Imogen Bailey reports on a successful team integration strategy at Munro Footwear Group.

Munro Footwear Group has witnessed a lot of change in the past two years. The business, which has a long history of acquisitions the most recent of which was Fusion Retail Brands in July 2017, is used to welcoming new employees into the fold.

However, it wasn’t until recently that the business was operating under one roof.

Munro Footwear Group (MFG) general manager of marketing Paul Baddeley says that the business had been spread across three different locations in Victoria.

“We were running the business basically from a Port Melbourne and Collingwood office.

“The old Fusion Retail – so Williams, Mathers, Colorado and Diana Ferrari – were being run out of Port Melbourne and the wholesale business and Midas, Mountfords, Wanted, Cinori and Styletread were run out of the Collingwood office and also a bit in Thornbury.”

Although operating as a single business, the multiple locations siloed the teams and brands, forcing collaborative work to be done via email, phone or video. To create a ‘one MFG’ mentality, the business decided that it needed to move everyone into one space, a move which Baddeley says came with new business culture initiatives.

“We started a process of ‘one MFG, one company’ and integral to that was to get everyone into one office which we found in Abbotsford, so we’ve moved about 220 people into this office.

“We’ve combined the teams, so now it’s one finance team, one logistics team and that took a good six months to phase people into single teams and then another couple of months to move everyone into the one building.

“One of our important things is making sure that we celebrate success so we really make sure that everyone feels at home here; there’s a gym that’s been installed; there’s a half-basketball court; and, a state-of-the-art commons area upstairs where we have our team meetings but also everyone’s encouraged to each lunch together rather than at their desks.

“When we moved in everyone got their own Keep Cups so when we go down to our own café which we’re running downstairs, we’re not using any disposable cups or plastic drink bottles – so we’re trying to do a couple of different things to really create a one-team mentality,” he says.

Baddeley says that alongside the cultural initiatives, having the teams working in the same space has improved transparency across the entire business.

“What it’s consolidated is that one-MFG mentality and I think that’s the cultural shift that this has enabled. [In] the business updates we have quite regularly, everyone understands what’s happening in other parts of the business.

“Even teams just working in the same environment, just seeing what other people are doing stimulates ideas and different ways of doing things, so they’re small things but they all help to improve the business as a whole.

“I think we’re seeing the benefit of rather than people talking over email, they can actually talk to each other face to face and get up and go to another desk and have a conversation.

“We work quite collaboratively and that’s hard when you’re not in the same location or even when you’re talking over email – even over video – it’s not the same as having people in the one place and the time that that solves in itself is a benefit.

“It’s just little things – people take an interest, people try and help each other – we’re all trying to make MFG the best footwear company in the world and you can only do that by continual improvement and innovation,” he says.

Another innovation the business has recently introduced is a new training program which is currently being rolled out across the business.

The structured, phased program is one of the first of its kind the business has introduced, with the aim of bringing together the training of both MFG and Fusion Retail Brands staff to provide a consistent customer experience across all touch points. It will also contribute to creating the one-MFG mentality.

Beginning with its 2000-strong retail workforce across its 290 stores, MFG is changing the way the retail staff interact with customers and with products, Baddeley explains.

“I think we’ve always relied a little bit on train the trainer and it was very isolated with different businesses – Fusion Retail Brands and then the Munro Footwear Group brands – were doing different things as well.

“This is the first time we’ve done a structured program [and it’s] just really being able to find the baseline and then sculpt it to individual brands’ needs.

“It’s using video and localised training and changing the way that we talk about features and benefits of products – really so we can inform the customer in the best way possible.”

To do that, MFG has ramped up the amount of product and customer knowledge it gives its retail team.

“We’re supplementing their current knowledge with new knowledge. We’ve got product trainers and we’ve got sales trainers so there’s quite a few different aspects of how we communicate to the staff.

“We used to have very basic metrics: ‘you’ve got to greet someone within five seconds of them hitting the store,’ and now it’s a bit more, ‘you’ve got to have a meaningful connection with the customer to try and find out how you can help them.’

“I think changing that attitude and being able to actually talk about product and what we can do for them and having the knowledge to give the customer better information so they can make informed decisions.

“The language has definitely changed to us trying to understand different customers’ needs, looking at customer profiles and how you treat them in the store,” he says.

As it continues to roll out, the program will reach other parts of the business, but in the meantime MFG will be consolidating the changes it has made and continuing to focus on strengthening the one-MFG mentality Baddeley explains.

“We’ve been through quite a lot of change. I think we’re just trying to consolidate the move that we’ve done, trying to optimise what we’ve got the best as we can.

“We’re continuing to rollout the training program and we’re heading into a big summer season and back to school in early January so there’s always things happening.

“I know that the board is really excited to be investing in their staff not only in training but into a working environment that we can really drive the values of the company and those two things are how we’re doing that.”

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