Independent Dealer September/October 2023

Page 1


the official publication of WSA


Event horizon

It’s approaching one of my favorite times of the year, when the event calendar resumes in full force and the industry gets the opportunity to meet up face to face.

As I type this, I’m receiving reports from the City of Hope’s Spirit of Life Gala in Chicago, which I unfortunately could not attend. There, the assembled members of City of Hope’s National Business Products Industry group celebrated their 2023 honoree ACCO’s Boris Elisman and his “ACCOmplishing Hope” campaign, which raised $15 million. It also confirmed Essendant’s Harry Dochelli as the 2024 honoree, who will lead a campaign titled “Fulfilling Hope.”

Leading our news pages this month is the announcement that James Rodgers of Network Distribution will take the helm at ISG when Mike Gentile steps down in December. Although he is no stranger to the industry after his time at Essendant, Rodgers returns to the fold in time to reacquaint himself with

colleagues at Industry Week in New Orleans. I look forward to meeting him there. Also at Industry Week will be the North American Office Product Awards, celebrating success in the IDC. Do take a moment to check out the nominees for the People’s Choice Award on page 46 and vote for your favorite. October will also see the annual Office Partners Gathering in Tampa, Florida—always a highlight of my year and a well-run show that serves both its dealer and vendor members very well.

I look forward to meeting up with as many of you as possible in either New Orleans or Tampa. Until then, enjoy this month’s issue.



Good things happening to independents


A-Z Office Resource, Nashville, Tennessee





Breakroom breakthroughs: As we return to the office, more importance is being placed on the breakroom. Find out how independents can take advantage.



Shortlists for this year’s awards and a chance to vote for your People’s Choice Award winner


56 Troy Harrison: The power of customer relationships

58 Marisa Pensa: Tech-savvy teams

60 Mara Gannon: Boost your e-commerce game

62 Tom Buxton: Consider joining AOPD now!

Editorial & Contents
38 Editor and publisher Rowan McIntyre Associate editor Lisa Veeck Head of media sales Chris Turness Finance and operations Kelly Hilleard Head of creative Joel Mitchell Digital
Aurora Enghis AT OPI CEO Steve Hilleard Director
Bell An OPI publication INDEPENDENT DEALER the official publication of WSA

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Ponder’s Office Supply turns 90

Many things have changed since Ponders Office Supply, Inc., Thomasville, Georgia, opened its doors some 90 years ago. But some things haven’t; so Ponders keeps on doing what works.

“I don’t know if it’s a Southern thing, but most of our customers love that personal customer service,” says general manager and co-owner Julie Carter. “We have some that order through our website, but most of our customers don’t want to bother doing it themselves online. They like seeing our salespeople in person and don’t want an automated phone system. They want to pick up the phone and talk to a live person. They don’t want to go online to their ‘Favorites’ to reorder. They want to call us and say, ‘I want a box of staples like the ones I got last week.’ I am sure when more of the younger generation take over, we will get more online orders; but most of our customers now want to call and talk to us.”

In 1933, in the middle of the Great Depression, Julie’s grandfather started Ponder’s, a small commercial print shop; it was the same year Julie’s father, Roger, was born. Her grandfather, Rollie, would trade print for groceries and other necessities to provide for his new family.

The company not only made it through those tough years but continued to grow, moving to a bigger location in downtown Thomasville

when they added office products and again when they added furniture to the sales mix. The company moved to its current location in 1985 and today, sales are evenly split between print, office products—including janitorial supplies—and furniture. Ponder’s largest clients are schools, professional services such as law and insurance firms, manufacturing and government entities. The company has 22 employees and annual sales of $3 million.

According to Julie, in addition to customer service, a strong sense of community is behind Ponder’s nine decades of success: “We are very active in our community—we participate in a lot of community events and Thomasville has a lot of nonprofits that we try to support. It’s a small town. Everyone knows everyone and that creates a strong community bond.

Also, our downtown area is thriving and the people are very supportive.”

She gives one example of how local support goes both ways: “We are very busy right now since it’s football season and we print all the schools’ programs. To give you an idea of how much that is, one high school’s program we just printed was 202 pages long.”

Another reason for Ponder’s success is its quick service and free delivery— usually the same or next day—within a 100-mile radius. It’s a benefit that helps Ponder’s compete against Amazon.

“We get some competition from Amazon, mostly in office products,” explains Julie. “Sometimes, people will say, ‘I can get this price from Amazon,’ and we will match it if we can. However, we will ask, ‘Can you get it next day for free? Do you have to buy a carton?’

Most of the time, Amazon does not deliver for free next day; and we don’t


have a minimum order—our customers can buy one pen or one package of paper. Also, most of the time, Amazon is not cheaper; people are getting scammed.”

Ponder’s is also a proponent of buying groups, which Julie reports were especially helpful during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We belong to various buying groups, including Trimega and now ISG,” she explains. “We basically stayed working during COVID-19 because we were deemed an essential industry. The buying groups helped us with some of the supply chain issues.”

Her advice for other dealers is to carve out their own sweet spot within their communities: “Independent dealers should find their niche where they live. Every town is different.

Provide good customer service and get involved in your community to find your niche; then learn what you must do to compete.”

When asked about Ponder’s future, Julie quickly points out she has three children; but she is just as quick to explain she doesn’t want them going into the family business— at least not right away. “I have told my kids that once they get out of school, they should

go work other places. I want them to learn how to work with employees and customers in other places. I think if you are handed something, you don’t have as much respect for it. If they do come back, they will appreciate it more. I went away and had other jobs, but came back because it is in my blood and I love it. I hope one of my kids will want to come back too. It’s hard to say, but if it happens, it will be great.”

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EON CEO named a Denver Titan 100

EON Office, Denver, Colorado, CEO

Elena Wuchner has been named a 2023 Titan 100 for the Denver area. The Titan 100 is a program that recognizes 100 CEOs and C-level executives in a region. Representing both the private and public sectors, these leaders are chosen as titans based on their leadership, vision, passion and influence within their field.

Wuchner grew up in the office products business, working for her parents’ company, Mile High Office Supply, during school breaks and summer vacations. In 2000, she graduated from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and started working in finance. She soon knew she wanted a different career, perhaps in the office products industry. However,

her parents sold their company in 1996 to U.S. Office Products, which filed for bankruptcy in 2000 and sold its assets in 2001. So Wuchner decided to start a new company.

“The biggest risk I took in my career was choosing to start a company at 23 years old,” Wuchner says. “I had never planned on starting a company in my parents’ industry, but the opportunity arose, and I had to make a fast decision to give it my best shot. I wondered if I would be any good at it and whether people would take me seriously as such a young woman in a male-dominated industry. Anyone who has started a company knows how many unknown variables arise, and risks are inherent in every step of the process. But the risk is

part of what makes it so fun and exciting.”

Today, EON provides office supplies to clients throughout the United States. The company’s furniture division features a 10,000-square-foot showroom in Denver, space planning, interior design, and project management services. In 2022, Colorado Biz magazine named EON a “Best of Colorado” in the Office Supply category, while its furniture division was named a runner-up in the office furniture category.

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Coastal rewards nine Corpus Christi school staff

Coastal Office Solutions, Corpus Christi, Texas, recently announced the nine Corpus Christi Independent School District (CCISD) staff winners of the company’s giveaway.

CCISD hosts a Welcome Back Convocation each year for its district employees at the American Bank Center in downtown Corpus Christi. Approximately 5,000 faculty and staff members attend. This is the second year Coastal Office Solutions participated as a vendor, with its employees putting together goodie bags for attendees that included a variety of product samples. Attendees also had the opportunity to win Coastal-donated door prizes, including Crayola baskets, a BIC pen set, a task

chair and 10 restaurant gift cards. Attendees scanned a QR code to fill out their information online and winners were randomly chosen by a computer program.

“We participated in the CCISD Convocation because Coastal Office Solutions is a solutions-based company, and our mission is helping people not just with office solutions but getting to know people and being there for them,” says CEO Laura Estes. “You never know when you start meeting people what can happen. You might share a story with them, and it helps them get through their day, and maybe what they share with you helps you get through your day!”

agrees that the company’s focus on people drives its community support: “We feel it is important to give back to the community because life is about serving people. We believe sharing and giving to others are part of that.”

AZOR named a Top 100 Private Company

A-Z Office Resource, Nashville, Tennessee, has been named one of Nashville’s Top 100 Private Companies by Nashville Business Journal. The list was comprised based on 2022 revenues.

“We’re incredibly honored to be recognized as one of Nashville’s top 100 private companies,” said Robbie Clark, A-Z Office Resource president. “This achievement reflects the unwavering dedication of our team and the trust placed in us by our valued customers. A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been a part of A-Z’s journey. We’re excited for what the future holds.”

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FriendsOffice presents local schools with awards and supplies

FriendsOffice, Findlay, Ohio, has been busy helping local schools prepare for the new school year. Late last month, Findlay City Schools held its start of the 2023-24 convocation, during which FriendsOffice presented the Classified Employee of the Year Award to Northview administrative assistant Deanna Shank.

She was presented with a plaque and a $1,000 monetary award from FriendsOffice.

Shank was nominated by her coworkers, who called her “the person who holds the school together.” One nomination described Shank as “a constant source of happiness and joy in her building, with unparalleled dedication, compassion and love for the school, staff and families. Her incredible sense of humor and ability to make the entire building laugh absolutely impact the wellbeing of teachers and students.”

Several of her coworker nominations mentioned her dedication to the job, citing when she broke her back and was back to work in less than two weeks in a wheelchair.

“It is clear that Deanna is a strong asset to Findlay City Schools,” wrote FriendsOffice. “We are so glad we were able to recognize her and be a part of this day.”

Alicia Giangiordano, brand communications manager, explains why FriendsOffice chose Findlay City Schools: “Our CEO, Ken Schroeder, along with many of our employees, have raised their families in the Findlay City Schools district. This has instilled a deep appreciation for the district in the way it has impacted our families.”

In separate news, FriendsOffice participated in Stuff the Bus, an annual Findlay back-to-school event organized by Christian Clearing House

and sponsored by local stations 1330 WFIN, 100.5 WKXA and 106.3 The Fox. FriendsOffice donated supplies to keep the bus full throughout the three-day event.

“When we give back to the community, we not only market our brand, but we support the community in which our employees live and work,” Giangiordano says. “ When our community chooses to support our local business, we feel giving back is one of the best ways we can show our gratitude. Supporting our community is imperative for its growth and prosperity for future generations.”

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Stinson’s partners with Pilot and BIC to give back

As part of its quarterly Shop for a Cause campaign, Stinson’s, Bakersfield, California, partnered with Pilot to donate $2,000 to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County (BGCKC). Stinson team members received a tour of the Niles Street facility from BGCKC executive director Zane Smith, who explained some of the club’s programs and areas where the BGCKC hopes to spend the $2,000 donation. Last quarter, the company partnered with BIC to donate $2,000 to the Community Action Partnership of Kern Food Bank.

“We have great reps for Pilot and BIC who helped us coordinate these community give-back programs,” says Alicia Kolbus, Stinson’s analytics specialist. “We worked with both brands to promote specific items through our website and email campaigns, and we calculated total donations based on sales during the

quarter.” Stinson’s also donated some money to round the totals to $2,000.

“We have a long history of donating within our community,” Kolbus says.

“When you talk to anyone at these organizations [that we donated to], all their work is inspiring. They touch so many lives on a daily basis. Our

customers recognize the value of these organizations, too. We are happy to help turn their everyday purchases into a way to give back. We already know that buying local brings money back into the community. This is an opportunity to highlight that community spirit.” serves on Rotary and helps students

Mike Horne, co-owner of, Sulphur Springs, Texas, is stepping down as president of the Rotary Club of Sulphur Springs. However, he continues to serve the Rotary as the club’s foundation chair. Latson has served on the board several times since joining the organization in 2011.

“Being involved in my community through a local organization like Rotary gives me the opportunity to grow as a person and give back to my community by donating my time and money,” says Mike Horne, Latsons co-owner. “It also helps me meet new people, which, in turn, grows my business.”

In separate news, Latsons recently partnered with North Texas Community Alliance to provide school supplies for students in Greenville, Texas. The community alliance supports underserved communities through programs that promote unity.


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Secrets of Success

A-Z Office Resource, Nashville, Tennessee

For A-Z Office Resource, Nashville, Tennessee, success is an acquired taste. In fact, Robbie Clark, A-Z president, estimates the company has made 20 acquisitions in the same number of years. How does A-Z find its prospects?

“We find dealers looking to sell in various ways,” says Robbie. “Some come from our relationships, ISG and other industry meetings; some tell wholesalers they are ready to get out. Also, our vice president of mergers and acquisitions, Tiffany Cooper, worked in manufacturing sales and for S.P. Richards, so she has a lot of contacts.”

But just because these dealers want to sell doesn’t always mean they want to get out of the business entirely. “Their company’s legacy is important to many independent dealers,” continues Robbie. “They care about their employees and communities. Some want to eliminate the day-to-day headaches but want to stay with the company. So we hire them and let the owners keep their style. We even cobrand our marketing and sales materials. It’s interesting: the companies we acquired early on, we would tell they could keep their brand name for seven or eight years. The more recent acquisitions will keep their brand for three to four years and already be saying, ‘We are part of A-Z.’ We’ve found it’s important to let them go at their own pace.” And employees? “If they are good people, we keep them, even if we have to relocate them, and some get higher positions,” says Robbie. “So far, we’ve kept about 80 percent of the employees from our acquisitions and 90 percent of their business.”

Robbie credits the company’s culture for these impressive retention rates: “Most of our senior management have been there 20 to 25 years. They started as drivers or in the warehouse or customer service. We promote from within. When you give people a career path, they stick around.”

That’s not to say all the staff are nearing retirement—far from it. According to Robbie, the company has many younger managers and he believes this is one key to success.

Company info

Top management: Robbie Clark, president; Chris Giles, vice president—sales; Tiffany Cooper, vice president— mergers and acquisitions; Bill Vaughan, vice president— business development

Number of employees: 165

Annual sales: $58 million

First-call wholesaler: Essendant

Online business: 50%

Another is the company’s leadership approach. “With the right people, there’s no need to micromanage,” explains Robbie. “Our style is to give people goals, then get out of the way. We let them develop the plan and find the solutions. We have minimal turnover and I think this is why.

“The owners, Butch and Julia, are another reason for the company’s success,” he continues. “Sometimes, they care more about the employees than themselves.”

He gives an example: “The owners were fighting off Staples until, finally, the company gave them a price they couldn’t refuse. But three days later, they backed out of the deal. They couldn’t watch Staples tear the company apart. Butch said they couldn’t watch their good employees be sent home [jobless] one by one.”

For other dealers looking to stay in the game, Robbie offers this advice: “Keep up on the world and adjust. I often hear dealers complain about millennials and younger generations. Instead, these dealers should create a culture that attracts and retains younger employees and customers. Get the next generation of leadership up to speed, then get out of the way.”

And Robbie is feeling positive about the future: “Independent dealers who invest in growth can compete. A-Z’s goal is to hit $60 million by 2025 and we are well on track to meet it.”


ISG names new president and CEO

Dealer group Independent Suppliers Group (ISG) has announced James Rodgers, currently vice president of supplier development at jan/san buying group Network Distribution, as its new president and CEO. He will take over from the retiring Mike Gentile on December 31.

Gentile announced his intention to step down from his dual role in April this year, at which point a search committee was appointed to find a replacement.

“We are thrilled to have James joining the ISG organization,” said Yancey Jones Jr, chair of the ISG board of directors. “We believe his background in both the office products and janitorial/ facilities industries makes him an ideal candidate to lead ISG into the future.”

In announcing the appointment, ISG released the following statement:

It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that the Independent Suppliers Group Board of Directors announces that Mr. James Rodgers has

been chosen to succeed Mike Gentile as the next President & CEO of ISG when Mike steps down on December 31, 2023. James will be joining ISG on October 2, 2023.

Prior to accepting his new position as ISG’s President & CEO, James spent the last four years ascending from Director of Sales and Operations to Vice President of Supplier Development at Network Distribution, one of the Jan/ San industries largest buying groups. No stranger to the Office Products channel, prior to joining Network, James held various marketing, sales, and sales leadership positions supporting the Office Products Channel during his ten-year tenure with Essendant.

James brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the fastest growing adjacent market that most ISG members have been expanding their reach into. ISG is greatly looking forward to the new opportunities that James will enable the ISG membership to embrace.

James will be attending the ISG Board of Directors Strategic Planning Meeting, September 19-21. He will also be attending Industry Week ’23 in New Orleans in October. We hope everyone attending Industry Week ’23 will use this opportunity to welcome James to the ISG family.

During the next few months, Mike Gentile will be working closely with James to help facilitate a smooth transition, which should provide comfort to all stakeholders of ISG.

ISG launches buy local initiative, announces 2022 patronage dividend

Independent Suppliers Group (ISG) has launched a campaign called Buy Local: Connect with Community, which is designed to educate and promote awareness of the benefits and importance of buying local.

The new campaign not only focuses on helping local businesses compete against big box competition, but also shines a spotlight on how their success helps local communities thrive.

“When consumers choose to buy locally, they are making a financial commitment to their community by pumping money into their local economy through tax dollars, services, community involvement and much more,” said the dealer group.

President and CEO Mike Gentile

commented: “Local businesses are the heartbeat of our community. They are the spine of the local economy and the spirit of the towns they serve.”

“One of the key features of independent dealers is that we are just that—independent,” said Tonya Horn, CEO of Rogard’s Office Plus. “We live in and connect with the communities that we serve. We flex and bend our services and product offerings to be in touch with our customers in ways that our big box and national e-commerce competitors can’t.

“With this campaign, ISG has developed materials for all of our members of various sizes across the country to drive home the message of why it’s better to work with an independent, locally owned partner.”

Campaign marketing materials— which are available on the ISG website—include a logo, messaging, social media, videos, a customizable flyer, email and thank you message templates, and other resources.

In addition, ISG has published its 2022 patronage gain distribution to its shareholders of record.

The board of directors approved a $3.3 million payout in addition to the $30.4 million in 2022 rebates previously paid to members.

“With interest rates continuing to rise and fears of a recession, this is another solid example of membership value for all our members, all of whom we hope to see in New Orleans this October for Industry Week ’23,” said Yancey Jones Jr, chair of the ISG board of directors.

Industry News SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 INDEPENDENT DEALER PAGE 16 If you have news to share, email it to »

Essendant expands category offering

Essendant has announced the expansion of its food service disposables assortment.

The category now offers 4,000 items to help its customers sell to the wider hospitality industry with more depth and breadth. The range includes an array of products, including carry-out and deli containers, cutlery, cups and portion cups.

“We have also established competitive pricing across the assortment and have nationally stocked inventory available,” confirmed SVP of sales and merchandising Renee Starr.

The wholesaler has also launched

a new online catalog for customers to view the complete food service line-up. It is designed for browsing as well as
quick inventory checks and purchasing from the customer ordering platform, Empower.

ISSA elects new board

Worldwide cleaning association ISSA has announced the individuals who will serve on its 2024 board of directors. The board will be led by incoming ISSA president Matt Schenk, CEO at cleaning products vendor Midlab. He will be joined by the following new directors:

• Vice president/president-elect: Laurie Sewell, Servicon Supplies

• Executive officer: Adam Camhi, Sunbelt Rentals

• Manufacturer director: Bill Simpson, Ecolab

• Distributor director: Debbie Sardone, Speed Cleaning

• BSC (Building Service Contractor) director: Ricardo Regalado, Rozalado & Co Commercial Cleaning

In addition to Schenk, the following 2024 board members are returning from the 2023 board:

• Past president/international director: Matt Vonachen, Vonachen Group

• Secretary: Tom Friedl, Hospeco Brands Group

• Treasurer: Scott Stevenson, KleenMark

• Canada director: Brock Tully, Bunzl Canada

• Distributor director: Michael Chiappe, California Janitorial Supply

• Distributor director: Laura Ann Craven, Imperial Dade

• Manufacturer reps director: Jay Shearer, Avision

• Manufacturer director: Nicole Goulet, Diversey

The following individuals complete their service on the board in 2023:

• Harry Dochelli, Essendant

• Valerie Burd, ABM

• Mercer Stanfield, Brame Specialty

• Matthew Urmanski, Essity Professional Hygiene, North America

“On behalf of the ISSA team, it is my pleasure to welcome the new directors and their fresh perspectives to our 2024 board as we continue our mission to change the way the world views cleaning,” said ISSA Executive Director John Barrett.

“I’d also like to thank our returning members for their continued commitment to the association while extending my gratitude to the outgoing directors for their dedicated service to our industry.”

The association invites all members to greet the new board when they formally take office at the ISSA General Business Meeting on November 16 during the ISSA Show North America 2023 at Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

AFFLINK makes appointment and wins healthcare contract

Jan/san dealer group AFFLINK has named Dave Lewis as VP of packaging, a move that comes after former VP Michael Wilson was promoted to the CEO role. Lewis—who joined AFFLINK in March as a regional sales manager—is an experienced packaging executive, having spent more than 20 years at leading independent supplier SupplyOne.

Meanwhile, AFFLINK has also confirmed it has been awarded a new contract for paper and janitorial supply distribution with leading healthcare group purchasing organisation Premier. The contract—which begins on November 1, 2023—runs for a period of three years.


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Merger to create packaging behemoth

Smurfit Kappa and WestRock have announced they are to combine to create a $34 billion global packaging giant.

Ireland-based Smurfit Kappa and US-headquartered WestRock will merge to form Smurfit WestRock. The company will be headquartered in Dublin with the head office of its North and South American operations in Atlanta, Georgia. It will be led by current Smurfit Kappa CEO Tony Smurfit.

The transaction—which has been approved by the boards of both vendors—still requires the green light from shareholders and regulatory

authorities. It is expected to close in the second quarter of 2024.

With annual sales of $34 billion (at July 2023 figures) Smurfit WestRock would be the largest listed packaging

company by revenue, well ahead of International Paper. It would operate in 42 countries, employ some 100,000 staff and operate around 67 mills and 500 converting facilities.

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Crump confirmed as MPSA president

Eric Crump has been appointed as the president of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA) for the next two years.

As director of strategic alliances at international technology solutions company Ringdale, Crump has established himself as a prominent figure in the managed service space focused on document and print services.

Crump’s print journey began at Lexmark, where he spent 18 years, including seven in Europe. He has worked at Ringdale for more than

nine years and has participated as a volunteer member of the MPSA— including a term as secretary—since 2017.

“I am honored to lead the MPSA,” said Crump. “Working alongside industry leaders, I am excited to foster an environment of collaboration and innovation. Together, we will shape the future of managed print services.”

New CEO at Koozie

Leading promotional products supplier Koozie Group (formerly BIC Graphic North America) has appointed a new CEO. The company—which also includes IMAGEN Brands—has promoted Pierre Montaubin to the post. He takes over from David Klatt, who stepped aside recently to become an advisor to Koozie’s board.

Frenchman Montaubin has spent almost 20 years in the stationery and promotional products segments, having joined BIC in 2004. A former general manager of BIC Graphic Asia, he moved to the US in 2017 and was most recently Koozie’s chief product and sustainability officer.


ACCO Brands has announced that CEO Boris Elisman is to retire.

The vendor confirmed that COO Tom Tedford will take over as CEO from October 1. After that, Elisman will continue as executive chairman until his retirement in the first half of 2024.

Tedford joined ACCO in 2010 as SVP of corporate marketing and product development. He then served as president of ACCO Brands Americas before becoming president of ACCO Brands North America. In 2021, he was named COO.

“The appointment of Tom as ACCO Brands’ next CEO is part of a succession plan that Boris and the board have been preparing over the past few years,” stated lead independent director Thomas Kroeger. “We have worked closely with Tom and have full confidence in his commitment to creating value for our shareholders. He brings deep knowledge of our industry, our customers, the overall company and its operating segments to his new role. Tom has worked closely with Boris and the board in developing and executing on the company’s strategic transformation and will continue to do so, assuring a smooth and seamless transition of leadership and positioning us for profitable growth.”

He continued: “On behalf of everyone at ACCO Brands, we would like to thank Boris for his exemplary leadership and dedicated service as CEO. His innumerable contributions during his 18-year tenure, the last 10 as CEO, have successfully expanded the growth opportunities for the company.”

Elisman added: “During my tenure at ACCO Brands, the company and the industry have undergone significant changes and I am proud of our teams’ accomplishments during this period. Having worked closely with Tom for

many years, I know the company is in great hands to continue to progress and accelerate profitable growth. It has been my privilege to lead this great company, and I look forward to continuing to serve as executive chairman to ensure a smooth transition.”

Tedford commented: “It is an honor to have the opportunity to lead ACCO Brands and our talented team of dedicated employees as we build upon the current momentum in our business. Boris has been a great mentor and a tremendous leader. I have worked with him for more than a decade and appreciate his leadership

and bold actions to transform ACCO Brands. I look forward to continuing to work closely with Boris to complete this leadership transition.”

Looking ahead, Tedford noted:

ACCO announces CEO change »

“I believe there are immense opportunities to enhance our leadership position in key categories, grow through share gains and new innovative product solutions, optimize our supply chain and improve our margin profile as we remain focused on delivering shareholder value and customer satisfaction. Near term, we are committed to prioritizing our free cash flow toward supporting our dividend and debt reduction.”

Industry News

Omnia Partners launches online procurement platform

Leading cooperative contracts organization Omnia Partners has introduced what it calls “the next generation of procurement technology.”

The company has partnered with B2B e-commerce software specialist Virto Commerce to create Omnia Partners OPUS. It is a solution that allows purchasers to search across multiple Omnia contracts and suppliers, with real-time product availability, pricing and shipping information.

“OPUS allows users to do more

IP announces CEO succession plan

in less time by filling requisitions from multiple suppliers in a single transaction, or quickly and easily connecting with representatives from hundreds of top suppliers and service providers,” Omnia stated in a press release. “Further, the platform eliminates the need to interact with multiple websites or third-party software platforms.”

“We have created a solution that is not the traditional marketplace,” said Omnia CEO Todd Abner. “The unique

approach of OPUS provides a single location for connecting to awarded supplier contracts in Omnia Partners’ portfolio without a punch-out process. Until now, this type of platform has not existed in public procurement.”

More details can be found here

Highlands expands TikTok partnership

Sales and marketing agency Highlands has expanded its relationship with TikTok to include the US market.

Highlands is already a TikTok partner in the UK and it says it will now be able to “empower brands in the US and those seeking to sell into the US market.”

“TikTok is a global phenomenon, with a vast user base (including 150 million Americans) and immense potential for businesses to connect with their target audience,” the company stated. “As Highlands expands its partnership into the US, it aims to tap into the enormous market potential and provide unparalleled support to its clients.”

Packaging giant International Paper (IP) has said CEO Mark Sutton has requested the company should move forward with the next phase of its CEO succession plan.

The $21 billion manufacturer will now conduct an evaluation of internal and external candidates to succeed Sutton, with the CEO— who is also chairman—continuing until a new leader is in place.

Sutton has spent his entire career at IP, joining the company in 1984 as an engineer at its Pineville mill in Louisiana. He was appointed CEO in November 2014.

The hunt for the new CEO will no doubt involve Grainger CEO DG Macpherson, who has been on the IP board of directors since 2021. Indeed, the 55-year-old may even be a candidate for the job himself.

Stu Conroy, director, innovation and e-commerce at Highlands, added: “Our partnership with TikTok has been a game-changer for our clients in the UK. We believe this expansion will unlock incredible opportunities for our clients, allowing them to thrive and succeed on TikTok’s Shop platform, which is a hotbed of innovation and consumer engagement.”


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Veritiv agrees to takeover bid

Facilities and packaging distributor Veritiv has agreed to be taken private in a $2.3 billion deal.

The company has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by an affiliate of investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice (CD&R) for $170 a share, a premium of almost 20 percent over its closing price at the end of last week. The transaction has been approved by Veritiv’s board and now requires the green light from its shareholders.

Greg Ciongoli, partner at The Baupost Group, which is Veritiv’s largest shareholder with a stake of almost 25 percent, said he was supportive of the agreement. “The Veritiv management team has successfully executed on its multiyear strategy to drive significant growth and it has built substantial value in the business, which is reflected in the premium paid for the shares,” he stated in a Veritiv press release announcing the acquisition.

Rob Volpe, partner at CD&R, added: “Veritiv is a very well-positioned industry leader with differentiated capabilities that deliver value to customers. We look forward to


supporting its talented leadership team in this next phase of the company’s growth.”

As well as shareholder approval, the transaction remains subject to other customary closing conditions, including the receipt of required regulatory approvals, and is expected to be finalized in the fourth quarter of 2023. Once the deal is completed, Veritiv will become a privately held company and shares of its common stock will no longer be listed on any public markets.

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Antalis makes North American packaging acquisition

International paper, packaging solutions and visual communication products company Antalis recently acquired a packaging company with operations in Canada and Mexico.

The France-based group—owned by Japan’s KPP—has acquired Lovepac, a specialist in customized protective packaging products. With a consolidated turnover of around $11 million and a total of 73 employees in 2022, Lovepac has two locations in Quebec, Canada (Montreal and Courcelles) and one in Mexico (Guadalajara).

Antalis already has a presence in Latin America, but CEO Hervé Poncin said Lovepac was a “great opportunity” to enter the North American market, with “further development potential in Canada, Mexico and the US.” He added that Antalis “aims to reinforce its worldwide presence.”

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Industry News »

Imperial Dade maintains steep growth trajectory

Jan/san, packaging and food service distributor Imperial Dade has continued to add scale across the US and Canada.

The private equity-backed firm most recently confirmed the acquisition of Ralik, a reseller and wholesaler of janitorial, packaging, shipping and safety products to customers in the greater Montreal area and throughout Quebec, Ontario and Eastern Canada. The company was founded in 1997 by three entrepreneurial brothers, Ali, Hamdi and Shoukri Mustafa, who continue to run the business today.

Previously, the company purchased Supreme Paper Supplies from private equity firm North River Group. Founded by the Kelly family in 1985, Supreme is a distributor of food service and

janitorial products throughout the greater Pensacola market in Florida.

Supreme president Ray Millet said joining the Imperial Dade family would “add the resources and support necessary to take Supreme to the next level.”

Meanwhile, Imperial Dade has also snapped up Californian distributor Prime Paper & Packaging. Based near Los Angeles, Prime was founded and is still run by the Farah family.

Finally, the jan/san giant added The Ohio & Michigan Paper Company (O&M), based near Toledo, Ohio. The business can trace its roots back to 1868 and has been owned by the Leininger family since 1969—it is currently led by president Kevin Leininger.

“The acquisition of O&M provides great value in the large and growing Midwest market, which is key as we expand geographically and grow nationally with our customers,” said Imperial Dade chair Bob Tillis.

The above transactions represent the 69th, 70th, 71st and 72nd acquisitions for Imperial Dade under the leadership of Tillis and his son Jason, who is CEO.

Industry News


A g r i c u l t u r a l & C h e m i c a l

C a n n a b i s

F o o d & B e v e r a g e

H e a l t h c a r e

H e a l t h & W e l l n e s s


1 0 C o l o r s & u p t o 1 6 " W i d e

C u s t o m C o l o r M a t c h i n g

F l e x o & D i g i t a l P r e s s e s

E x t e n s i v e L i b r a r y o f C u t t i n g D i e s

I n - h o u s e G r a p h i c s D e p a r t m e n t

I n - h o u s e P l a t e M a k i n g

L i n e r & A d h e s i v e B a c k P r i n t i n g

P r i n t o n W i d e V a r i e t y o f S u b s t r a t e s

R o l l s / S h e e t s / F a n f o l d e d

U n i q u e C o n v e r t i n g

U V & W a t e r B a s e d I n k s

V a r i a b l e D a t a

U L C e r t i f i e d

I n d u s

M a n u f a c t u r i n g & P a c k a g i n g

R e t a i l P a c k a g i n g

P e r s o n a l C a r e

W a r e h o u s e & D i s t r i b u t i o n


B a r c o d e / Q R C o d e s

C o l d F o i l / H o l o g r a p h i c F i l m s

C o u p o n s ( I R C ) L a b e l s

C o v e r - u p L a b e l s

D i r e c t / T h e r m a l T r a n s f e r L a b e l s

F r e e z e r L a b e l s

I n t e g r a t e d L a b e l F o r m s

L a s e r / I n k j e t L a b e l s

P e e l & R e v e a l L a b e l s

P r i m e P r e s s u r e S e n s i t i v e L a b e l s

S e c u r i t y L a b e l s

R e f l e c t i v e L a b e l s

U l t r a - R e m o v a b l e L a b e l s

W a t e r R e s i s t a n t L a b e l s

C-Line’s paper category experiences rapid growth

C-Line has expanded its paper category to offer an wider selection of items in time for the back-to-school season!

“Paper is one of C-Line’s fastest-growing categories,” said Jennifer Krach, vice president of sales and marketing. “Due to increased customer demand, we are excited to expand our paper category to include assorted colors of three and five-subject notebooks and composition books, providing a wider range of notetaking tools for both students and professionals. And we added 3” x 5” Index Cards to our product assortment to pair with our Index Card Cases.”

The new notebooks come in an assortment of colors including black, blue, green and red, and feature durable covers. The spiral-bound notebooks are available in wide ruled format, and the pages are perforated and punched to fit into standard three-ring binders.

The inside front and back covers of the composition notebooks also feature a place to record schedules,

metric unit conversions, a multiplication chart and fraction/ decimal information.

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BradyIFS eyes Envoy Solutions in potential mega deal after California acquistion

There appears to have been progress in FEMSA’s strategic review of its Envoy Solutions jan/san and facilities supplies distribution business in the US.

According to a recent report from Bloomberg, BradyIFS’s private equity owner Kelso is one of two investment firms—the other being Warburg Pincus—in talks with FEMSA to make a $5 billion bid for Envoy Solutions. Mexico-based conglomerate FEMSA announced in February that it was exploring alternatives for the distributor, with a sale one of the options.

A BradyIFS/Envoy merger would certainly create a jan/san distribution powerhouse in the US.

Kelso acquired a majority stake in IFS in 2019 and then engineered the acquisition of Brady Industries

just over 12 months later. Since then, BradyIFS has been acquiring regional resellers, much like its peers Envoy Solutions and Imperial Dade.

Its most recent buy was Rancho Janitorial, a distributor serving the California market.

Based in the San Bernadino area,

east of Los Angeles, Jose and Maria Flores founded Rancho Janitorial in their garage in 2003. Since then, it has grown into a multimillion-dollar enterprise that provides customers with a wide array of jan/san, food service and packaging products and services.

Industry News

Innovation Happens Here


Jim Kahan was battling an extremely rare group of blood cancers called myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN). After looking for answers at major comprehensive cancer centers across the country, he found City of Hope.

Guido Marcucci, M.D., chief of the Division of Leukemia and chair of the Department of Hematologic Malignancies Translational Science, put Kahan together with his ‘rising star’ researcher, Idoroenyi Amanam, M.D. His rise to stardom included a stellar academic record and a Congressional award for ongoing selfless acts of kindness.

Kahan’s best hope would be a stem cell transplant, which meant a month at City of Hope. Amanam visited him and his wife Diane almost every night, guiding the path to wellness. The transplant went exceptionally well, and Kahan’s hemoglobin count is approaching normal. MPNs once had very little research taking place.

Now, at City of Hope, innovation happens here.


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The false promise of fiscal responsibility in Washington

It’s no secret that most Americans are fed up with Washington—and have been for a long time. It’s also no secret that the path to electoral victory is to paint the other side as a big tax and spender. The reality is: if there is money on the table, I don’t care if you’re a Republican, Democrat, independent or someone in between—that money is going to be spent by someone. It’s the old adage that Washington spends too much, but that when it comes to own my district or state, the money being spent is critical.

On the one hand, you have Democrats accusing Republicans of providing corporate welfare to big corporations at the expense of the working class. On the other hand, you have Republicans accusing Democrats of writing blank checks and ballooning the U.S. deficit. It’s a game of who can get the blame to stick on the other in the leadup to the next election. All while We the People are left holding the bag for the indecision in Washington. Is this a cynical view? Absolutely. Don’t get me wrong, Washington can and does act; but the question becomes: is Washington being honest with us? To that, I say no.

It’s no secret that we have a spending issue. Washington does not run like your household or your business. You don’t get to float your deficits until the end of time and hope others will cover your costs. The risk of this type of bookkeeping is the fast track to bankruptcy. In Washington, it’s either kick the can down the road or raise taxes on those of us in the middle class. Either way, Washington gets to keep spending.


I do have a point to this article. And that is that when it comes to fiscal responsibility, both sides are lying to us. A case in point is the issue of the General Services Administration’s (GSA) online marketplace. Let’s start with the process. When GSA announced it was going to create a government online marketplace similar to those running in the commercial market, it made clear that it would test three very different models, as follows:

• E-commerce model: In this model, product vendors leverage an online platform to sell their own proprietary or wholesale products. The vendor is responsible for the fulfillment of product orders, including invoicing and delivery. Given the limited competition within this business model, the focus is on selling proprietary products online with little to no horizontal price comparison. E-commerce businesses generate profit mainly from product prices that they directly manage and control.

• Online marketplace model: Online marketplaces connect buyers with a portal provider’s proprietary products, third-party vendors or both. Portal providers and third-party vendors are generally responsible for fulfilling orders for their respective products, with some exceptions where the portal provider may complete order fulfillment for additional fees. There is increased competition within this business model, given access to both proprietary and third-party products. Profits in this model are mainly derived through commissions on products sold by third-party vendors, supplier listing fees, service upgrade fees or a combination of these fees.

• E-procurement model: E-procurement is a

software-as-a-service model that is managed by the buying organization and that often has workflows connecting the internal procurement organizations to financial systems. The portal provider does not sell products in this model; instead, contracted suppliers are responsible for fulfilling orders—many from outside marketplaces—thus allowing for a larger supplier pool and horizontal price comparisons. Profits in this model are mainly derived from a combination of transaction fees and tiered subscription fees. These tiered subscription fees generally increase as the volume of transactions on the platform increases; however, most portal providers also cap transaction fees to encourage a high volume of transactions.

Even with several requests from Congress that GSA meet the requirements in the original National Defense Reauthorization legislation, which set the stage for this new e-commerce platform, GSA has refused to test all three models. To date, GSA has a pilot program that features—surprise, surprise—the Amazon model. After a year of dog and pony shows, in which the Workplace Solutions Association (WSA) participated, GSA went with three corporate giants as its pilot winners (Amazon, and Boston Scientific). Even though small business organizations like WSA had a platform that had all the same bells and whistles as the Amazon model, we were denied. Even though we had the necessary blocking and subbing capabilities to ensure compliance with the AbilityOne program, which Amazon was refusing to do, we were denied. Saving money wasn’t the answer for GSA. The answer was turning the keys to the kingdom

over to Amazon so it could run the platform and GSA could step back and collect the revenue.

Now let’s talk about the Wild, Wild West of selling to the government that this e-commerce platform will become. Under the current plans, GSA does not require resellers to be vetted, like they are in the current Schedules program. You would think the government would want the best pricing from reputable resellers. This is another myth from the government. They say it’s about saving taxpayer dollars; but it’s really about ease and less work for the government.

Under the current plan, you will see anyone and everyone who wants to make a quick buck sell on this platform, regardless of their legitimacy. This will lead to counterfeits and scams flooding the government marketplace, which at the end of the day will cost taxpayers billions in lost products and services. This current plan will allow Chinese counterfeiters to flood our government agencies not only with cheap products, but with products that could pose real national security risks to our government agencies at the highest levels. WSA continues to push Congress to act on its concerns; but to date, it has been a small band of champions on both sides of the aisle trying to educate their colleagues about the risks.

While members of Congress pound their chests talking about government waste, fraud and abuse, that’s all in the name of politics and electioneering. The reality is: we have been unable to get consensus in Congress to require that a simple study be done on the impacts counterfeit products currently have on our government agencies. So, when your member of Congress tells you they are fighting for you and your tax dollars, ask them why they won’t support a study of the impacts counterfeit products have on the government, taxpayers and small

WSA Focus

businesses. Ask those same members why they won’t shut down efforts by China to flood our government marketplace with counterfeit goods.

WSA continues its fight to bring about commonsense reforms to the GSA e-commerce marketplace. Why should Amazon be able both to control the platform and to sell its own products on it? This seems like a way for Amazon to create a monopoly while putting small companies out of business. All this leads to the marketplace being able to charge higher prices for the products they need. A process with no real checks and balances. Why should I be required to turn my sensitive pricing data over to a multibillion-dollar competitor? The answer is: I shouldn’t. Why should Amazon be able to partner with unreputable third parties to take opportunities from legitimate independent dealers? The answer is: it shouldn’t.

So, when Congress talks about

being fiscally responsible, ask them to define that. Once they give you their talking points, share with them the lack of oversight they are approving every year through the online marketplace. Ask them why they would want to put money in China’s pockets at the expense of U.S. companies. Ask them why they are willing to put persons with disabilities out of work by not requiring blocking and subbing of AbilityOne products, which they have required those wanting to sell to the government to do for decades. Ask them why they won’t support legislation that creates an online marketplace that meets the needs of government agencies, while saving taxpayers money. Ask them, finally, why they won’t support a simple study that looks at protecting our national security and the flooding of counterfeit products into our procurement system.

The answer is simple. These same members don’t care about being

fiscally responsible. That is such a subjective term in Washington. The reality is: what Amazon wants, Amazon gets today. That will change with WSA’s continued efforts to force Congress to own their support for counterfeit products, putting persons with disabilities out of work, closing small businesses and allowing the Chinese government to introduce products posing a threat to our national security into our procurement system. We are going to make them own these votes. This is a true David and Goliath moment, and the independent dealer community is ready to continue to take on this challenge and win. We believe we have the voters behind us.

Join us in forcing Congress to truly be fiscally responsible when it comes to the e-commerce marketplace. Let’s educate the voters on what Washington believes it means to be fiscally responsible. This is a fight we can and will win!

WSA Focus

It’s a family affair

Working with family members in business is something most business owners deal with at some point. During my time at George W. Allen Co., I had two children who worked for the company—one for a summer and the other for 18 months. Neither saw the office products industry as their career path. I’ve always admired the owners whose children have come into the family business and succeeded in making it bigger and better. Herald Office Products, The Supply Room Companies, Ablesland, Forms & Supplies (FSI) and Benjamin’s are just a few of the names that come to mind. Way to go, guys and gals: you’ve done an awesome job!

I came across an article in an old NOPA publication written by a family business consultant named Frank Butrick about the challenges of family businesses. The world and the industry were obviously very different in the 1970s, but I thought the article touched on some very relevant considerations that were worth sharing here. I hope you enjoy it.



Yes—provided their participation fits into a plan and you make room for them with meaningful work. I assume you already have the matching son and daughter working with you. If so, you have four (or more) youngsters— two couples. You can probably safely assume that each husband/wife twosome makes a team. Now, what do you plan on doing with these teams?

Treat a son, or a daughter, or a husband/wife team, like any other ambitious young employees. Put them to work, give them direction, a straight shot at managerial responsibility (and income) and turn them loose. Obviously, since only one person

can head a store, it will get crowded near the top if the good ones receive the promotions they well deserve. So here is where your long-term planning comes in. For every ambitious young employee, relative or not, you should have a plan worked out, a method by which you will teach him the business, from the bottom to the top. Do not skip any aspect—he needs to know the technology of the business, employee management, and money management. If the people are good ones, sometime between their mid-20s and early 30s, they will be ready for management.

Now is the time to put the other part of your long-term plan into effect.


Presumably, you will still be young enough to be happy running your business and will expect to do so for a decade or two before you retire. You cannot put competent young managers on the shelf to simmer until you retire. Keep them busy or you will lose them— or ruin them by keeping them trotting around behind you, being your helper, for too many years.

Generally business owners plan on opening branch stores, opening up new markets, or acquisition as the routes to growth. Each of these requires competent, well-trained managers to take over and run the new ventures. And this is how it all comes together. Make yourself an expert in running your business and learn everything you can about opening branch stores and about acquisition. Talk to every businessman you know who has successfully expanded his business. Train your young people to manage. Then, when they are ready, put the show on the road.

As to in-laws, per se, your loyalty is to your own children. If their marriages are sound and everything is going well, then their spouses are a part of your family. The only time you need to have reservations is when the marriage is uncertain—married at too young an age, differing personalities and interests, too many fights, alcoholism, opportunism, etc. If a divorce occurs, plan on firing the in-law involved—no matter how competent he may be or who was at fault. For the sake of the other children involved, you must not put business before family when the two interests diverge; the idea is to build a bigger business through family involvement and use the business to keep the family together, not to prolong bickering by keeping former family members on the payroll. Other than this rather unlikely eventuality, in-laws make excellent employees.


No. At best a partnership is almost automatically a one-generation affair. When the sons/partners come to pass the business to their heirs, one will have three stalwart children involved and the other will have a cat and two dogs. More to the point, a partnership is tricky and they work out gracefully far too seldom. In times of adversity, things seem to go reasonably well, with both partners working their heads off and living on hamburgers. But in the good times partners (and their

wives) usually fall out over who works the longest hours or most efficiently, how to split the proceeds, etc.

It may be that your sons consider themselves a team—either even partners, or a leader and a follower. If so—and if their wives agree to this idea—it might work out. But never force a partnership on your children. It spells opportunity for one and agony for the other. If you have two sons, you better have two businesses.

PAGE 37 WSA Focus

As the return to the office continues, more importance is being placed on providing breakroom spaces that are far removed from the old cafeteria style. Lisa Veeck finds out how independents can take advantage


Remember when breakrooms were bland areas where people went to grab a cup of lukewarm coffee to wash down a donut in the morning, and a somewhat stale candy bar or a frustratingly small bag of chips from a vending machine to stave off the 3:00 p.m. hunger pangs? Well, things have changed—and, as one commercial says, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”

What’s hot, what’s not

One of the more unique breakroom offerings comes from Herald Office, Dillion, South Carolina, reflecting an innovative way of thinking that helps explain why the company is approaching its 130th anniversary.

“We sell more five-gallon jugs of water than we do copy paper and we were spending all the money on freight; then there’s the hours it takes to ship, etc.,” explains Herald’s president Myers Jordan. “So, we decided to open our own water treatment center. We will

use a reverse osmosis process, and the water will go through four to five stages before we bottle it. Our customers rent the water coolers, we pick up the empties and now we will deliver ones full of our water. We expect to have it up and running by ISG’s Industry Week.”

For Guernsey, Inc., Dulles, Virginia, where breakroom supplies account for 20 percent of total sales, coffee reigns supreme. But it is not the coffee that your parents might be thinking of.

“Our number one breakroom seller is coffee: we have an incredible selection,” says CEO and president David Guernsey. “We offer Keurig, Expresso, a variety of bean to cup—so many options.” The company boasts at least 16 high-end coffee machines but prefers not to sell them—and not only for the obvious reason that the company can supply the coffee. “We lease most of our machines because technology changes so fast that in two, three or five years’ time, that model

might be obsolete,” explains Guernsey.

According to Jordan, Herald’s also sells a lot of coffee, but has seen a move from Keurig to more pod-pack options. He also reports there is more call for plumbed equipment—so much so that the company now has its own plumber on the books. And Herald’s is not alone.

“We sell refrigerators, ice machines, microwaves—whatever a customer needs,” says Guernsey. “But we also install, maintain and repair them. We have an electrician and a plumber on staff. It’s important to see the project through from start to finish. Customers not only want to buy from us. They want us to install and maintain the equipment. They want the full package, and they want to know we can take care of it for them.”

And the “full package” for Guernsey includes all facets of the breakroom: “Sometimes customers know what they want; but sometimes they will


walk into our showroom and point to a whole space we have set up and say, ‘I want that!’ We suggest designs and can install the walls, ceilings, carpet, lighting, electronics—everything needed.” Guernsey has distinct vehicles for its various technicians and departments to ensure customers feel confident in the company’s diverse capabilities.

At Office 360, Indianapolis, Indiana, quantifying breakroom sales depends on how you define them. “We consider breakroom and janitorial together, since if a wipe or towel is used in the breakroom, which one is it?” explains Rayce Nahmias, category manager— facilities and breakroom. He estimates the two categories together account for about 17 percent to 20 percent of sales, while strictly traditional breakroom is about 10 percent. He goes on to observe that health and wellness trends are now clearly in evidence in this space.

“I don’t know about other places, but we’ve been doing well with Essendant’s

Green Rabbit program—better, honestly, than I thought we would,” says Nahmias. Green Rabbit offers fresh and frozen products, like frozen meals and fresh fruit, that can be ordered and delivered in one to three days. Nahmias suggest Green Rabbit’s distribution center in Indianapolis could account for some of 360’s success with the program. Part of the reason for his initial doubt rested in pricing. “It’s a convenience item, so it’s not cheap,” he acknowledges. “It’s not like going to Walmart for a bunch of bananas; but many companies don’t want their employees having to do that. For the employees, it’s a perk. They like being able to grab an apple or something healthy instead of a bag of chips from a vending machine they’ll feel guilty about later.”

Adeline Border, Office360’s marketing manager, agrees that the Green Rabbit program has proved successful, even with minimal promotion.” We use it here at 360 and love having fresh food in the office,”

she says. “We’ve not marketed the program. People see it on our website and order.”

Yet other types of “green” have been struggling since the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit Office360’s breakroom sales hard—as it did many independent dealers. “During COVID-19, the concept of green [in terms of the environment] went out the window,” Nahmias recalls. “The sentiment was, ‘Get away; don’t touch my coffeepot, cup or fork.’ It made sense, but it was awful for the environment. It’s not 100 percent back to where it was pre-COVID-19, but there’s definitely been a swing back toward bulk. Single-serve is expensive; and with high interest rates and inflation, people are trying to find ways to batten down the hatch.”

Color my office world

Regarding color trends, “Today’s breakroom walls are definitely not brown and gray,” says Guernsey. “Companies want color. Orange is

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huge; so is red, but orange feels a little safer for most.” And textures? “The key is soft but cleanable,” he says. “Textiles and fabrics are in, but there’s a lot more attention being paid post-COVID-19 to the ability to keep the breakroom super-clean.”

Joe Breczka, director of sales—office products division for Intivity, Inc., Rochester, New York, agrees that brighter colors are in but broadens the scope: “People are looking for lighter, more vibrant breakroom colors—bright and light greens; white; a bit of purple; blues, but not the traditional ones— vibrant blue.”

He reports artwork is also following a similar trend: “The days of photos in dark wood frames are gone. Now, acrylic and art complement the color schemes and more modern motifs. It all goes along with companies’ desire to create a more inviting experience.”

Similarly, “Today’s breakrooms aren’t the tables and chairs of the past,” he says. “The cafeteria-style is gone in favor of more modern gathering areas. We don’t see many closed offices. We see some panels, but mostly open spaces with chairs and side pedestal-type tables, which are more modern. They are looking for more casual and comfortable environments.”

Breczka observes clients also want breakroom materials that are easy to clean: “The textile chosen depends on the overall design of the breakroom, but easy to clean is a priority post-COVID-19. We are seeing some vinyl coming back for this reason.”

Border agrees that companies are going for comfort, but it’s still a difficult road luring people back to the office: “It’s tough to make breakrooms better than an employee’s own kitchen, stocked with exactly what they like,

and to offer the same coziness and everything they have at home. But we try!”

While a breakroom may not be the same as home, Breczka suggests it’s still a strong attraction: “I 100 percent believe the more contemporary and comfortable environment helps bring workers back to the office. Hybrid workers are in and out of the office; and when they are there, they want a touchpad that’s a relaxed environment—someplace where they can meet to talk, collaborate and grab a coffee or something to eat.”

Views on the competition

When it comes to Amazon, how serious a threat it is in this space depends on who you talk to. “It’s not at all a competitor,” says Guernsey. “The coffee machines are an example. We seldom sell them but we service them.

Cover Story

Amazon doesn’t provide service.”

But Nahmias feels the opposite. “Any dealer that says Amazon is not a competitor doesn’t realize it is,” he insists. “Amazon does an incredible job of making it easy to do business. People use it for their personal shopping; why not business?” That said, while he says people may buy straws, cups or even a coffeepot from the mega-retailer, he reports, “We’ve not lost whole customers to Amazon.”

Advice from the ranks

The dealers we interviewed are united in the consensus that breakroom is a segment with rich potential. “For the past 15 years, breakroom has been a product category of upward growth,” says Breczka. “The introduction of Keurig made it easy for independent dealers to enter the coffee machine world. Keep moving forward. Expand. It’s not just a product category with coffee. All the peripheral supplies,

cups, etc., and other categories can be brought in, like promotional products; partners may want to put logos on their cups and glasses. Anyone in the office products world understands office products have been in decline since technology advanced. Breakroom is a great and growing category. Don’t walk away or sidestep it. It’s a great opportunity to engage with your customer partners.”

Guernsey also sees a bright future for breakroom, with a few caveats: “Breakroom can be a very successful category, but you need to put a lot of dollars into it. You need to have a balance sheet for it and the technical ability. It’s not a category that you just sell. You need to be able to maintain and repair the equipment. You can’t go in with half a loaf. You need to be willing to invest to complete the whole project from start to finish.”

Nahmias’s advice is twofold and includes a great example of making

sure you understand the whole picture. “First, make it as easy for your customers to do business with you directly as with Amazon,” he counsels. “Second, ensure you understand what’s required to provide a full breakroom offering. For example, we have really hard water where we are, so our techs need to know how to handle that for coffee makers. Our techs have to go in and descale them, sometimes up to three times a year—and in older buildings with older pipes, even more often. In some cases, even using extra filters isn’t enough. Warranties don’t cover hard water. Suppose a dealer’s quote doesn’t consider the cost of descaling, extra filters and broken machines. To keep a customer, you may have to eat those costs and it can really add up.”

Guernsey concludes by summarizing what today’s clients are looking for in a breakroom: “The top basic points are: exciting, pleasant, clean and variety.”

Cover Story


Now a staple in the US business supplies industry calendar, the North American Office Products Awards are back for 2023

OttLite Technologies –Wellness Series SanitizingPro

LED Desk Lamp and UV Air


Reckitt – Lysol Pro Solutions

Disinfecting Wipes 800 ct.

Bucket and Refill Packs


ACCO Brands – Quartet

Vertical InvisaMount Magnetic

Glass Dry-Erase Board

For more details about the North American Office Products Awards, please visit naopa2023

Fellowes Brands – Fellowes

Array Networked Air Purifiers & Monitoring

OneScreen – Touchscreen


Cubii – Cubii Total Body+

Rewarding individuals

For the second time, there is also a shortlist for Young Executive of the Year to highlight budding leaders of the future.

For the third consecutive year, the North American Office Products Awards (NAOPA) are being hosted by OPI in association with Independent Suppliers Group (ISG). A total of nine awards will be presented at Industry Week ’23 powered by ISG in New Orleans, Louisiana, from October 8-11.

The judges were once again delighted by the high caliber of product entries across each of the categories. They noted the impressive display of innovation, creativity and environmental thinking which are key criteria at the NAOPA.

The shortlist for all Best Product and Innovation of the Year categories is as follows:


3M – Scotch Box Lock

Paper Packaging Tape

3M – Scotch Unboxing Scissors

ACCO Brands – Quartet

Vertical InvisaMount

Magnetic Glass Dry-Erase Board

Deflecto – OceanMat Chair


Kensington – MK7500F

QuietType Pro Silent

Mechanical Keyboard

Lavazza North America –FLAVIA Creation 300 + Chill

Refresh Brewer


Avery – Durable ID Cards & Badges

Eco-Products – Vegware

– Renewable and Compostable Food Service Disposables

Fellowes Brands –

Fellowes Array Networked

Air Purifiers & Monitoring

ITW Pro Brands – SCRUBS

NO RINSE Food Surface

Disinfectant Wipes

Durable – Mobile TV Cart COWORKSATION

Ghent – Control Shelving Unit

Kantek – Mobile Height

Adjustable Sit Stand Desk

Nook Pod USA – Nook Air

The HON Company – Flexion


Fellowes Brands – Fellowes

Array Networked Air Purifiers & Monitoring

Ghent – Aria Connect

Kensington – H3000

Bluetooth Over-Ear Headset

Kensington – MK7500F

QuietType Pro Silent

Mechanical Keyboard

OneScreen – Touchscreen


Prima Edge – PrimaGo


3M – Scotch Box Lock Paper

Packaging Tape

3M – Scotch Unboxing


Dealer Delivery Network –The Dealer Delivery Network



Daniel Benjamin –President, Benjamin Office Supply

Tyler Condry – President, Sundance Office

Kelly Ennis – Chief Revenue Officer, JAM BNC

Alicia Kolbus – Analytics Specialist, Stinson’s Andy Richter – President, Richter Total Office

Two further awards will be presented during Industry Week: Professional of the Year and Industry Achievement. There is no shortlist for these.

Finally, there will be the highly anticipated and hugely popular People’s Choice award, selected from any of the shortlisted products in the categories listed above. Further details on the items and how to vote can be found on the following pages.


Bringing teams together


Flexible media trolley for e.g. video conferences. With universal VESA mount, integrated cable management and compartments for accessories.


Here is your chance to select the top product(s) in the People’s Choice category of this year’s NAOPA.

You have three votes to submit and help select the winner of this year’s People’s Choice award from the 23 shortlisted products outlined here. Online voting is now available and is quick and easy to do – simply visit

The winner will be announced at Industry Week ’23 powered by ISG, held in New Orleans, Louisiana, from 8-11 October.


The Scotch Unboxing Scissors are a versatile cutting tool which can be used as an 8-inch scissors or, alternatively, a boxcutter—customers simply have to slide the pivot point with one hand. They utilise high-quality, precision-sharpened blades and have a non-stick silicone coating that resists adhesive build-up.


Scotch Box Lock Paper

Packaging Tape aims to achieve better box adhesion with its extreme grip. The tape is made with 45% bio-based content and recycles with ease alongside the box, meaning there is no need to remove it once the box is opened.

NAOPA Preview


The Quartet Vertical InvisaMount Magnetic Glass Dry-Erase Board provides collaborative solutions for various work environments.

As facilities adjust to hybrid working models, open floor concepts grow— exactly what the Vertical InvisaMount line was created for. It is available in three sizes to allow for collaboration in all spaces, balancing the needs of teams and individuals. The invisible mounting hardware and frameless design give the glass board a modern look.


Avery Durable ID Cards & Badges let users quickly and easily design and then print customized ID cards and badges from a laser printer. They are made out of tough polyester material that is waterproof, tearproof and resistant to chemicals, abrasion and UV fading.


The Dealer Delivery Network Hub was developed for and by the independent dealer community and aims to revolutionize its ability to compete on national accounts. It provides customers next-day, white-glove delivery anywhere in the US using an entirely automated process. The software includes order transfer, acknowledgments, PODs and accounting.




This chair mat is a sustainable solution to prevent damage to carpets and extend floor life. It is made using 100% recycled, ocean-bound plastic that would otherwise end up in landfill or polluting the ocean.

The range is available for carpeted and hard floors in businesses or home offices.

The CUBII Total Body+ combines the low-impact cardio of an elliptical with the ergonomic pulley system of a rowing machine. The compact, portable design enables a full-body workout experience from wherever you sit. It builds lower-body strength, increases upper-body muscle and improves mobility.

It is designed to easily fit into compact spaces and connects to the Cubii mobile app via Bluetooth which also lets users customize their workout to match ability.


The COWORKSATION is designed for video conferencing and presentations in modern workspaces. Given the growing amount of video calls in hybrid work environments, TV trolleys are becoming a key piece of equipment to adapt workspaces to meet changing demands.

It features a handle and a cable holder as well as storage compartments for accessories.



Aria Connect provides a presentation experience for meeting participants whether they are attending in person or virtually. It includes a Kaptivo image-capturing camera and an Aria Glassboard with integrated calibration graphics for a complete collaboration system.

Cloud-based connection also ensures images are broadcast securely and glare-free for a clear picture to any remote workers.


Ghent’s Control Shelving combines the functionality of a wall, shelving and noise-reducing acoustic PET panels to create a controlled and productive workspace in homes and offices.

Multiple units are fully configurable in a variety of arrangements and available in a selection of laminate and veneer stains to match different esthetics.


Fellowes Array comprises an integrated range of air purifiers, sensors and monitoring software that can be connected to form a complete network for healthy air in any space. The advanced system provides a complete picture of a facility’s air quality, then compiles the data into a dashboard.



Disinfectant Wipes simplify training and cleaning processes by disinfecting without needing any after-rinse.

The pre-moistened wipes leave facilities clean and sanitized in one time-saving step, while eliminating the guesswork of measuring cleaning chemicals.


Kantek’s Sit Stand Desk is produced for the home, office and school. It features a pneumatic lift mechanism that adjusts the platform from 29”-44” (0.7 m-1.1 m).

It also includes an extra-large work surface with indentations for a phone or tablet as well as a cup holder.


Another product designed for the evolving workspace is the H3000 Bluetooth Over-Ear Headset from Kensington. The wireless headset means users can move freely, while the cooling gel-infused earpads with heat-transferring fabric allow for all-day comfort.

The headset also features AI-powered noise-canceling technology to suppress background sound.



Built for comfort and productivity, the MK7500F keyboard is quieter and more tactile than mainstream membrane equivalents. The ergonomic design makes the keyboard comfortable for all-day use while its integrated meeting control keys enhance productivity by simplifying camera and audio controls.

It also features a full-size ergonomic extruded aluminum frame and an adjustable white backlight.



The FLAVIA Creation 300 + Chill Refresh Brewer is a mid-sized workplace machine that delivers a variety of drinks. It offers 14 types of beverages including infused waters, served hot or cold, as well as tea and coffee.

The compact size and price point have made it an instant success at Lavazza –within two months of going on sale, it made up 37 percent of its brewer system portfolio.

Nook Air is a multi-purpose, mobile pod designed to elevate productivity and collaboration. It seats up to four people, and the acoustic panels and insulated walls help carry voices without needing to shout. The Nook Air is made using post-consumer recycled materials and comes pre-configured with Nook’s wellness and focus-centric features.

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2023 INDEPENDENT DEALER PAGE 52 ©2023 ITW Pro Brands • All Rights Reserved SCRUBS® is a registered trademark of Illinois Tool Works SIMPLE. CLEAN. NO MIXING. NO SPRAYING. NO MESS. SCAN QR FOR MORE INFO NAOPA


The Touchscreen TL7 is a teacher-centered interactive whiteboard that combines fast processors, large memory and an intuitive interface with zero-bonded touch. The split-screen technology allows teachers to open an Android app on part of the screen while running Windows software alongside it. Also, hand-written notes convert into printed fonts and sketched shapes turn into precise diagrams.


This product by OttLite Technologies has a patent-pending design that uses three sanitizing techniques to create a healthier space. They include patented SpectraClean LED technology to reduce bacteria; UVC LEDs to reduce bacteria and viruses; and a HEPA filter to capture airborne particles.

The lamp also features OttLite ClearSun LEDs which are specially developed to reduce glare and eyestrain.


PrimaGo is a fully integrated shopping experience designed exclusively for business product resellers. The standout features include its integration with Prima Cloud ERP and Prima Marketplace, enabling resellers to manage all their business operations from a unified platform.

Mobile Sit to Stand Desk with Foot Pedal Control

• Ideal for home, office, school.

• Powerful pneumatic lift mechanism effortlessly adjusts the height from 29.75" to 44.25"; no preset positions.

• Quality laminate platform with melamine surface for easy cleaning and durability.

• Solid steel frame with wide base for stability.

• Heavy-duty casters for smooth mobility; two locking.



Furniture & Design

Desk/Table Compact Size

Great for small spaces.

Platform Size: 23.5˝W x 20.5˝D

(Other models available)




The 800 ct. format of Lysol Pro Solutions’ Disinfecting Wipes offers businesses a more cost-effective wipe – compared to the Lysol Disinfecting Wipes 80 ct. canister. It yields operational efficiencies including reducing restock and refill occasions.

In addition, the bucket and lid which enclose the wipes are made from 50 percent post-consumer recycled material and support reuse and refills up to 25 times.

The best starts withunboxing


Flexion is a versatile seat, ideal for unassigned seating spaces such as benching, touchdown and hybrid areas. Given the rising number of people working from home, the seat was designed to be as flexible as workspaces have become in the past few years.

It has a dynamic flex suspension and uses a four-point seat support to absorb body movements.

Scotch™ Unboxing Scissors

Cut with versatility.

• The adjustable pivot allows you to cut through bindings in scissor-mode

• Or switch — with just one hand — into a single-blade box cutter

Scotch ® Box Lock™ Paper Packaging Tape

Recycle-ready tape with the power of extreme grip.

• Curbside recyclable when recycled with the box

• Guaranteed to stay sealed*

3M, Scotch, Box Lock and the Plaid Design are trademarks of 3M. © 2023, 3M. All rights reserved. *If your box does not stay sealed, 3M will refund the purchase price of this tape. Proof of purchase required. Contact: 1-800-3MHELPS

Date: October 8-11, 2023

Location: Hilton New Orleans Riverside

Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, New Orleans, LA

Unleash Your Business Potential at Industry Week '23 in the Big Easy!

CONNECT – Engage with your peers at the most significant networking event in the Business Products Industry.

DIVERSIFY – Gain insights at the ISG General Session about how to make diversification a part of your strategy, moderated by OPI’s Steve Hilleard.

LEARN – Take advantage of educational seminars designed to enhance your knowledge on the latest trends and developments in our industry.

DISCOVER – Immerse yourself in innovation by attending the Industry Week '23 Tradeshow and gain access to new products.

GROW – Interact with industry professionals to learn about strategic initiatives essential for achieving your business goals.

PARTNER SESSIONS – BSA Forum and Essendant General Session

ENJOY – Experience the exhilarating nightlife of New Orleans, a memorable way to mark the culmination of a successful event.

Thank you to our Premier Sponsor HON and Diamond Sponsor ACCO Brands for Industry Week ’23!

Register Today for an Unforgettable New Orleans Experience! Industry Week '23 Oct. 8-11, 2023 New Orleans, LA
Register for Industry Week '23!
photo: Todd Coleman



We often hear salespeople tout themselves as “relationship salespeople.” It’s a term that should carry significant weight in the world of selling; but unfortunately, it has been watered down through excessive use and misinterpretation. When we dig deeper into what these salespeople mean by “relationship sales,” we find that the majority simply equate it to being liked by their customers—like Stuart Smalley’s affirmation on Saturday Night Live: “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, my customers like me!” While being liked is undoubtedly valuable, true relationship selling involves much more than that.

To succeed in relationship selling, we need to consider several essential elements. At its core, relationship selling revolves around answering two key questions:

• Can you monetize the relationship? Ultimately, selling is about driving revenue and growing our business. Being liked by customers is essential; but it must translate into tangible results, such as

increased sales, higher profitability and customer loyalty. If we can’t turn the positive relationships we build into financial gains, we aren’t truly engaged in effective relationship selling.

• Are you getting everything you could? Building strong relationships is not just about closing a single deal but also about cultivating long-term partnerships. To be successful, we must ensure that we fully capitalize on the potential opportunities with each customer. If they are purchasing

from competitors what they could be getting from us, then we are not maximizing our relationship with them. For me, the worst thing a customer can say is, “Wow, I had no idea that YOU did that!”—AFTER they have bought from a competitor.

In essence, there are three distinct levels of customer relationships and most salespeople will have customers in each of these categories:

• The loyal customer: The Holy Grail of customer relationships, the loyal customer, represents

Like You Mean It and The Pocket Sales Manager.”He helps companies navigate the elements of sales on their journey to success. He offers a free 45-minute sales strategy review. To schedule, call 913-645-3603 or email Troy@

the top of the mountain in relationship selling. These customers not only prefer to buy from us but also actively resist competitors’ attempts to win their business. We have established strong connections at various levels within their organization, maintain healthy profit margins and benefit from their positive word-of-mouth referrals. Ideally, we should strive to convert all customers to this level of loyalty.

Troy Harrison Troy Harrison is the Sales Navigator and the author of Sell

• The habitual buyer: Habitual buyers can be deceptive as they might initially appear like loyal customers. However, they lack the same level of loyalty and flexibility. A slight misstep or a competitor’s strategic move can quickly shift their allegiance. They grant us little leeway and might prevent us from establishing multiple contact points within their organization. It’s crucial not to confuse habitual buyers with loyal customers, as we could be blindsided by a competitor if we do.

• The occasional buyer: Occasional buyers are transient and lack any consistent pattern in their purchases. They don’t feel any particular affinity toward us or our competitors; we are merely a source to obtain what they need. Price

Troy Harrison

often plays a significant role in their decisions. In many cases, occasional buyers are the result of dealing solely with purchasing agents, which highlights the drawbacks of limiting interactions to this level.

Our aim should be to have a greater number of loyal customers than our competitors. Moreover, we need to devise strategies to elevate habitual buyers to the status of loyal customers and convert occasional buyers into habitual buyers. Achieving this objective requires diligent effort, thorough preparation and a focused approach to the selling process. However, it also demands a level of honesty that can be uncomfortable for ego-driven salespeople (and let’s face it, most of us are). Acknowledging that not all customers are loyal customers is tough but essential for growth.

In today’s business landscape, buyers are more empowered and knowledgeable than ever before. With the abundance of information available online, customers conduct extensive research before making purchasing decisions. They are well informed about various products and services, and they seek genuine value and solutions that align with their needs. This heightened level of empowerment places even greater emphasis on building

meaningful and authentic relationships with customers.

To cater to this informed customer base, we need to move beyond the cliché “relationship salesperson” persona and focus on becoming true partners and trusted advisors to our clients. Here are some key strategies to achieve this:

• Deepen your understanding: Invest time in understanding your customers’ unique challenges, objectives and pain points. Ask insightful questions and actively listen to their responses. Tailor your solutions to address their specific needs, showcasing your expertise and commitment to their success.

• Educate and add value: Position yourself as a valuable resource by sharing relevant industry insights, trends and best practices with your customers. Providing valuable information not only builds trust but also positions you as an authority in your field.

• Proactive communication: Regularly engage with your customers beyond just sales-related interactions. Keep them updated on relevant industry news, upcoming events and new opportunities that might benefit their business. Proactive communication reinforces

your commitment to their success and fosters a stronger bond.

• Customer success stories: Share success stories and testimonials from other satisfied customers. Demonstrating your track record of delivering results and solving problems will boost confidence in your capabilities.

• Continuous improvement: Be open to feedback and continuously strive to improve your products, services and customer experience. Act on customer suggestions and demonstrate your dedication to meeting and exceeding their expectations.

In conclusion, successful relationship selling goes beyond merely being liked by customers. It involves monetizing the quality of the relationship, maximizing business opportunities and moving customers from occasional buyers to loyal customers. Embrace the empowered and knowledgeable customer of today by becoming a genuine partner and trusted advisor. By employing these strategies, you can forge lasting and profitable relationships that will elevate your business to new heights. Your dedication to building strong customer relationships will be rewarded with increased loyalty, higher revenues and continued success.



What’s one thing that high-performing sales teams do differently than everyone else?

They use technology better than their competitors!

This is especially true when it comes to managing your sales process and pipeline. In fact, using a customer relationship management (CRM) system helps increase sales by up to 29 percent and improves productivity by up to 34 percent, according to Salesforce. Whether they are using industry leaders like Acsellerate, Sales-i, Salesforce or HubSpot, high-performing sales teams don’t see their CRM as a “Big Brother” watching them, but rather as a vital tech

tool to help them sell more effectively.

Top salespeople run reports themselves, take notes during calls directly in the CRM and even store email templates to reuse and repurpose—all of which helps the salesperson stay organized and in control of their day.

Now, there’s no doubt that embracing technology can greatly enhance the performance of your sales team. But as a sales leader, it’s important to remember that you should avoid relying too heavily on technology and instead focus on selecting the right technologies that address your team’s specific needs.

To pinpoint which types of technologies would help your dealership, let’s consider the following ways in which savvy sales pros leverage technology to drive successful outcomes:

• Tailored presentations and proposals: If you’re taking great notes and logging them somewhere (ideally your CRM), you’ll be able to personalize everything from your emails and phone calls to presentations and proposals. The power of saying “You mentioned …” at the start of presentations is based on great note-taking and the organization to find what

the prospect mentioned quickly.

• Meticulous follow-up: Keeping track of all your prospects and customers can be tricky, especially when a certain level of detail is needed. Leveraging automation and scheduling tools to create tasks, set reminders, use templates and establish cadences will help streamline the follow-up process while setting your team up for success and maximizing their time.

• Discovery of hidden stakeholders:* Using the latest technology, like digital sales rooms (DSRs), gives your team full visibility into who is reviewing your proposal. Using DSRs also reduces the chances that your pricing can be downloaded and shared with a competitor.

Marisa Pensa
Marisa Pensa is founder of Methods in Motion, a sales training company that helps dealers execute training concepts and create accountability to see both inside and outside sales initiatives through to success. For more information, please visit www.methodsnmotion. com.

Through the power of technology, you can even drill down into what specific pages of a document were viewed.

• Pre-call planning excellence: The very best sales teams make use of data and research tools to be informed and share more insights. For instance, Vertical IQ is a tool that has questions you could ask as they relate to specific industries. There’s also Power BI, LinkedIn and so many more. The key here is to use data to fuel your sales process.

• More meaningful and personalized questions:

Building on the last point, tech-savvy sales teams use data to enhance their pre-call planning process by reviewing past call notes, industry research, competitor information and so on. This helps to build a roadmap focused on asking better, more meaningful and personalized questions of their prospects and customers.

• Improved overall performance: Technology has the power to assess your team’s performance on a whole new level. With artificial intelligence-enabled conversation intelligence,

you can utilize recorded calls and meetings to assess performance—for instance, to catch filler words or how often the salesperson is engaging the prospect. Using this type of technology will help managers coach, reps self-assess and the whole team course correct when needed.

Knowing what technology to invest in can be overwhelming, which is why focusing on the outcomes you want your sales team to achieve will help you home in on your needs and select the right technologies and partners.

It is an exciting time to sell but equally a challenging time to sell. It’s harder than ever to engage buyers; there is noisy competition and an increased threat from the Big Box stores and Amazon; and economic headwinds are fierce. Rise above the competition and leverage the power of great selling skills and technology to create an unstoppable team.

* Our partner, the Allego Revenue Enablement Platform, is the engine behind our DSRs and we can now assist dealers in accessing this same resource too. Let us know if we can help!

Marisa Pensa


Search engine optimization (SEO) is an invaluable tool for any e-commerce business. From optimizing content and website structure to reporting and link building, SEO can help boost your online visibility and increase sales. It may take a bit longer to get results, but the benefits are long-term and evergreen. Let’s review the importance of SEO and how it can help you take your e-commerce game to the next level.

Understanding the importance of SEO

Understanding the importance of SEO is crucial for any e-commerce business. With the ever-growing online market, it’s essential to have a strong online presence. SEO helps improve your website’s visibility and ranking in search engine results, which means more organic traffic and potential customers. By optimizing your content and the structure of your site, you

can ensure that your target audience finds you easily. In the modern competitive market, SEO gives you the edge you need to stand out and succeed. Don’t underestimate the power of SEO in boosting your e-commerce game.

Why SEO is critical for e-commerce success SEO determines how easily your target audience can find you online. With billions of websites out there,

Gannon is the content marketing manager for Fortune Web Marketing. She has been writing professionally for seven years. When not writing, Mara likes the beach, her family, her two cats, punk rock music and Japanese food.

you need to stand out in search engine results to drive organic traffic and increase sales. SEO helps optimize your website and content, ensuring that your target audience can find you easily. By appearing on the first page of search engine results, you establish credibility and gain the trust of potential customers.

Mara Gannon Mara

Don’t underestimate the power of SEO in taking your e-commerce game to the next level.

The long-term benefits of SEO

While it may take some time to see results, the effects of SEO are evergreen, meaning they continue to drive organic traffic and increase sales long after the initial efforts have been made. By optimizing your website and content, you create a strong foundation that can withstand changes in algorithms and trends. It’s a sustainable approach that ensures your online visibility and rankings continue to improve, leading to continued growth and success for your business.

Main components of SEO

When it comes to SEO for e-commerce, there are several key components to focus on. First and foremost is keyword research, which involves identifying the words and phrases that your target audience is using to search for products or services like yours. Next, on-page optimization involves optimizing your website’s content, metatags and URLs to ensure they align with your chosen keywords. Off-page optimization involves building high-quality backlinks to your website, which can help improve your search engine rankings. Finally, technical SEO involves optimizing your

website’s structure and ensuring it is easily crawlable by search engines. By addressing these main components of SEO, you can set your e-commerce site up for success and improve your online visibility.

Structuring your website for optimal SEO performance

There are a few key elements to consider when structuring your website for SEO optimization. First, ensure that your website has a clear and intuitive navigation menu, making it easy for visitors to find what they’re looking for. Additionally, organize your content into logical categories and use relevant keywords in your page titles and headings. Don’t forget to optimize your website’s loading speed and ensure that it is mobile friendly, as more and more people are using mobile devices to shop online.

Reporting and tracking SEO progress

To truly understand the

effectiveness of your SEO efforts, it’s crucial to regularly track your progress. By monitoring key metrics such as organic traffic, keyword rankings and conversion rates, you can gain valuable insights into the success of your SEO strategies. Utilize tools like Google Analytics and SEO platforms to generate comprehensive reports and analyze the data. This will allow you to identify areas for improvement, adjust your tactics and continue to optimize your e-commerce website for maximum visibility and success.

Link building strategies for e-commerce sites

Link building is an essential component of SEO for e-commerce sites. By acquiring high-quality backlinks from reputable websites, you can improve your search engine rankings and increase your online visibility. Some effective link building strategies for e-commerce include reaching out to industry

influencers for collaborations, guest blogging on relevant websites and leveraging social media platforms for link sharing. Additionally, creating valuable and shareable content can naturally attract backlinks from other websites. Remember, the key is to focus on quality rather than quantity when it comes to link building.

So how do you start?

Ready to get started with SEO for your e-commerce business? It’s time to take your brand’s reach to new heights. To kick off your SEO journey, reach out to a trusted marketing expert. They can provide guidance and help you understand how to optimize your website, conduct keyword research and implement effective strategies. With their expertise, you’ll be well equipped to increase your brand’s visibility and drive organic traffic. Don’t wait any longer—take the first step toward boosting your e-commerce game with the power of SEO today!

Mara Gannon


In addition to serving as national sales manager for AOPD, Tom Buxton, founder and CEO of the InterBizGroup consulting organization, works with independent office products dealers to help increase sales and profitability. Tom is also the author of a book on effective business development, Dating the Gatekeeper. For more information, visit www.interbiz

This month’s column is a shameless declaration of how well AOPD is succeeding for its dealers. Consequently, may I recommend that you read something else in this month’s INDEPENDENT DEALER if you already have enough ways to grow your business this year.

Still reading? Here is what you need to know first and foremost: AOPD is a not-for-profit organization. Its employees and consultants have one mission—to help our dealers grow their business within regional, national and vertical accounts. The entire team responds quickly to any and all inquiries because we have the passion to live out our motto: “Local Service, Nationwide.”

Besides nearly 450 regional and national accounts that AOPD dealers share with other AOPD dealers, we have

won and retain the following contracts (in alphabetical order):

• the G.S.A. Schedule 75;

• the Member Benefit National Chamber Contract;

• the OMNIA/NCPA Office Services Contract;

• Premier’s Office and Services Contract; and

• most recently, we were the only group besides Staples, OD and Guy Brown to win the Vizient Contract for office products.

We are also in the final stages of creating a joint selling arrangement with AFFLINK to help our dealers better compete in the off-carpet area of the business.

Obviously, I am biased, because I have been the national sales manager for AOPD since 2007; but when you consider that, except in a very few

years, AOPD has grown significantly despite the market shrinking, maybe we are on to something. We have a lot going on and it is all good!

So, why did I add “before it fills up” to the title of this column? The reason for that part of the title is because we only allow a few dealers within any geographical location to become members. We don’t want our members running into other members, because we would rather have everyone focus on competing with “the Big Guys.” This doesn’t mean that we don’t experience some competition within our group; but with so many contract options to focus on, many members hunt only certain contracts, which keeps intra-independent competition to a minimum.

The fact that some non-AOPD dealers would like the option to try one of our programs to begin with

inspired a new offering that the board approved earlier this year. It is designed to be used by dealers that might want to “dip their toes in the water” in regard to AOPD membership. We have already added a number of dealers to this program this year and they are using it to go after state, local and education accounts or hospitals that they haven’t had the credentials to approach in the past. Feel free to contact either Betsy Hughes, our director of healthcare (, or me ( if you have any questions about this offering or would like more information about becoming a full member of AOPD.

Our team at AOPD is “pumped” to be helping our dealers grow their business again in 2023 and look forward to another great year in 2024. I hope you will consider joining us.

Tom Buxton


“Two days of excellent, thoughtprovoking conversations, presentations and discussions. A great opportunity to step back from day-to-day operations, learn from others and take home new ideas.

Global Forum 2023

5 -7



David Centrella, EVP & President, ODP Business Solutions

Harry Dochelli, President, Essendant

Troy Harrison, The Sales Navigator

Bill Meany, President, S.P. Richards

Tom Tedford, President, Chief Operating Officer, ACCO Brands

Brad Soper, Managing Partner, Simon-Kucher & Partners

Jim Wheeler, Associate Partner, UK Cyber Lead, Infosys Consulting

The OPI Global Forum was a great opportunity to have all levels of the IDC together in one room sharing our successes, concerns and visions for the future. I am thankful I attended.”


l The state of the Global Business Supplies industry

l B2B E-commerce and what it takes to be a digital leader

l Enabling Profitable Growth through Pricing Excellence

l Business supplies and AI

l How to Bring Younger People Into Professional Selling Roles

l Marketplaces in the US and how to maximise growth

l Cyber Security and its importance in business supplies