Having worked in the demanding global automotive industry for so many years, I was rather skeptical when we were approached by a US start-up to introduce an innovative tool to the European Office Products (OP) industry. I was proven wrong – the desk stapler range has indeed been a true innovation, creating a whole new category. And going into Office Products has been quite an exciting roller coaster ride as well.
After scanning the EU market mechanisms, we launched the product at the 1999 Paperworld Show in Frankfurt, the leading OP show worldwide. We met distributors in all key European markets and shaped a pan-European distribution strategy. By 2000 we had 35 distributors covering the main trade, wholesale and stationery markets in Europe, and were working on category programs with the leading modern trade, contract, catalog and retail players.
We traveled regularly to the US for global sales meetings and were involved in product development as well as in designing marketing and category initiatives. Our sales team enjoyed their role as the international members of the booth staff at OP trade shows in Chicago, Shanghai and across Europe.
We also set up a European warehouse in Antwerp and a full customer service operation in our Munich office. Customers placed orders with our multi-lingual service staff, and we processed shipping and invoice documents, coordinated the shipping out of the Antwerp stock, took care of accounts receivable, returns, and so on – all part of providing a full-scale European operation for the US-based client.
While growing Europe, we were awarded additional global missions. We successfully implemented the product line in South Africa and Australia / New Zealand – and enjoyed outstanding success beyond all expectations.
Our main mission ended when the client company was sold to and integrated into a major, large-scale OP player with a worldwide sales organization. I am happy that the new owner still relies on PBS Sales to operate the local European customer service and process orders.
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