Tools of the tradie

Melbourne tools and equipment supplier Kincrome is succeeding on the back of great product and service innovation… Cameron Cooper reports

Innovation around the design of a screwdriver may seem a forlorn task given the humble tool has existed for hundreds of years.

That has not deterred Kincrome, a leading supplier of high-quality tools and equipment to the hardware, automotive and industrial markets in Australia and New Zealand. Its development of the TorqueMaster screwdriver—featuring magnetic tips for better fastener control, a colourcoded drive indicator and extra turning power—provides just one example of why the family-owned business has been so successful during the past three decades.

“We think it’s now the best screwdriver on the market,” says CEO Nick Pritchard. He says the evolution of the TorqueMaster product also highlights Kincrome’s commitment to liaising with tradies so that any product tweaks can make their job easier. “We listen and respond and deliver.”

FAMILY AFFAIR

Founded in 1987 by Ron Burgoine, the Melbourne business initially focused on the automotive market, but has since expanded. The aim, though, has always been to sell professional quality tools at an affordable price. Now with a workforce of about 170 employees, Pritchard says Kincrome still has strong family ties.

“(Ron) still comes into the business most days. We have a factory outlet attached to our business that sells our damaged and obsolete stock and samples. Ron’s actively involved in that and he still knows everyone’s name and brings a lot of energy, passion and care for people in the business.”

Ron’s sons, Justin and Paul, are directors, while Pritchard came on board as CEO about 12 months ago, just before COVID-19 hit. “My job is to help the business go to the next level while retaining all of the good things of the family and the great business they created.”

THRIVING MARKET

With COVID-19 sparking a renovation boom and prompting DIY enthusiasts to do more work on their homes and cars, Kincrome has flourished during the past 12 months. Sales of some lines from a tool and equipment catalogue of about 5500 items have seen a seven-fold rise.

“It’s been extraordinary,” Pritchard says. “We’ve been blessed to be in one of those industries that has prospered during this time.”

He is encouraged that growth has come from all channels and customers, rather than it simply being attributed to a single customer or channel. Smart product rollouts have also paid off. Kincrome is well known for providing toolkits for tradies and it launched a $10,000 tradie-toolkit initiative just as COVID-19 broke out. Despite initial nervousness over the timing, Pritchard says the product was a hit.

STRONG HERITAGE AND VALUES

The Burgoine family is proud of its Australian roots. Many of Kincrome’s products are designed and tested by a quality-test team at its Scoresby plant in Melbourne, while its huge range is made by some of the very best specialist manufacturers in the world.

At the core of the business’s ongoing success is a set of behaviours and characteristics that has served Kincrome—and its customers—very well:

  • Think Customer
  • Get It Done
  • Be Positive
  • Be a Blueblood
  • Have Fun
  • Talk Straight

Pritchard says the truth is that many business’s values are merely ‘aspirational’ or a result of ‘corporate speak’, but he is pleased to report that Kincrome management and employees live their values every day. “Here it is real.”

Of the six values, the Blueblood reference prompts the most queries from outsiders. He explains that for Kincrome it means being:

  • Passionate and Loyal
  • Energetic and Ambitious
  • Proud and Caring

“We’re always striving for continuous improvement,” Pritchard adds. Evidence of that is the Tools for Life trade apprenticeship program, which offers young tradies a wide range of affordable tools, from beginner to advanced levels, that can get them under way in their careers. “We just believe anyone starting up deserves a break.”

POSITIVE OUTLOOK

With an eye to the future, Pritchard says Kincrome is committed to being a new product machine for tools and equipment. His team will use its Australian knowledge and engage closely with tradies to create tools that they really want to use.

To that end, Kincrome uses its Tool Tester program to gather information that informs the development of quality products.

“We like to be intimate with users and really understand what they like and don’t like about tools and what components they want in toolkits.” On the marketing front, the aim is to keep building an already strong brand and embrace community activities such as grassroots motorsport.

Most importantly, Pritchard says Kincrome will continue to strive to be easy to do business with in an increasingly complex market. “We talk about it a lot—about being agile and being responsive. Our challenge is to make sure we are consistently doing that.”