Office supplies dealers and vendors at this year’s SP Richards (SPR) ABC event in Washington DC have been urged to take a long-term outlook to ensure the longevity of their businesses.
“If we do not evolve, we will fail to grow and if we don’t grow, we won’t be able to reach our full potential!” That statement from SPR EVP of Operations Jim O’Brien at yesterday’s opening General Session was the message to the assembled dealer community. But it was also an assessment of the wholesaler itself.
While that message from the outset is somewhat pessimistic, O’Brien proceeded to prove quite the opposite when he charted the history of independents over the past 30 years. “The quantity of dealers has diminished substantially, but the quality of these dealers is light years away from what it once was,” he said.
The reason for this, he added, is that those dealers have embraced the changes that are necessary and turned them to their advantage – through technology, branching into new categories, adding value-added services, etc.
Before handing over to CEO Wayne Beacham, O’Brien concluded with his key five takeaways for this year’s ABC and urged dealers to:
invest in technology, tools and data
fully explore the facilities and breakroom categories
expand into the K-12 education market
have an exit strategy
engage in strategic discussions with their teams and peers.
Beacham, in his candid address to a packed dealer as well as vendor audience, picked up on a number of O’Brien’s points and urged dealers to take on the challenge of technology even if that requires a longer-term outlook rather than a short-term ROI view. He also emphasised the crucial need to expand existing categories – like furniture – and embrace new product categories wholeheartedly.
This is something that SPR has done over the past 30 months, during which time it has acquired six companies in a number of sectors.
These, Beacham explained, were vitally important to the wholesaler – and indeed the dealer community – as they give the much-needed expertise that will allow both to grow.
Before keynote speaker Lisa Bodell enthralled the audience with a funny, interactive and very insightful address on why it’s important to ‘kill your company’, Beacham put himself at the mercy of Bryan Wight. The newly promoted SVP of Sales & Marketing interrogated Beacham on several issues that dealers feel passionate about.