Located in the Australian city of Melbourne, Brad O’Brien and his team at Office Choice have so far been hit by two COVID-19-related lockdowns in 2020. While it has been a challenging period, O’Brien has been focused on keeping his staff of 22 together. He has been able to do this by taking advantage of government schemes, foregoing incentives and removing non-essential expenditure.
At the same time, the group has been very proactive in terms of supporting its members throughout the pandemic, and its board has approved some major initiatives to help Office Choice’s 146 dealers.
In March, it introduced a 50% fee reduction for the April-June period and quickly set up a coronavirus resource hub to assist with COVID-related communications and the sourcing of in-demand items such as PPE. Shortly afterwards, Office Choice decided to bring forward its Making Local Work branding programme, its biggest marketing investment since the launch of the Joan The Office Manager campaign in 2014.
The results were immediately positive. Coinciding with the end of the financial year in Australia – a traditional time for higher B2B spending – aggressive TV and social media advertising helped the group’s sales in June grow by 10%.
June also saw the introduction of Office Choice’s new national e-commerce website in an effort to grow its collective customer base and deliver increased revenues directly to members. With many people working and studying from home, this was good timing, and O’Brien said the site has far exceeded initial expectations. It has also enabled dealers to attract the B2C customer segment, generating significant sales from a demographic they hadn’t really been able to reach before.
2019: It’s been a busy year for Australian dealer group Office Choice, with CEO Brad O’Brien working on a wide range of projects, all the while continuing to execute the group’s 2020 strategic plan.
Having announced their collaboration in the summer of last year, over the past few months members of the GNS Wholesale Stationers-affiliated Officesmart dealer group have been onboarded and can now benefit from Office Choice’s offering of programmes and packages.
In another joint initiative, GNS and Office Choice held their first event together in August 2019. The OPIx industry expo was well attended, with excellent feedback from both vendors and customers. The two organisations further collaborated on GNS’ new own brand range Stat.
Internally, O’Brien and his team have successfully worked on a number of technology and product-related programmes, including the release of its dealer intranet communications platform and the launch of both a new furniture as well as education package.
Also product-related, at the beginning of the year, Office Choice launched its Bibbulmun range of Indigenous-branded workplace supplies.
On a more international scale, Office Choice is continuing its involvement with the International Office Products Alliance (iOPA). iOPA was launched at the beginning of 2018 and to begin with included five dealer groups, among them US-based TriMega which has now, with two other groups, morphed into the mighty Independent Suppliers Group. According to O’Brien, iOPA’s focus currently is on private label ranging and sourcing, dealer membership offerings and event facilitation.
2018: Brad O’Brien’s focus has been to drive Office Choice’s 2020 strategic plan, securing new dealer membership and expanding its market reach. Already this year Office Choice has been making waves not just in Australia but also internationally.
Back in February, the group caused a stir after parting ways with Australasian purchasing organisation OPANZ, an alliance it helped to establish back in 2015. Shortly after the announcement, the company revealed a new international coalition comprising five of the industry’s top dealer groups. Office Choice joined US-based TriMega, Canada-based Novexco, UK-based Office Friendly, and South Africa-based Inovocom to establish the International Office Products Alliance (IOPA).
The founding of the IOPA network was pioneered by O’Brien and was born out of an increased need for each of the founding dealer groups to share information and enhance the services available to their respective members. IOPA is a “holistic international alliance”, according to O’Brien.
Office Choice has also appointed a new Chairman. Daniel Kelly took over the role after six years on the board and three as head of the group’s IT Committee. He succeeded John Donaghy who announced his resignation in early February.
2017: Under Brad O’Brien’s leadership, Australia’s Office Choice dealer group continues to work towards its ambitious 2020 strategic plan. This includes entering new markets by securing new dealers in four key locations in Northern Territory, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia. O’Brien was the architect behind the successful recruitment of Australia’s second largest independent stationery reseller to the dealer group in July 2017, a business that has coverage across all states of Australia.
Another major focus for the group over the past year has been the expansion of its product category into the non-core markets. This has included office furniture, which has had a great start to the year, with sales in Q1 and Q2 up an impressive 26.2% on last year. With the addition of new furniture suppliers being signed up as preferred suppliers, the company expects to continue expanding this category.
The group is also continuing to strengthen its brand in the marketplace, predominately driven by the company’s strong marketing focus, including its omni-channel plan. This has seen brand recall double to over 54%. O’Brien expects this to evolve further as the company builds on its brand enhancement strategy in in 2017/2018.
O’Brien’s other recent highlights for the year to date include the dealer group’s favourable 2016/2017 financial performance and the facilitation of the single largest dividend payment to members in the company’s history.
2016: 2016 has been all about hitting the ground running with its new ‘2020’ strategic vision at Australian dealer group Office Choice.
Many aspects of the plan are a continuation of the strategic initiatives introduced by CEO Brad O’Brien and his team over the past couple of years. These include a strong focus on the Office Choice brand, product range expansion and more efficient use of back-office and customer-facing technology.
Despite tough trading conditions, Office Choice was able to increase its overall purchases and sales in its most recent financial year, resulting in an increased dividend paid out to members.
Other highlights include a move to a new head office in Melbourne and the appointment of Adam Davenport as a non-executive director early in 2016, an upgrade of the e-commerce platform and another well-attended annual conference in October.
2015: O’Brien continues to energetically lead Australian dealer group Office Choice and its 110 members after taking over from industry icon Max Ritchie in 2012.
He has been overseeing a number of key projects that have helped the group’s dealers to grow, on average, in the low single digits despite an overall decline in the Australian OP market.
Successes include a new branding campaign featuring a character called Joan, a revamped merchandising department that has helped category expansion and investments that have improved dealers’ e-commerce capabilities.
There has also been a focus on the sharing of best practices within the dealer group and an effort to drive more member engagement.