On the vibrant morning of November 17th, 2023, The Office Friendly community gathered once again for their annual conference, transforming the East Midlands Conference Centre in Nottingham into a buzzing hub of collaboration and celebration. Members delegates, arriving from near and far, were greeted by the cool, crisp air, setting the stage for a day of innovation and connection.

The historic East Midlands Conference Centre, recently treated to a multi-million-pound makeover, stood proud as the premier venue for this grand affair. Its Banqueting suite, with an illustrious past, offered a fitting backdrop for both new partnerships and insightful discussions.

As the clock ticked towards the main event, Simon Webb, Office Friendly’s Purchasing Manager, extended a warm welcome to over 60 suppliers in the Banqueting suite to meticulously set up and proudly showcased their ranges. The anticipation in the air was palpable, with the promise of an action-packed supplier exhibition later in the day. Simon shared his excitement, stating, “We’re thrilled to host an eclectic mix of suppliers this year—a perfect blend of organisations bringing high-quality products and services to our members while aligning with the conference theme: People, Planet, Profit.”

Meanwhile, in the atrium, over 140 members delegates gathered for refreshments, energising themselves for a day filled with collaboration, insights, and festivities.

The excitement reached its peak as Office Friendly’s Managing Director, Jeanette Caswell, and her energetic team steered member owner delegates towards the group’s AGM and the customer focused delegates to the inaugural sales training session. Leading this session was none other than the esteemed Graham Perkins from Dale Carnegie, ensuring a powerful start to a day that promised growth, connection, and the pursuit of excellence.

Jeanette said, “The majority of our members delegates are knee-deep in sales in their day-to-day lives. That’s why we’re beyond thrilled to not just provide them with sales support but to bring in the expertise of one of the most reputable organisations globally. Introducing this level of quality to our community truly underscores one of the core themes of this year’s conference – People.”

Graham set the stage for his training session in the auditorium, igniting dynamic conversations with members delegates about customer interactions and cultivating a positive mindset as a sales professional. Simultaneously, Office Friendly owner members settled into their seats at the Office Friendly AGM, engaging in discussions about the triumphs of 2023 and the exciting opportunities awaiting on the horizon.

 Post-training and AGM sessions, the auditorium buzzed with enthusiasm and purpose as Jeanette took the stage for her welcome address. The captivated audience eagerly absorbed information about the day’s upcoming events. Jeanette concluded her address by introducing the keynote speaker, Holly Tucker, one of the UK’s most esteemed and successful entrepreneurs.

With a slew of accomplishments under her belt as the founder of notonthehighstreet.com, the go-to hub for exceptional gifts and small business magic, Holly addressed the members delegates with unwavering passion. She delved into her latest venture, Holly & Co, and explored the synergy between business and creativity, empowering every individual in the audience to glean insights from her remarkable journey.

Holly concluded her electrifying talk by delving into her business insights on retail, innovation, and e-commerce through an engaging Q&A session with the audience. Delegates were treated to a wealth of knowledge and actionable strategies to fuel their own business ventures in the future.

 

With the spotlight now on the annual KIT4WORK incentive, Jeanette shifted the focus to a thrilling opportunity that saw over Office Friendly members vying for a chance to secure over £11,000 worth of investment in the past year. Joined on stage by Adrian Butler, MD at VOW Wholesale, the incentive sponsor, the anticipation in the room was palpable as the competition reached its climax—a randomised draw that had the entire audience on the edge of their seats, eagerly awaiting the announcement of the first and second-place prize winners:

1st Place Prize – £5,000: OSI
2nd Place Prize – £2,500: Scott Law

Stepping into the dynamic second half of the day, delegates remained captivated in the auditorium where Graham Perkins took the reins for his second training session. With gusto, Graham delved into the art of asking the right consultative questions, fostering interactive discussions with delegates on crucial topics such as active listening, prioritising customer needs, and skilfully probing for pain points.

Simultaneously, an expert panel unfolded, aligning seamlessly with this year’s conference focus: People, Planet, and Profit. The panel featured the knowledgeable and insightful voices of Julie Hadley, Darren Washbourne, Chris Sellers, and Darren Lloyd. Together, they engaged in a profound discussion with member delegates, offering valuable insights into what dealers should anticipate in the years ahead. Beyond the horizon, the panel dissected specific challenges faced by dealers and illuminated strategies to overcome them. Their discourse underscored the strength of the Office Friendly community, showcasing how members can rely on each other for a productive, sustainable, and profitable future.

Injecting enthusiasm into the mix, Office Friendly’s Sales Director, Alex Stone, chimed in saying, “Today transcends the traditional conference experience for Office Friendly. It’s an extraordinary opportunity where delegates from across the nation converge to glean insights into product solutions, industry dynamics, and how, as a united community, we can ensure a prosperous and progressive future for all.”

After lunch, the much-anticipated exhibition kicked off, transforming the atmosphere as delegates dived into engaging conversations with community suppliers. Amid the bustling banqueting suite, a vibrant tapestry of the latest and greatest industry products unfolded, showcasing an array of diverse solutions. From specialists like Toolbank to experts at Sealy, the floor was bustling with innovation. Notable participants also included Metaliform, Logopolis, Xexos, and the ingenious marketing automation team from Force24.

Simultaneously, VOW Wholesale took centre stage, orchestrating insightful roundtable sessions throughout the afternoon. Led by the dynamic trio of Adrian Butler, Darren Renshaw, and Steve Smith, these sessions delved into the present and future of their product lines, unveiling strategies for mutual growth and strengthening relationships with dealers across the industry.

Office Friendly Conference
Office Friendly conference

As the final curtain fell on three and a half hours of lively discussions and collaborations at the exhibition, members delegates eagerly turned their focus to the evening’s main event—the Office Friendly Christmas Party.

The stage was a spectacle, adorned with a vibrant Christmas theme, 160 guests were hosted by the Office Friendly team. The auditorium underwent a magical transformation into a winter wonderland, setting the perfect backdrop for an unforgettable evening. Partygoers embraced the festive spirit, showcasing their brightest and most festive outfits.

The Office Friendly Christmas party unfolded like a celebration in Santa’s grotto, with the air buzzing with excitement and the sound of Carol Singers. The highlight of the evening was the anticipation surrounding the awards ceremony, where accolades were bestowed upon deserving members and suppliers by the Office Friendly team and special guests. The awards celebrated a year of hard work and dedication, adding a touch of glamour to an already enchanting night.

Office Friendly Conference

The Office Friendly Award Winners are:

CTS Wholesale – Vendor / Supplier of the Year Sponsored by Office Friendly

Zena Goodinson – Vendor / Supplier Account Manager of the Year Sponsored by Office Friendly

Q-Connect & Exclsuive Brands Sponsored by VOW Wholesale

Heatons – Social Sustainability Award Sponsored by Weaver

Neil Allsop – Pioneer Dealer Salesperson of the Year

Paperstone – New Dealer of the Year Over £3M Sponsored by Antalis

Aston & James Office Supplies – New Dealer of the Year £3M & Under Sponsored by Antalis

United – Mike Hindmarsh Dealer of the Year Over 3M

Laser-Ex – Mike Hindmarsh Dealer of the Year 3M & Under Sponsored by Fellowes

 

The joy of the evening festivities echoed through the voices of our award winners, with Zena Goodinson of VOW Wholesale expressing her delight, “I’m absolutely thrilled to have had such a productive, educational, and festive day. To top it off with an award is just the icing on the cake!”

The night took an entertaining turn, with a dash of light-hearted fun. Community members revelled in nostalgic games like pass the parcel, a delightful throwback to childhood, adding a playful touch to the grand finale of the Office Friendly 2023 conference.

Jeanette, radiating positivity, brought the day’s events to a close, stating, “We’re absolutely thrilled with the success of the day—so positive, informative, and we’re delighted to have provided a platform for our community of suppliers and members to discover how they can invest in people, the planet, and, most importantly, produce record-breaking profits in the future!”