Big Interview Xtra: Gavin Ward, CEO, Office Brands

Exclusively for OPI digital and premium subscribers, more from our interview with Office Brands CEO Gavin Ward


OPI: When the Office Power group was brought into Office Brands last year, you said that your O-Net members would have got the option of taking up the Office Power branding. How far are you down that track?

Gavin Ward: While this option is now out there for our O-Net stores, at this stage no one has taken up the Office Power branding. However, we haven’t really aggressively pushed it at this point as we are still settling in the new group.

It’s very much in line with what the original Office Power directors – who are still involved in the business – wanted: not to rush, but get to know us and our business before making substantial changes.

We’ll step up the conversation in the coming months to get them to embrace more of our services. It’s an education process and it will take time.

OPI: The coming together of Office Power and Office Brands – do you think it was a necessary thing to happen?

GW: Office Brands as an entity has invested significantly in technology in recent times. We have a business intelligence platform that members can contribute to and where they can learn a lot about their business, benchmark against others, etc.

We also have digital marketing software Salesforce which in itself is a very expensive technology. Then we’re rolling out our Salesforce CRM software, so that every one of our dealers will have a CRM platform over the next 12 months to be able to help understand what’s happening in the market and how to drive their businesses forward.

We’ve got a new sales training platform called Office Brands University and just rolled out a new website that has the same predictive intelligence used by Amazon. All of these things drive off scale. If you don’t have the scale to make them affordable and cost effective for our members, then it doesn’t work.

So yes, there’s no doubt that the addition of Office Power has given us additional revenues and that enables the kind of scale to be able to invest in all of these systems and continue to invest in their development to drive member businesses.

The more scale we get, whether it’s via association with BPGI, OPANZ [Office Products Australia New Zealand], acquisition or whatever it may be, the greater capacity we have to keep up the fight against the larger players like Staples and Officeworks.

OPI: Talking of OPANZ, what’s happening with this new buying group collaboration and what are the benefits that you’re seeing?

GW: Firstly, let me just say one of the logistical challenges we had with BPGI was that everything we did was going via somebody in Washington DC in the US, so we could never react quickly.

With OPANZ, we’re more localised, we can meet more often and we can be more agile. But we’re still looking at the segments where it’s actually appropriate to negotiate under the OPANZ umbrella – we are reviewing all processes to make sure they are relevant to all partners and to the current needs of our members.

A few of the other areas we’re keen to look at, away from the core buying side and outside of the traditional remit of BPGI, are print and freight, for example. It’s early days yet and we’re only a few months into this new arrangement, but we’re hoping to yield some additional benefit and certainly a more flexible and responsive environment than we had in the past.

OPI: But Office Brands is still part of BPGI, isn’t it?

GW: Yes, it is and there are plenty of areas where we can cooperate and share information, including marketing automation, CRM, price matrix tools, catalogue building software, etc. We’re also talking about working with a couple of individual BPGI members on a private label solution. Overall, there’s still value in the relationship.