‘Bolted together’ for success as ‘brothers-in-arms’


The B.E.D. Group was established in 1983 by co-founders Ernie Barnett  and the company’s current CEO Mike Giltrow, who clarifies: “Our relationship was founded on profound mutual trust and respect, and as I always like to say: we combined wisdom with the exuberance of youth!”

The co-founders met in 1980 when, as Mike explains, “I was 20 years old and Ernie – 15 years my senior – offered me a job, asking me to join him at the company where he worked at the time. For three years, with Ernie as my manager and mentor, I ran the fasteners division before we decided, together, to start the Bolt and Engineering Distributors Group (B.E.D.). We then worked together for the next 27 years before Ernie’s retirement in 2010, and remain in close contact today.”

Ernie adds: “We met at a customer’s premises, and there was an instant connection between us. I had been looking for a new salesperson, and was impressed with Mike’s energy and enthusiasm. Later, we founded B.E.D. on our joint industrial fastener expertise, thereafter adding many other related products and services. Our relationship was based on shared ethics and values: Mike and I started our business with a handshake and there were no written contracts – just a true gentlemen’s agreement. On the rare occasions when we disagreed, we always found a better solution in the end, which allowed us to move forward.”

Both men agree that the seeds of their excellent relationship were there from the very start: a relationship of trust that was felt at an instinctive level.

“From the word go,” adds Mike, “our business was characterised by an absolutely equal effort from both of us, with shared give and take. I must add that we received enormous support from our wives – my wife, Laura, and Ernie’s wife, Dawn – who also became firm friends. We also both took great pride in our business – while at the same time operating without the destructive influence of egos in the mix.”

From the very beginning of their joint venture, Ernie and Mike ensured that theirs was a values- and integrity-driven partnership and company – always aware of the critical importance of relationships with valued suppliers, customers, and employees.

“We are especially grateful to a much-loved and revered group of (now mainly retired) employees and suppliers who joined us early on in our history – our ‘B.E.D. Beginners’ – who faithfully adhered to our values and approach of being steadfast, loyal, honest and hard-working. We could not have built Bolt and Engineering Distributors into the company that it is today without the assistance of Linda, Joey (Johanna), Heleen, Aubrey, Neil and Ollie. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you,” enthuses Mike.

Ernie adds: “I’m very proud of our joint achievement. Our partnership became like a brotherhood, while the camaraderie within the company itself meant that our business operated in many ways like a family – if ever anyone had a problem, others always tried to help as best they could. Even though I’m retired from the business today, I feel enormous exhilaration and pride in seeing the fruits of our labours, and the outcome of what Mike and I built up together, all these years later.”

Mike concludes: “There is no doubt that our business has faced its challenges through the years, and weathered some ups and downs in a local and global sense: recessions, emigrations, industry downturns, and even a global pandemic and a European war.

Today, however, we are grateful that we have not only survived but continued to thrive. From our first branch in Gauteng, which operates from the Wadeville premises and today also serves as our head office, we have grown into a network which includes nine branches countrywide, as well as an Exports Division and two welding centres.

Taking it all back to basics – the ‘nuts and bolts of good business’ as we always like to say –  I could not have asked for a better ‘bolted’ partnership than the one I have shared with my mentor, partner, brother and friend, Ernie Barnett.”


Bolt & Engineering Distributors