Opportunity knocks again for Hobart Office National
24 June 2020
From a modest start 20 years ago, Hobart office products dealer Glenn Tanner is retiring on a roll.
Having started out as Essential Office Supplies in 1999, Tanner’s excitement at launching his own business was tempered by the death of his mother.
"The shock was so great that my dear old mum died the next day." he said.
Undeterred, Tanner carried on and over the next two decades the businesses went from strength to strength despite the off setback.
"On day one I had no stock, no customers and no staff. My growth rate in the early days was 25 per cent - coming off a nil base. I joined the Office Brands group in 2001 and changed the business name to Essential Office National but eventually changed this to Hobart Office National” he said.
The business is now in its third location due to steady growth, except for a period during the GFC.
On one occasion, the business almost ground to a halt when the landlord failed to pay the power bill for the complex.
“Other tenants left the building, but I managed to get an electricity account, paid some of the arrears, and soldiered on,” he said.
“In 2012, things were quiet so I purchased a small copier business - gained two great employees and picked up the Sharp copier agency for southern Tasmania. Around the same time, the Hobart store of Office Choice burned to the ground by an arsonist but I can assure everyone it was not me!
“I had been in informal talks with the Office Choice owner about a possible partnership, but he was not really interested after the fire. I ended up purchasing his customer list at a bargain price and gained two more excellent employees and three-quarters of the customer base,” he said.
The Hobart Office National story took a major turn in 2015 when Tanner appointed a “pommie guy” named Nick Harrison as an account manager and now the new owner of Hobart Office National.
“Nick got us started in a small way in the back-to-school business around the same time I started to think about retirement after 58 years in the workforce,” Tanner said.
“My first thought was to offer the business to the staff - I thought they might get together and form a co-operative or similar. The only person who showed any interest was Nick, who became a full partner in 2017,” he said.
Opportunity knocked later that year when the iconic education business Birchalls closed down.
“They tried to sell the business but no-one was interested. Nick and I got in touch with the Hobart manager of Birchalls - offered her a contract - and got into the back-to-school business in a larger role.
“Two years later, the Birchalls manager left us just before the BTS season. Nick and the staff rose to the occasion and had a very successful season.
“We have now picked up two staff from Winc - one of whom was their main education person and have already locked in at least six more schools for the next season. While selling plenty of product to the schools during the year as well.
“So right now things are looking really solid for this business so it’s a good time for me to say farewell," he concluded.
PHOTO CAPTION: Changing of the guard at Hobart Office National – at left, new owner Nick Harrison with founder Glenn Tanner.