Chicago is the host city for OPI’s seventh Global Forum which will be held from 11-13 November 2018. Now an annual conference, the invitation-only event will once again take place at the Sofitel Chicago Magnificent Mile at the very heart of the windy city. It promises to be a high-octane and high-profile gathering where today’s hottest topics will be discussed by the business supplies sector’s top-level executives.
While a sizeable percentage of attendees to the forum come from North America, it is very much a global event, with many delegates from all distribution channels flying in from Europe and Australasia in particular. It’s easy to see why the appeal is so broad. The biggest issues affecting our industry are rarely insular and confined to one country or region. And even though markets are developing at varying paces and can be quite different from one another, best practice, benchmarking and learning starts with looking at the big picture and then honing in on specific aspects relevant to specific companies.
The big picture
Indeed, this year’s conference chair John Givens will kick off proceedings with just that – highlighting the trends, changes and opportunities in that big picture. Givens, as CEO of large and progressive independent dealer Source Office & Technology, is well placed to offer his thoughts on what’s going on, particularly in the US industry, right now (look out for our Big Interview with John Givens in the November 2018 issue of OPI). He will expertly guide the audience through a packed two-day agenda and a minefield of what’s feasible, achievable or perhaps not even that desirable.
The topics covered during the forum are numerous, and include some popular regulars: technology – this year covered in a keynote address that focuses on its rapid pace of change and impact on the workforce; ‘silver bullet’ growth categories; and cybersecurity. Then, unsurprisingly, there’s the omnipresent Amazon – several sessions, both plenary and smaller roundtables, are dedicated to dealing with and living with the online giant.
The biggest elephant in the room right now, of course, is the US wholesaling channel and what is going to happen with SP Richards (SPR), Staples and Essendant in particular.
Indeed, senior executives of these three protagonists – Staples’ Neil Ringel, Essendant’s Ric Phillips and SPR’s Rick Toppin – will be part of a Power Panel discussion with OPI’s CEO Steve Hilleard at the end of the first conference day. The debate will also be thrown open to Global Forum delegates – all, as usual, under Chatham House rules.
As Hilleard says: “How often do industry executives have the opportunity to share information, generate and encourage debate, and get some answers from those people at the very heart of the companies that are changing our industry landscape as we know it? Not just at the conference part per se, but also during the considerable networking time that the OPI events team always very carefully builds around all the official sessions. Feedback from previous events suggests, in fact, that the very high-level networking opportunities are among the most important benefits of any OPI event and can’t be found anywhere else in our sector.”