B&Q Driving Force

Always captivated by entrepreneurial vigour, one tale I enjoyed learning involved B&Q. They changed the face of their sector in the UK, and latterly all over the world, even opening their giant DIY retail warehouses in China.

When delving into the story it’s clear that of the two founders, one was the dynamic proactive go-getter, the other the backroom reactive. This driving force, the Q in B&Q David Quayle died April 2010.

His two light-bulb pieces of thinking were:

  1. inspired by a Belgian hypermarket with a tools section, why should any British DIY’er wanting professional building supplies have to go to builders’ merchants or ironmongers, where the service could be intimidating – especially if the customer were female, and
  2. evolving to pay their suppliers cash within a week of being invoiced, in exchange for discounts, so that by the time the invoice arrived, they had shifted the goods so, effectively, their suppliers paid for their stock.

After selling up for his millionaire fortune, he went on the further his success by founding what became the world’s second largest home video rental chain, 800-store Cityvision. Not content with that, after exiting there, he then opened a successful contemporary art business.

A truly remarkable retail visionary, what I always liked about his rise was that he began working life a humble rep. One obituary lists his selling credentials:

  • he sold comics and chewing gum to school friends, and later paints and paint brushes to his fellow art students at discount prices
  • when on National Service with the RAF in Cyprus, he spent his spare time setting up as an informal supplier of general merchandise to his fellow servicemen, undercutting Naafi prices
  • returning to Britain, he worked for a time as a carpet salesman

I also liked reading this insight into their success. The B&Q founders “had “absolutely no aptitude for DIY”. Their own incompetence, they explained, helped them to understand their customers’ needs.”

An inspiration for ambitious salespeople everywhere.

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