The new normal or the same old normal?
– Andrew Jones, CEO, OT Group
Cast your mind back to May 2020. The world was in disarray, the ground was shifting beneath our collective feet, and nothing seemed certain. The office supplies industry was shaken by the demise of Spicers and the SPOT group, and the need to react rapidly to a seismic shift in the marketplace, brought on by the pandemic.
OT Group was also undergoing a dramatic transformation – our acquisition by Paragon Group — that truly changed the shape of our vision and direction.
But what does being a part of Paragon mean? Paragon Group is the leading provider of customer communications, identification, graphics and business services and the opportunities this brings for OT Group customers is vast. It enables us to provide a truly unique end-to-end business solution to our customers – focused on removing non-revenue generating tasks and activities from businesses, empowering them to focus on and drive their core operation. OT group is now a privately-owned business. This positions us well in the market and enables us to invest significant amounts into digitisation, automation and innovation – thereby positioning our organisation as disruptors in the market.
In fact, take the demise of Spicers as an example. There was there was a real concern that the market could become uncompetitive; and a resounding requirement within the dealer community to have choice and flexibility across their supply chain. With our new investment plan in place, we launched our wholesale division, OT Wholesale with just the bare bones of the business in May 2020. Now, we have more than 950 clients by taking a no-nonsense approach to service, and remaining competitive on price.
And Paragon’s vision for OT Group is ambitious – we’re on track to become the market leader in our sector. Our recent acquisition of Office Depot UK & Ireland evidences our commitment to this vision and ability to deliver it. The acquisition extends OT Group’s capacity to serve its customers through the addition of state-of-the-art warehousing facilities and experience in new key industry sectors including banking & finance and the public sector.
In tandem with the change that we as a group have been through in the last year, the entire business landscape has altered. The impact of the pandemic has been clear; an acceleration in digital transformation and the move to hybrid and remote working has been a top priority for almost every organisation.
It’s in this area where we’re already evidencing that we’re a true disruptor in the market. Our digital procurement platform, SmartPad, is rich in functionalities that can facilitate staff working from multiple-locations – such as the home user feature. The entire platform gives organisations full spend visibility at a time when costs were spiralling out of control due to the need to work from home. We met this challenge head on, and delivered for our customers — helping to make their lives easier in troubled times.
We also launched our office subscription service — an industry first. After highlighting the subscription craze in the consumer sphere and noting that people still needed office supplies when working from home, we launched a product that allows remote workers to receive a regular shipment of everything they needed, from full onboarding packages, to print services, and even technology.
But what’s next for businesses in a post-Covid world?
One year ago, we would have said that home working was here to stay in the long-term, but after extended periods of isolation, it’s clear that there is a demand to return to the workplace – whether that’s on a full-time or part-time basis.
As such, businesses need to reassess their offices and places of work to offer more flexibility, spaces that promote hybrid collaboration, and environments that mirror the comforts of home. Essentially, organisations must create areas in which employees feel both happy and safe.
Now, workplaces are no longer where people come to do their day-to-day work. Let’s face it, it’s more comfortable and less disruptive to do this at home. Instead, they’re coming to meet, share ideas, and socialise instead. We’re increasingly seeing customers redesign their spaces with media rooms — to attend meetings with those not working in the office — break out spaces for more creative work, and social areas.
It’s safe to say, as with seasonal flu, that we’ll have peaks and troughs of coronavirus outbreaks in the coming months and years, and because of this it’s likely that we’ll be in and out of the office for a while yet. Businesses that embrace services and tools that will help them to manage this ebb and flow will gain a competitive edge.