IsAlbi’s Ian Hardy resigns as CEO
After close to three decades, IsAlbi CEO Ian Hardy is stepping down from the business he spent almost his entire career growing and developing.
Hardy has confirmed he will continue working within the IsAlbi business as an executive director of growth and brands.
His replacement has already been found in Simon Fraser, who joined the business on 1 March.
“I wanted to find a successor who fits with the culture, who understands our business and holds likeminded values,” Hardy explains.
“Simon is a people person who believes in fostering a dynamic culture. Originally from Melbourne and now living in Sydney, he has a positive disposition and brings great energy to the business. Coming from Procter & Gamble, he also comes armed with a wealth of industry knowledge and experience.
“When I met Simon, I knew he would not only be compatible with IsAlbi, but also the gift & homewares category. His approachable nature makes him a natural fit for the market.”
“Simon will bring a fresh set of eyes to the business and in this fast-changing world, this can only benefit our team and our customers. A fresh set of eyes, a new burst of energy and an alternative point of view will ensure the business goes from strength to strength. I believe our clients will be the big winners here.”
At the beginning of Covid in 2020, Independence Studios and Albi joined forces to become IsAlbi. Combined, the business is now the largest gift and homewares provider in the southern hemisphere.
“Prior to the merger, we identified a lot of synergies. Both businesses shared the same amount of independent accounts, around 4,000 each. Notably, there was a crossover of 25 per cent. We could see the benefits of cross-pollinating and offering customers a complete end-to-end service door-to-door.
“Since Covid we have introduced a new third party logistics provider and brought on a new ERP computer system. Both advances have dramatically streamlined operations.”
With experience and expertise across the kitchen, home, décor, giftware, artificial flowers and plants categories, IsAlbi has become a one-stop-shop for brands.
“James Smail and I built Independence Studios from the grassroots (before the sale to Oaktree capital four years ago). I remember answering a 30-word advertisement in the Sydney Morning Herald. I sat down opposite James to be interviewed, in a tattered wicker chair, opposite a fax machine, balancing precariously on two ratty milk crates. The job was for a sales rep and he asked me: ‘what can you do for me’? I immediately asked him the same question back. I got the job. The rest is history.
“James and I complemented each other. We also had a lot of fun meeting new people and traveling the world.
“We could not have achieved everything we did without a phenomenal team surrounding us over the years. Many employees have spent more than a decade on the payroll, working their way up and achieving career goals of their own along the way.”
Smail and Hardy operated with a philosophy of investing back into the business to grow it, but it wasn’t always easy.
“Sometimes we would use our credit cards to pay staff wages. Some months were really tight. James and I often put our necks on the line.”
Now Hardy is looking forward to stepping away from the day-to-day operations and instead offering his guidance and mentorship from the coach’s box.
“I am committed to continuing my work in the business. Our new leadership format will allow the company to go from strength to strength. Our commitment to supporting customers and finding complementary brands and products remains strong. Our focus continues to be on providing original, unique and coveted products to market.
“This industry is in my blood and I know we’re a premiership winning team with many more goals to kick in future.”
Main image: Ian Hardy & James Smail