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Bolt and Engineering: celebrating 39 years of ‘looking for the light’ – and finding it!

The Bolt and Engineering Distributors (B.E.D.) Group, a well-known and respected industry force, has been proudly championing the pivotal role of fasteners across a wide variety of sectors for almost 40 years.

The B.E.D. Group celebrates its 39 th anniversary – and enters into the 40 th year of trading – on 01 November 2022. This while being driven by a ‘100 / 0’ service delivery policy: meaning B.E.D. people – from the CEO and management level right through to new recruit – pledge to always give 100 percent of their best efforts, taking responsibility with zero tolerance for excuses.

B.E.D. CEO and co-founder Mike Giltrow explains: “It is astonishing – and extremely humbling – to think that the company has proudly been in business for almost 40 years. We established the B.E.D. Group in 1983 – together with my co-founder, Ernie Barnett – when I was still in my early twenties, while Ernie was 15 years my senior. He and I had worked together for three years at a previous company, where he ran the fasteners division and was my mentor and guide, before we decided to go into business together and build a company based on good ethics, customer service and the ‘nuts and bolts’ of good business.

The relationship was founded on extremely strong trust and respect, and in fact we began our business on a handshake and worked according to a true gentleman’s agreement. We then worked together for some 27 years – literally side-by-side (sharing an office) before Ernie’s retirement in 2010. We remain very close today: bound together by our very special B.E.D. bond, as co-founders who ‘raised’ the company from its inception to maturity.”

A logical expansion across multiple industries

While the company’s core expertise lies in fasteners, the B.E.D. Group has expanded over time so that its product and service offerings now provide a logical extension of fastening processes into bolting, cutting, welding and more.

The company today supplies a comprehensive range of locally produced and imported fasteners, as well as quality tools, welding and cutting equipment and consumables, bearings, lifting products, PPE, industrial paints and thinners, and oils and lubricants to South African industry. The vertical sectors that are supplied include agriculture, mining, engineering, construction, materials handling, transportation, working at height, rail and welding.

Giltrow notes that – as with most companies that have achieved a certain longevity -“there is no doubt that our business has faced its challenges through the years, and stayed afloat through some volatile times and watershed moments. These have included local and global challenges: recessions, political crises, energy crises, a pandemic and even a European war. Today, however, we are grateful that we have not only survived, but continue to thrive.”

Local expertise and old-fashioned values

Giltrow believes that part of the company’s growth and success as a distributor across multiple industries is rooted in its adherence to old-fashioned values.

“People are at the heart of everything we do,” he enthuses, “including our employees, our suppliers and our customers. The business was not founded on fancy systems, but on these pivotal questions: ‘What does the customer want and need, and can we solve their challenges? Also, can we source the customer’s requirement in the quickest possible time?’ The B.E.D. Group was customer-centric and service-based from inception, and this remains our primary focus.”

Giltrow points out that B.E.D. as a company prefers to deal with the person who is actually using the product: “I believe that always helping our customer ‘find the perfect fit – fast’ means that we are truly providing a value-adding service to industry.

As a business, we have gone to great lengths to build up our expertise, both in our products as well as our knowledge of the local industries and communities in which we operate. As an extension of this approach, we also actively seek out employees who know their customers, their businesses and their requirements.”

One such example of this local expertise lies in Giltrow’s right hand man and business partner, Managing Director Jan Viljoen.

“I met Jan who was initially our customer when the B.E.D. Group carried out its first acquisition – which became our Klerksdorp branch – five years after our inception,” explains Giltrow. “At the time, Jan was heading up a family-owned company in the region, into which we wanted to expand. The company itself, as well as the area, was an excellent fit with our business strategy. This first acquisition, in 1988, fortunately allowed us to retain Jan’s services as the Operations Manager and shareholder, as he brought with him a wealth of acquired knowledge of the area and of the local mining industry in particular.

We followed the same strategy when we opened other branches around the country: from province to province, the idea was to begin with the right person. This was a key operational ethos: we wanted people born and bred in those areas to be heading our new branches, who would understand the culture. In time, this created a deep understanding of local markets and customers, and allowed us to provide tailored solutions accordingly.”

Today, from its humble beginnings in Gauteng, which operates from the Wadeville premises and also serves as the B.E.D. head office, the company has grown into a network that includes nine branches countrywide – all with a distinctive individual character, but equally, a strong buy-in to the company ethos and culture – as well as an Exports division and two welding and cutting repair centres, in Gauteng and in the Western Cape.

Looking for the light

Giltrow says he is honoured to celebrate these achievements – and the company’s 39 th anniversary – despite the recent background of the Covid-19 years of 2020 and 2021, current global recessionary threats and ongoing challenges in the local and global economy. He notes that against such difficulties, he and his team strive to remain positive throughout.

“If you look for the darkness, you will always be able to find it. However conversely, you can also choose to look instead for the light, with the same results. It is my belief that there are always pockets of light to be found, even in the darkest times,” he notes. “As we continue to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic – together with the other local and global challenges that we face – I take comfort in the strength and resilience of South Africans as a nation, and our underlying ‘can-do’ attitude.

As we look forward to our 40 th anniversary in 2023, I know that our team members will continue to play their part in building on the strong foundations of this amazing company – in the sure knowledge that we will continue servicing our clients – during good times and bad – while also continuing to add value to the industrial supply chain. Challenging times will always present opportunities to succeed and ‘find the light’,” he concludes.

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