There is a good reason why the iconic image of Uncle Sam graces the cover of this year’s US Office Products Industry Annual Review. As a recognised national personification of the American government, he ties in with one of the main themes of this special publication – government contracts. This has remained a strong element of the ongoing battle between the independents and the big boxes throughout 2011, as Andy Braithwaite discusses.
Similarly, we hope that adopting, and adapting, the famous tagline of Obama’s during his election campaign, ‘yes we can’, will inspire in our readers a sense of hope and a celebration of the achievements of the past year. It’s not been easy, given rising unemployment figures and increasingly cut budgets, but many of you have achieved great things.
Take software providers, for example. They never fail to bring out new offerings each year to try to help independent dealers compete with bigger rivals on an equal footing (see ‘Tech on track’). More and more resellers are coming to the conclusion that top-notch technology is where the key to prosperity lies. Whether they’re right or not – and I do think that a firm grasp of a good website and excellent business processes are key to success – it won’t hurt.
Similarly, the two wholesalers have not only held excellent dealer conferences, but have further developed programmes and offerings to help their dealers. Like attentive mother hens, they watch over their dealers with concern and advice during these tricky times.
Our interview with Neil Austrian about government contracts (see ‘Austrian on audits’) reveals the CEO’s belief that it’s time to move on; to work through past mistakes and look to the future. Perhaps generating this apparent optimism is Office Depot’s achievement of the year.
It’s always good to look back over what we’ve learned and what mistakes we made, and this publication hopes to take a broad overview. Planning for the year ahead won’t be easy – the stability of three years ago is still noticeably absent – but reminisce, reflect and ponder over these pages and you might generate some ideas.