. As the sector has consolidated into a handful of large distributors, manufacturers’ rebates and other incentives have ballooned in size and complexity. As Peter says, “Tracking and managing rebate turned into a real science.”

A new software solution to tackle the rebate problem – and more

For distributors, those bigger incentives should not only translate into greater profitability, but also serve as a fulcrum around which to build collaborative relationships with manufacturers.

But the problem for Hindle – and his counterparts at other builders merchants – was that there was no software to help manage rebate or manufacturer relationships in this way. The internet had transformed the construction industry, bringing new competitors and new technology solutions. But even the newest, cloud-based ERP systems couldn’t cope with the complexity of hundreds of rebate agreements, with different manufacturers, layered across multiple regions, SKUs and branches.

When Enable CEO Andrew Butt first asked Peter for his advice on growing a rebate management software business, unfortunately, it was 12 years too late for Peter to utilize it. Peter says, “I’d retired from the industry without getting the benefit of using it. But when I saw the Enable system, and introduced it to distributors I know, and saw the benefits they’ve got from it, it’s quite amazing.”

Helping distributors and manufacturers to collaborate for growth

Andrew Butt takes up the story. “We reached out to Peter in 2016, when he’d just stepped down from leading SaintGobain in the UK, Ireland and South Africa,” he says. “It was a big ask: he’d been the CEO of a multi-billion pound organization, and we only had a couple of customers at that point.”

“But we’d started to get traction with distributors, and we thought he could help. And since that day, he’s been instrumental in guiding our strategy, advising our customers, and helping us all to see that this is about much more than managing rebate: it’s about driving real growth.”

That’s because, while at its core Enable is a cloud-based rebate management system that helps distributors track and claim all the rebate they’re owed, its true value is in its ability to promote supply chain collaboration.

“Manufacturers and distributors need each other,” says Butt. “But often there’s a lack of trust between those trading partners. They have different plans, different systems, disconnected data. And even if they do share data, it doesn’t make sense because they’re talking different languages.”

Peter Hindle agrees. “Distributors have never been able to connect with suppliers in a smart way,” he says. “And if you’re always arguing about what the rebate number should be, there’s a lack of trust there. You’ll never really get that market share going.”

Enable tackles that problem by creating transparency and real-time visibility of rebate numbers, supporting collaboration and driving mutual growth. And the more ways distributors use it, Hindle says, the more valuable it becomes: “The real winners are guys that have broadened it from finance down into procurement teams, so they can grow market share together. This system gives all of them greater transparency and a greater chance of winning.”

A major software success story – with happy customers at the core

The message is getting out, because Enable’s business is growing fast. “Just in the past year we’ve more than doubled our revenues, grew our customer base by 150%+, and closed our Series B funding round,” says Butt. “But most importantly, we’ve never lost our focus on customer service. Every customer we’ve ever signed is still with us.”

And while distributors have been the early adopters, Enable is starting to appeal to manufacturers such as Douglas Dynamics and Stemco too. “Effectively, we’re enabling manufacturers to retain and grow a healthy mix of partners who can be their sales and support arm,” says Butt. “And that benefits customers as well, because they can get that expert knowledge and support locally. It’s a virtuous cycle.”

An exciting time to be on board at Enable

With Enable on a stellar growth path, Peter Hindle says it’s an exciting time to be on board as an advisor – both to Enable and to its customers. “Enable is evolving fast from a finance system to a collaboration system to a system with the potential to transform the way the whole construction materials supply chain operates,” he says. “I’d say the future’s bright.”

Andrew Butt
The Deal Economy

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