The arrival of Accentra’s PaperPro stapler managed the impossible as it reinvigorated a traditional stationery product. Head of world sales Mark Farnham tells OPI+ about the story behind the product’s invention, the determination to pursue anyone that violates its patents, and even talks a bit of golf for good measure
OPI+: I guess it’s not hyperbole to say Accentra’s PaperPro stapler is a true success story and a tribute to entrepreneurial spirit. How does it feel to have sexed up the stapler?
Mark Farnham (MF): I think as manufacturers we realise how passionate people are about the tools they use each and every day. Our success comes from designing products that make people feel as though we’ve actually thought about them and their needs right from the outset… that is very sexy indeed.
OPI+: Can you tell us a bit about how Todd Moses came up with the idea for the PaperPro?
MF: Todd is an entrepreneur and while preparing for a meeting with venture capitalists, he tried to staple a stack of papers and the stapler failed. In disgust, Todd threw the stapler against the wall (note to self: stand clear when Todd is doing office work) and out of that frustration came the early idea for the PaperPro. Todd is a person who refuses to put up with mediocrity and it is this fire, this determination to do things better, that continues to drive the efforts of our designers, our engineers and our marketing people to this day.
OPI+: I guess the big question now is, how do you follow-up the PaperPro stapler? It’s quite an act to follow.
MF: We’re not as concerned with following it up as we are with continuing the process. Look at your desktop, many of the tools that you use at work each day have not changed in decades. Our mission is to re-imagine these tools using 21st century design, engineering and manufacturing capabilities.
We do have an exciting new product that we will unveil at Frankfurt. Now, I’ve been in the industry for a long time, and all company stuff aside… this item will be a knock-out punch.
OPI+: We’ve heard murmurs of the company floating on the stock market, is this going to happen and if so, when?
MF: I can neither confirm nor deny any rumours of the company’s future ownership. I can confirm that the current owners of Accentra are delighted with the progress the company has made, and believe this trend will continue.
OPI+: Innovation is a hot topic in the industry at the moment. As a company that has been shown to innovate, do you think there is enough innovation out there and what is the secret to successful innovation?
MF: I think innovation is a word that has been overused in our industry. Changing a colour or cosmetic material on a product is not innovative; that’s simply the natural progression of a product’s lifecycle. True innovation involves changing the fundamental nature of a product in a way that improves its function and utility… that’s really where it’s at. The secret to true innovation is to start with a clean slate. Too many manufacturers today look at an existing product and then try to improve it – but this usually means adding bells and whistles or finding ways to make it less expensively. True innovation requires that you look at the core function and the need it fills and then task your designers and engineers to find the very best way to satisfy it. So many of our commonly used office tools can – and perhaps should – be completely redesigned. Our engineers are working non-stop on this process, and the future is very bright.
OPI+: How have you seen your competitors react to your success and innovation? And how do you think they will react in the future?
MF: All things considered, we’ve been generally well received by the industry as a whole. Our products have been proven to grow entire categories, actually increasing the sales of other products. The excitement the PaperPro creates at the point of purchase seems to have a carry-over effect, inspiring purchases of other things such as clips, punches or other office products.
As for our direct competition, we haven’t seen anyone out there yet that can compete with us on innovation. But we have gotten their attention. Firms have tried to copy our products, or live off our coat tail, but imitation is not innovation, and copying products (even good ones) is never a good strategy for a company. It’s also important to note that we will aggressively pursue anyone that violates our patents… and are at present doing so with at least one firm.
OPI+: To finish up, I think it would be remiss of me not to mention golf. You are quite a golfer, did you ever think of turning pro? I know you took part in a golf reality show! With able back-up by Todd, we reckon that the Accentra golf team is pretty formidable. Do you think any other OP company could take you on?
MF: As a younger man I toyed with the idea of being a professional golfer, but was shown the stark reality in my first few events and returned to the safety of office products. A few years back, I returned to my dreams and appeared on a television show that pitted ten professionals against each other for a shot at some tour exemptions and came fifth. I still had the fire, just not the game to compete against these guys.
On a company front, the PaperPro team is a competitive bunch. We all seem to have sporting backgrounds, and as the resident old man of the team (at 38!) we generally fight to the death on anything from board games to board rooms. I wouldn’t bet against us and I believe at the OPI conference in Dallas we were represented in the foursomes that took home the first, second, and third prizes… and I might add I was not blessed with one of those trophies!!