About 70 people from the business supplies industry attended the BOSS Members’ Day at the St Bride Foundation in London on 12 October. The day started with the AGM, headed by outgoing BOSS Chairman Simon Drakeford who also officially handed over the reins to his successor – Julie Hawley, Finance Director of YPO.
CEO Amy Hutchinson then gave a summary of the key priorities the industry association has been working on over the past year – growing engagement and delivering value to its members, for instance. She also announced former EVO Group exec Debbie Nice as interim CEO of BOSS, effective 6 November, while she takes maternity leave, likely starting on 6 December.
Before the educational part of the day kicked off, Philip Wesolowski, Managing Director of Staedtler and Trustee of the BOSS Business Supplies Charity (BBSC), stood in for BBSC Chair Martin Wilde to provide details on the charity’s work.
Listening and learning
It was then up to Jordan Rassas, Head of New Business at energy consultancy Inenco to give an update on the energy market, a topic important to everyone in the room. Offering some valuable insight into price movements over the years – including periods before the Ukraine vs Russia conflict began – the good news, he said, is that prices have peaked.
He expects energy costs to average around the £100/MWh mark over the next five years – higher than the historic average, but considerably lower than the outrageous peaks we saw in 2022.
Following on from Rassas’ cautiously optimistic outlook was a 100-mile-an-hour deep dive into the impact of AI on business as well as humanity. In his keynote, Dr Daniel Hulme, a true expert in this space, dazzled the audience with an extremely thought-provoking and slightly scary explanation of what AI actually means. His verdict? The human brain is weak and human beings are poor at problem-solving – AI can help us make better decisions. As Hulme asserted: “Algorithms are the key differentiator in your business.”
Lack of execution
After a much-needed coffee and a short break to process the sheer influx of information, the first of two industry panels delved into the topic of B2B e-commerce. With Drakeford opening the session by asking some questions to the audience, two things quickly became apparent: firstly, overall, there’s a low level of investment in e-commerce in the UK business supplies sector; secondly, it is almost non-existent among the manufacturing community which is typically not end-consumer facing.
All the tools are there – sophisticated and in fact superior to many other industries, according to panellist and ES Tech Group Business Unit Leader Paddy Donnelly. The problem, he added, lies in the execution – there’s simply not enough focus on learning how to use them and on wholeheartedly embracing a different sales methodology.
The final panel discussion, chaired by Hawley, covered the subject of sustainability, partially with the government’s recent U-turn on climate commitments in mind (for more on this subject, read Rolling back the years on page 34).
Plenty of food for thought, much of which was digested and discussed over a fabulous lunch and afternoon networking session at the nearby Humble Grape wine bar and restaurant.