By James Wells in Fiji

FIJI: Betta Stores Limited CEO Guy Houghton has used his keynote address on the opening morning of the group’s conference to ask the BSL members to stop the internal fighting, rumour-mongering and criticism, which has been damaging the group.

“The last few months, as business has toughened up and as we have been making changes, including the requested suspension of securities on the Newcastle Stock Exchange, the focus has been on criticism. Some has been deserved, some not, but there has been damage that has been caused to the retailers and to us as a group," Houghton said.

“If you were the owner of this business and your employees continued to drive it into the ground, it is just a matter of time until it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is the danger that we are facing at the moment, while we are attacking ourselves and attacking our business."

Using two powerful Powerpoint slides, Houghton then warned members that with “Too much terrorism, you will bleed to death” and another slide which showed rumours of his own demise which were represented in a series of quotes listed “I have resigned” and “I have not resigned”.

“We have been attacked by stealth as well as publicly. There are not many boards or CEOs which have to deal with the predictions of when the business will fail from within their own Group. It is all nonsense, I don’t know where this has come from and why. Failure could not be further from the truth as we are a buying group. A successful business should focus on being successful.

"We are here to focus on core business and to support the franchise network and focus on the businesses that are profitable. The key here is to balance the long term strategy with the short term pain.

"We need to make some calls on businesses like Buy-Rite and if those businesses are bleeding cash, which they are doing, we could bleed to death," he said.

Houghton claims the business, which has 335 shop fronts and an estimated market share of 10 per cent, has 94 per cent brand recognition in the marketplace, which adds credibility to the business, provides consumer awareness, immediate recall and instills trust.

"We are here as a buying group – you can call us franchisees or franchisors, but we are a buying group.”

He said that when people leave the group and move on the loss of the Betta Electrical and Chandlers brands is significant to those stores.

"It is our most important asset, even though it is not on our balance sheet," he said.

“Remember this is your group. We should not allow anyone to criticise it. Can I ask that during this conference we focus on the success of your business?” Houghton said to spontaneous applause from members in the audience.