If they were married, Bob Beaumont would be celebrating his golden anniversary with the company founded by his father in 1960.
Rather than rest on his laurels and remain complacent after 50 years at Beaumont Tiles, CEO and executive chairman Bob Beaumont is looking to overseas markets for expansion. He also plans to grow the groups’ local network in Australia from 115 to 180 stores. Most of the 65 new Australian stores will be franchised businesses, according to Bob.
He recently told Inside Franchise Business, “There is plenty of opportunity within Australia, and opportunity for sales within each store to grow as well”. Staff development is the key to strong sales growth, he added. “We already have very good marketing. I think we can develop our people to be stronger and better than they already are.”
When asked if he ever anticipated that Beaumont Tiles would become a leader in the industry, Bob simply replied: “We had one store, and that was it”.
A humble start
From a single shop in Adelaide to the biggest retailer of tiles in the country, Bob says a lot of the company’s success came from taking the opportunities that were presented, even if they were risky.
“My father and I had always been keen on the idea of grabbing an opportunity when it presented itself. In the early days, we were offered the Victorian outlets of a failing tiling business, which we decided to go ahead and buy,” he said.
“It was very risky because it was losing a lot of money. However, we gradually built on it until finally, we became the biggest in Victoria. That then enabled us to leap frog into Queensland and other parts of the country.”
Bob has never been afraid to take a chance. He said, “Someone who used to work with me very closely used to say, Bob, you bite off more than you can chew and then you chew like buggery.
“That’s exactly what we used to do, but it’s how we got to where we are today.”
The road to success wasn’t without its challenges, with the recession of the 1990s one of the most trying times. “It was really tough, and we came pretty close to the edge, as did many other businesses at the time,” said Bob.
But from the depths of despair, Beaumont Tiles became a business with serious flair. Bob said it was from this low point that he set the biggest target of his career. “I set a goal that by the year 2000 we would be turning over 100 million dollars,” he said. “A lot of people thought I was a fool, but we did it. I think it’s very important to set really big goals and go for them like crazy.
“I think that was probably the biggest challenge we faced but out of that was one of the biggest victories.”
Over his half-century long career in the tile industry, Bob has experienced a great deal of change. This includes a major shift in the tiling industry that led to the beginning of the DIY market boom.
“We were the drivers of switching the whole industry over to adhesives from the traditional ‘mud mix’, which is what they all called it,” he explains. “This meant that DIYers could do tiling quite easily themselves and this certainly drove the renovation market.”
Bob believes homeowners are currently spending an average of $20,000 on a full bathroom renovation which is helping to drive the company’s robust growth. At the moment it is importing 100 shipping containers full of tiles each week to keep up with demand, according to a report in Fairfax Media.
Beaumont Tiles generates about 50% of its business from the renovations market and the other half from new home and apartment construction.
Bob says tiles themselves have also transformed dramatically over the decades. “Looking at the product itself, it’s not only changed in look but in composition. Most of the tiles these days are porcelain, which are far less porous than the old tiles.” he said.
“However, the greatest change is in the evolution of digital glazing, where you can take almost any surface – timber, stone, slate or concrete – and duplicate it on the surface of a tile. This gives you an extremely durable, easy to clean surface which looks the same as timber, for example.”
The way homeowners are using tiles has also changed remarkably. Bob said, “I built my first home in 1974 and I put tiles throughout much of the living area. People said I was absolutely crazy because nobody did that.
“We were making a statement that we believed in the product and we saw a big change over the following 20 years in how people used tiles.”
This year, the retailer is launching an IT system that will be a base for future business. Bob said, “We plan to grow substantially over the next four to five years and then we can use this as a launch pad to extend the brand overseas.”
There are currently no specific countries targeted for expansion, but the team working on exporting the brand have pinpointed countries such as Malaysia and India as well as North America (ie. Canada) as potential regions. Bob said, “We believe by bringing together the disparate parts of the business, particularly the IT this year, we can build on this package, transfer and adapt it. We will have to be flexible but strong enough to withstand any environment.”
He identifies the challenges ahead to be developing a system that takes a client through the sales process to delivery and payment, integrating all aspects.
To carry on his business success, Bob will continue to live by his motto: “You can’t just dream big, you’ve got to dream huge.”
Pictured: Bob Beaumont (centre) surrounded by his Beaumont Tiles senior executive team.