New Battery World boss talks tactics for future

By Sarah Stowe | 09 Nov 2020 View comments

Who is the new boss at iconic Aussie retail chain Battery World? Johnny Kennedy is as passionate about the business of batteries as it’s possible to be, thanks to a career spent immersed in the sector.

“I’ve always had a passion for fixing things and started work as an apprentice mechanic, but found I was better at talking than fixing vehicles! The boss asked if I wanted to move over to the sales side.”

It proved a savvy move, and after a few years working with reps from tool, tyre and battery firms in the auto industry he switched gears and shifted his attention to the world of batteries.

“Batteries don’t sound very exciting,” he admits. “But I learned business management and just went up the ladder. The battery industry is fairly small, if you’re an expert, it creates opportunities.”

Sales and management roles led to Kennedy joining Battery World’s parent company Century Yuasa, Australia’s oldest battery manufacturer which has designed, manufactured and supplied batteries and energy storage solutions since 1928.

“I was offered a position with the market leader. It was a great opportunity. I spent a lot of time with franchisees as a supplier and I really connected with them.”

Three months ago he was appointed general manager of Battery World.

After three general managers in five years Kennedy believes the franchisees need stability, something he is confident he can deliver.

“Franchisees are great people, they want someone who knows industry well, can lead them forward. I’m very excited. I have no experience in franchising but huge experience in leadership, marketing, sales, and the battery industry,” he points out.

Growing the Battery World business

His vision for the brand is to be ‘the number one battery specialist for all your power needs’. 

“It’s about growing and supporting the franchise partners. If you make the franchisee successful, you draw people to the business,” he says.

“We are the largest specialist battery retailer in australia, but we want to be everywhere.”

Recent trading figures reveal an impressive 45 per cent growth in the recreation sector [camping, fishing, four-wheel driving, marine] in last 12 months, undoubtedly helped by Covid restrictions keeping Aussies close to home.

Focus on franchisee expertise

Kennedy is backing the expert knowledge within the franchise network as the best way to grow store sales.

“Our franchisees have long tenures, they’ve accumulated a lot of knowledge. Consumers are researching a lot more online, so we’re building a website to provide educational  material, tips and advice,” he says.

To that end the marketing message will be focused on the importance of listening to the battery experts.

“Our franchisees really do have passion and want to help customers. I’m here to give them direction. There’s some nervousness about new technology (lithium batteries) and franchisees question how we are going to survive. But like any new technology lithium has limitations. So training and education is important because there can be safety concerns.”

Important to Battery World

Sustainability and technology are key issues to address, Kennedy points out. He believes recycling batteries is really important to the business – even though it’s a costly process for the franchise network.

The business will invest in diagnostic equipment to keep up to date with complex vehicle technology, he says. There are two full time training managers helping franchisees with new and emerging technology.

“A big part of our business is keeping people on the road with roadside assistance, and business and home delivery.”

An obvious move will be a standalone mobile franchise offer; the challenge is creating a cost-effective business model, says Kennedy.

“It’s very easy to set up when it’s company owned, but it can be costly if a call-out is not a battery option but a jump start,” he points out.

 

A collaborative culture is another goal for the new GM, who sees communication as the key tool to bringing this about.

“We’re sending out more information than we ever have, we’d rather do more than less.

“I thrive on this myself, creating a good culture, teams where the environment is positive. I’ve had one-on-one sessions with all staff.  I want our people to love what they are doing.”

He believes loyal trade partnerships are crucial for the brand’s long term sustainability. “Our top 10 trade partners been with us since the beginning and their support helps us be successful.

“We have huge opportunities for the future; the biggest challenge is letting consumers know what we do.”