Lionel Lee provides insight into family business.
This year Bing Lee celebrates six decades since Bing Lee and his son Ken opened an electrical repair business at Fairfield in Western Sydney. Bing Lee CEO Lionel Lee makes a point to not speak to the Press, however to commemorate the anniversary, provided an insight into the family values that have formed the business and preserve it for the future.
According to Lionel Lee, there is a secret to the success of Bing Lee. It is not one magic ingredient such as their business strategy or a mission statement – “the secret ingredient is our staff, all 603 of our company’s staff; they are the reason we are successful,” he says.
“We have a family attitude towards business and a very team focused structure. Integral to this is our very stable and experienced management team led by my buddy Phil Moujaes. We are very lucky to have these people in our business and we try to make most of the decisions by consensus.
“Phil, our General Manager, has been with us for 19 years, and epitomises the strength and stability of our management team. I met Phil when he was a buyer for Vox/Chandlers and we would go on supplier buying trips together. Phil is very calm and methodical in his thinking, and he helps me by providing a sometimes different perspective.
“I have got so much to thank him for, as does our family. There are no rock stars or individuals in our management team, we just all work together to deliver the result.
“We have a great mix of leaders in Bing Lee, old and new to the business, such as Peter Harris, who heads Business Development and Retail Sales, and is Merchandise Director for Whitegoods and Cooking; Russell Goldberg who is Merchandise Director AV, Ritchie Djhamur who is head of Sales Learning and Culture, Peter Braithwaite our operations manager, joined the business when he was 17 and is now 52 and our CFO Aubrey who’s been associated with the business for over three decades.
Bing Lee management has been very stable; my cousin Gary Lee – our buyer for whiteware and seasonal (20 years), Ben Nursoo – our property and legal guy (16 years), Ken Lau – our internal IT manager (20 years), Michelle Simmonds – our head of store audit (20 years), Ken Poole – our logistics Manager, 11 years, Sean Ng – our HR and payroll officer (19 years) and Theo Baltsas – our longest serving store manager whose daughter Greggie and Simon work with us – has been with us for over 35 years. We have a great team who not only understand our culture, they have formed it.
“The recent contribution from John Murphy has been integral in making important decisions with the business. I’m very happy that ‘Murph’ has found his way back home to Winnings; and as always, he will again add value to their business as he did to ours. One thing I’ll miss about Murph is the pragmatism he brought to our business such as deciding whether certain locations had potential for our business or needed to be closed.
“Closing stores is emotionally the hardest thing to do in a family business because of the effect on the people. Whether it is the fault of the store or the location, there is no use attributing blame. If something fails you need to recognise the failure and move on, and for a family business it is quite tough, but if the store is not going to work, you have to make that call.”
The business of multi-site omni-channel retailing in 2017 is very different to operating a single store in the late 1950s, but the Bing Lee business has experienced several changes and is likely to experience even more in the months and years to come.
“For our 60th anniversary, it is clearly about celebrating another milestone, but it is also another year where the business has become more challenging. Our website continues to grow in sales, and by Christmas, we will have 38 stores, including two new stores opening before Christmas; one at Marsden Park and another, a re-located store at Penrith both in Western Sydney.
“Amazon is the talk of retail at the moment. Amazon will create change for all retailers, however through this change, they will make us better, and we as retailers must always change to survive.”