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Straight shooting as we reflect on 2017

Another year has come and gone and we are left to ponder “did we grow the business or did we just exist”?  Human selfreflection is the capacity of humans to exercise introspection and the willingness to learn more about their fundamental nature, purpose and essence. Without this capacity we are beast?

I am skeptical of businesses that do not have the ability of self reflection. At The Powder Keg we do. In people it is easier to recognize because they know it all and have done it all before, but in business it takes real leadership to have self reflection. Normally those that contribute the least have the most to say.

On numerous occasions we have been asked who the owners of The Powder Keg are.  Let the truth be known, customers are the owners of The Powder Keg because without customers there is no business. Paul Luff and I pictured with one such owner of the business since 1976.

Our successes in 2017 were focused around brand development of products that we represent in South Africa. The South African market is strongly influenced by American gear whereas my living in Europe has changed my perspective of value. Broadly speaking, Americans have the gift of marketing and Europeans the gift of product quality. Huntex was a successful branding event for The Powder Keg in 2017.

In Europe many successful businesses started out by producing a product in an area of their engineering passion, and over the years became successful because of product quality and innovation. In America wealth is created quicker but it can be less sustainable. We are biased to European shooting gear except for reloading equipment and components where the sheer size of the USA market drove big investments in reloading.

I live continuous improvement, it is in my blood.  This time last year I reflected and adjusted because it was my belief that I was pushing The Powder Keg too fast.  I was living “legacy is a 1 day problem”.  I then communicated to the team that 2017 was about “better today than yesterday” and not necessarily about being the best.

Now we are left to reflect on 2017 and adjust for 2018. There was significant transformation at The Powder Keg but I see a year that we existed. We achieved a lot, but I have high expectations. Champions have the ability to forget their achievements and set up new goals all the time. 

We will ensure that The Powder Keg achieves greater heights irrespective of the economy. In corporate you get “sand-bagging of targets” and the excuses like “we did not grow because the market did not grow”. Bullshit to all of that.  Leadership is a fine balance between driving urgency which inspires people and panic which has teams freezing up and delivering even less.

The SA economy is down but we must deal with it. There are many businesses that rest on their laurels and cannot change with the times. The Powder Keg will grow by taking market share in ways that deliver more customer value. 

The opportunity to the industry is that “the market is not the market”.  Only a small segment of the population participate in shooting of one form or another; we must promote shooting to all South Africans. Look at how the auto industry performed over the past 15 years vs. the shooting and hunting segments.

The Powder Keg represents a few “gems of products” and 2018 will be about taking these products to every corner of the country.  We chose carefully those products that were the highest value-price-to-performance shooting gear. We also looked at the people driving these organizations; they determine tomorrow. 

In comes Kirsten Knox, a new member of the team who brings leadership and discipline. Discipline is not only about being on time but includes many aspects of life and business such ensuring words and actions are consistent and staying focused on the golden thread.  Kirsten often brings us back to much needed FOCUS.

I have been part of successful teams. My successes were always as a result of others contributions.  Be weary of managers who keep telling you what they have achieved, or when there is a problem they blame others. Kirsten will help The Powder Keg build winning teams, he recognizes others contributions. Shaun (above) has blossomed into a star that we are proud of!

The Powder Keg is all about LIFESTYLE. In 2018 we will invest further in lifestyle abroad such as family safaris and tourism. The Powder Keg will build on its participation in a 10 year hunting concession in Slovenia, and tourism property that is well located and unique.

An area that The Powder Keg focuses a lot on is its communication. More and more customers will be interacting with The Powder Keg via email and over the phone. Their judgement of our professionalism will mainly come down to how we communicate and follow-up.

No-one knows the value of communication more than myself; living 12 years in Slovenia and so pathetic that I don’t speak the language, meaning I have honed other skills to help me connect, especially in hunting which is the only forum I have encountered where not everyone speaks English.

With passion and from the heart The Powder Keg wishes everyone who reads this message a great Christmas and the best for the new year. Don’t rely on luck only, take charge of 2018.   

 

Always something new at The Powder Keg

40 years The Powder Keg and we still delighting our customers. ALWAYS SOMETHING NEW, but still the best products we find are based on user experiences. Overnight success is a myth, maybe in shooting there is the “magic bullet” but at The Powder Keg, we focus on getting better and better every day.

The Powder Keg

Our vision is to be the best run and most respected shooting outfitter in South Africa for our customers. Our mission is to provide customers with the highest value price-to-performance equipment and service. We try new opportunities, we are not afraid to succeedJ

Our team has diverse experiences and backgrounds. Our customers are diverse and we need to be also. At The Powder Keg, we recognise that the best way to grow is to keep moving forward. Making small continual improvements every day will be compounded over time.

At The Powder Keg, we are two complimenting leaderships.  Paul Luff and his team bring their passion, knowledge and customer focus to growing the business and ensuring that every day we are better than the day before.  They are the face to the customer.

The Powder Keg Team

My European locality and core competencies allow me to engage in new ventures in addition to the traditional business of The Powder Keg (related adjacencies); we are constantly seeking new approaches.

We focus on win-win partnerships. Our growth is driven by innovative partnerships, inclusive of suppliers and customers, more than by innovative products alone. We connect on an emotional level in order to cultivate the partnerships that matter.

IWA

In 2016 we secured exclusive product representations. I visited IWA this year more intent to consolidate our supply partnerships than seeking new. This might appear contradictory to bringing new innovative products, but we focused on perfection before moving forward.

The past, “our hearts beat for the season”. We changed our traditional fixed mindset on hunting to include disciplines such as sports shooting. We investing an immense amount of time to develop a growth mindset, acquire new knowledge, and learn new skills in all shooting disciplines.  The Kahles 624i below.

Kahles 624i

The Powder Keg purchased the property next door in Hendrik Potgieter Road to add flexibility to our growth plans. We keeping options open for as long as possible, enabling many different paths forward. We have many opportunities owning this premises, what matters is that we choose right.

We recently introduced family safaris and tourism to Europe. Travel is expensive and customers wanted the ability to link family time, hunting and tourism. Our goal is to have discerning hunters and sports shooters see a NEW WORLD rather than seeing an OLD WORLD better. Hunting in snow should be on your bucket list.

Hunting in snow

The Powder Keg aims to get more women hunters active in SA. Together with Extreme Desires (American TV outdoors programme), we will host a women hunter’s forum on 4th May 2017 in order to get more women outdoors, gun in hand. My daughter under the watchful eye of Dave Hurr.

Dave Hurr

A repeat request from customers is written down and followed through. Some thought we only represent high-end exclusive products, not correct! We represent 2 carefully chosen brands in each product segment, a product in the entry level segment and the other in the premium segment. Delta Optics best in class.

Delta Optics

We are not waiting for the planets to align. We quickly implement new ideas and products, if they do not gain customer interest within 100 days then we drop them and keep moving. We get to the market sooner vs. “analysis paralysis” because speed has its rewards.

In our first 12 months, we spent more sweat than money. We spent carefully and we used equity wisely when seeking supply partners and service providers. We built and paid only for what was needed! All along we continue to improve customer experiences “customers first, always”.  Customers for life.

March17_8

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Continuous transformation of The Powder Keg

The Powder Keg (TPK) continues to transform, building on a rich heritage that spans more than 40 years of legacy of the late Dr Lucas Potgieter.  I am leading the strategic aspects of the transformation while Paul Luff and the local team (pictured below) deliver on the operational needs of the business.  In this newsletter, I highlight some of those fundamental principles which will be the cornerstone of The Powder Keg business philosophy, culture and growth.

The Powder Keg Team

Trust is foremost. Our customers and suppliers must believe in the competence of our service and know that our word is our honour. It takes the time to build trust yet trust can be destroyed in a millisecond and sometimes never regained. In my corporate career we, like all companies, had instances of product or service shortcomings, but these resulted in improved relationships every time because of how we solved the problems.

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At The Powder Keg, we focus on continuous improvement. There is no purpose to come to work just to be average. I personally get energised by improvements and have come to recognise that my well-being is dependent on continuous improvement. Culture change must come from leaders who walk the talk and set the example vs. the policy.  The fish stinks from the head, meaning great leadership takes responsibility for the business vs. blaming others or finding excuses.

The Powder Keg success will be determined by the value that we create for our customers. We must deliver superior customer service and be at the forefront of innovative new product offerings. This does not mean being everything to everyone, but rather being the best in the segments that we choose to “play” in.  Paul Luff is on the ground responsible for superior customer service while I am seeking out new shooting gear that fit our customer needs.

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You will often hear me say that I prefer to be respected rather than liked. It is easy to say YES but real success comes from knowing when and being able to say NO.  I will never sell my soul just to please.  I was often disappointed and sickened in executive leadership meetings in the USA where senior directors of the company would say what they believed the CEO wanted to hear. This resulted in sub-optimization of business success.  At The Powder Keg, I always want to know the real score.

My main focus at The Powder Keg in 2017 will be GROWTH of the business. I did not buy a “shop”, that would be a catastrophic failure of my global learning and experiences of the past 23 years. My purpose is finding innovative approaches to the market in order to grow the business for the mutual advantage of those that become part of that process.  Growth will be primarily focused on the distribution of our partner products to a network of retailers that share our values. We think out of the box.

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The Powder Keg future will always be about focus, 2 balls in the hand vs. 20 in the air. There is only one way how to eat an Elephant and that is one bite at a time. Life is full of opportunity but yet only a small percent of the population become truly successful. At The Powder Keg, we will stick to the golden thread of our strategy and we will not be distracted in that journey by opportunities that do not fit the TPK strategy.

It is important to celebrate successes. The Powder Keg has made quantum steps since new ownership this year, but we are more motivated by the mountain of improvements we still have to implement. We are proud of our new logo and to have gained exclusive partner supply arrangements with Kahles optics, Huglu shotguns, Chevalier clothing, Delta optics (picture below), Grulla serial custom guns and Ales Spendal fine custom guns. Blaser and Mauser will always be part of our history and future.  The bigger challenge has been declining product representation, that ability to say NO, until such a time that we are ready to serve those partnerships properly. We took the time to choose carefully which products to represent at The Powder Keg.

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I will close with The Powder Keg philosophy of win-win; and how much we value relationships. Every memory that I carry from my corporate career are memories of incredible people I met and relationships formed. I have no memories of our record-breaking performances, only about people that made everything possible. My desire is a business where customers, suppliers and employees all feel proud to be part of The Powder Keg. My key responsibility is to drive increased value to every stakeholder in The Powder Keg.

March17_8

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The Powder Keg celebrates 40 years

In this our 1st quarterly newsletter we decided to reflect on the “new” Powder Keg. We are careful how we articulate “new” because the business transformation builds on the legacy of the previous owner Dr Lucas Potgieter.  This year The Powder Keg celebrates 40 years of trading … tradition and excellence of a timeless pioneer.

The year is passing like clays in sports shooting, fortunately, we can look back at more hits than most have on their first outing on the range. New ownership of The Powder Keg took effect in January of this year when the business was bought from the Estate of the late Dr Lucas Potgieter. We knew that we were treading in big footsteps; equally, we recognised the immense opportunity in change.

Paul Luff is the manager of The Powder Keg and David da Silva primarily focused on strategy for profitable growth, a combination of strategic sourcing and innovative approaches to the market. If you scroll to the section “meet the team” under the INFO tab of our website you will find more information about the whole team.

There was more to fix at The Powder Keg than somewhat anticipated, but the journey has been fulfilling. There have been frustrating moments, we strive to “making legacy problems a 1-day problem” but in the gun trade, the licensing aspect adds time to the solution.  We were told that the gun trade did not have a good reputation, we saw that as our opportunity for differentiation.

We have celebrated many successes in a mere 6 months, some highlighted below, which have already brought many new faces to the Powder Keg:

  • A refreshed logo of the business reflecting the transformation to follow. We are proud of our new logo,
  • A clear strategy for the business, whatever we do is aligned to our plans.
  • Partnerships formed with key suppliers in chosen segments, they recognised our capability to grow their brands.
  • Implemented process of continuous improvement, we have engaged principles of 6S (more commonly known as 5S but we added the 6th S for safety) and visual management,
  • Revamped website to better communicate value to customers,
  • Starting internet selling of selected products, those items we believe are suited for remote purchasing,
  • New dealers being appointed in those products that we represent exclusively,
  • Implementation of end to end integration of point of sale systems and accounting ledgers,
  • Creating standard operating procedures and improvements in governance.

Our innovative approaches to market will take into account years of experience in “channel management”. That is the theoretical side, our focus will be on proving to dealers that we are their preferred and trusted partner. The Powder Keg leadership comes from small towns, we did not use lawyers, and our word is our honour. At The Powder Keg, we believe in forthright dealing irrespective of the situation.

At The Powder Keg, we strive to serve our customers, first, always. Paul Luff and the local team have a wealth of knowledge and experience to give informed advice to customers. We will bring value in innovative products. David da Silva is resident in central Europe, he will be seeking out best in class products and ensure continuity of supply.  Our team is deep rooted in the principle of mutual advantage, this allows us to build relationships with suppliers and customers.

Our Facebook will reflect on experiences in The Powder Keg, hunting and sports shooting. We aim to give customers an appetite and insights into engaging new experiences as a family, whether it be local or European hunting and shooting experiences.  The Powder Keg will be more than a destination hunting store; we will build The Powder Keg into a family by virtue of shared values in all walks of life; an incredible passion and love for guns, the outdoors, hunting and sports shooting.

The design of our website was chosen to mirror our strategy; clarity, simplicity, easily understood and an elegance to match the art in the fine guns that we sell. The content is carefully considered, it reflects the leadership of The Powder Keg and the values that we stand for. We did not want a busy website, our strength is not in the number of brands that we represent but in how we select best in class brands and in how we communicate the benefits and features of these brands.

The Powder Keg has a 5-year vision and plan; we say that if you don’t know where you are going then any road will take you there. Failing to plan is planning to fail. It may take a little longer, hopefully, shorter to reach our 5-year vision, but it is a path that ensures everything that we do is aligned and contributes to that vision. Life has many opportunities, our roadmap ensures that we are not side-tracked by opportunities that do not fit with our vision.

Our confidence in the success of The Powder Keg is based on our leadership knowing what matters and focusing on what matters. We expect hurdles along the way, but our teams’ passion in the business will ensure we persist to overcome whatever is thrown at us. The key driver in our business is a passion to add value for customers; the profitability of the business simply a scoresheet of the value we create.

Our impression of the industry is somewhat a “herding mentality”, everyone copying everyone else. This was an ideal environment to do something different, to stand out and be seen.  Price discounting in the industry in South Africa is more prevalent than most countries in the world, suggesting that most businesses considered the price to be their only differentiation. Price is important, especially in mature markets, but there is much greater value to be had for consumers. The Powder Keg is continuously in pursuit of the different dimensions of value needed to create a loyal customer base.

We see a light at the end of the tunnel and it is not a train. The Powder Keg has a long way to go to be anywhere close to where we want it to be, hence our 5-year vision and roadmap. If we were doing everything right we would be extremely nervous – how to improve? The light at the end of the tunnel is many opportunities we need to grab and improvements we need to make.  We encourage customers to join the Powder Keg journey, a journey based on trust and forthrightness, value generation and continuous improvement.

We need feedback from our customers about what we do well and what we need to improve on. At The Powder Keg, we understand the value of the voice of the customer. Only through constructive feedback from customers can we have an unbiased view of our business. The website provides for recommendations to be made online; alternatively please email your comments directly to david.dasilva@powderkeg.co.za and we will respond within 48 hours (unless travelling).