OPI European Forum 2020 Recap

The OPI European Forum 2020 took place last week, albeit in a virtual setting for the first time in its history. Here’s everything that was covered.

This year’s OPI European Forum was presented to virtual attendees in an alternative format due to the current COVID-19 restrictions.

Whilst still taking place over a two day period (17th – 18th November), OPI European Forum 2020 was held via a video conference last week, with almost 250 industry executives and key figures taking part and watching on from a span of nearly 20 different time zones and locations.

Each day was packed with interviews, panel discussions, networking chat and other roundtables over a six-hour period.

Here’s what happened during each day.

Day 1 – Tuesday 17th November

The day’s activities kicked off with OPI CEO Steve Hilleard giving an introductory address which helped highlight some of the key challenges and opposition that the industry has faced during the pandemic, along with new opportunities that have been brought into the limelight.

This was then followed with several back-to-back quick fire interviews with senior executives from a range of channels in the current European market, who shared their personal experiences over the past few months and made some predictions for new industry trends in the near future.

After a short break, a panel discussion was held by Simon Drakeford, the CEO of EO Group and Chairman of the BOSS Federation.

Titled ‘The Future of the Business Supplies Industry’, Drakeford presented a number of key discussion points and pieces of advice for attendees, with snippets from the discussion including:

• How the industry has done a terrible job in promoting what they are and what they can do
• Focus only on what you are good at and don’t be overly complex with your offering
• Try to forge more tactical partnerships when in need of immediate capabilities
• Sales teams may be smaller because of the pandemic but will be more efficient and productive.

Delegates were then given a break to network amongst themselves before they were given the choice of eight different roundtable discussions to attend covering a plethora of different topics including:

• Strategies for growing within the Safety and Cleaning categories
• How to develop as a ‘modern’ reseller
• Finding success through eBay
• The post-COVID workplace
• And rethinking the industry

Day 1 then concluded with a panel on the topic of Brexit, which was moderated by the Managing Director of Westcoast, Alex Tatham.

The group of panelists provided some key insights on what Brexit will mean for many businesses next year, along with some general tips on how best to prepare for some of the main trading changes taking the forefront as a result.

Day 2 – Wednesday 18th November

Boasting another strong day for engagement and participation from the delegates in attendance, Day 2 of the OPI European Forum 2020 began with a brief networking session and introduction once again given by Steve Hilleard.

After the warmup to the day’s proceedings, author and business consultant Matthijs Rosman took to the virtual stage to deliver a detailed presentation on disruption in the industry, with many commenting that the advice provided was fascinating and thought-provoking.

Providing his viewpoint on what he believes can lead to businesses being exposed to disruption, Rosman described issues such as commoditisation of assets or industries, a lack of transparency, underutilsed assets, low or no added value, serious user pain points and ‘platformisation’ (explained as marketplaces).

After holding talks on how the above factors could cause disruption to organizations and within the industry itself, Rosman’s presentation was followed by a roundtable session, with one of the key takeaways being that the WFH (Work From Home) trend now presents a great opportunity for businesses to reach more customers than ever before.

An important point raised in addition to the Work from Home trend was the need for more channel stakeholders to collaborate in order to take advantage of more openings within home working equipment and services, with the idea of partnerships in general becoming a focus point throughout the rest of the day and arguably, over the course of the two-day event.

OPI European Forum 2020 – What Happens Next?

Eyes now draw to next year’s event, which providing current conditions improve, may be held as a physical event for industry leaders to attend in person.

For now though, OPI European Forum 2020 has given a lot of figures within the business supplies sector some real food for thought as we head into next year.

Sam Rose