AboutUS-Banner
Our experience and credibility is recognized internationally
With over 55 years’ experience, Highlands has the credibility, longevity and knowledge base to successfully implement your sales and marketing strategy.

As the go-to sales and marketing agency for the world’s best brands, we have a strong presence in Canada, Europe, and the United States. We work closely with our global business partners to develop a comprehensive overview of best business practices according to their local laws, culture, and values.

It’s your brand, only better.

Having built lasting relationships across several countries, we can provide services where others can’t. Our insight and expertise in interglobal business will ease your burden in bringing products to market.

It is our goal to bring you world-class results on an international scale.

With a broad spectrum of services, Highlands creates a strategic plan that both complements and enhances your brand. Highlands is the only sales and marketing resource you need now and in the future.

Highlands provides the services you need to win.

With the constantly changing needs of our customers, we stay ahead of the market, anticipate trends, and maximize opportunities for your brands.

Creating and executing your brand strategy has never been easier or more effective.
 Stevens

Kristin Stevens Promoted to Vice President, eCommerce

Highlands is pleased to announce the promotion of Kristin Stevens to Vice President, eCommerce. She will have the primary responsibility of overseeing all operations for the eCommerce team.


“We are happy to recognize Kristin’s invaluable contribution to our company. She has proven to be an effective leader and her hard work and dedication will continue to enhance the strategic direction, growth, and profitability of Highlands’ eCommerce offering,” said Gordon Christiansen, Chief Operating Officer and Senior VP of Marketing at Highlands.


For over nine years, the eCommerce team has been pivotal to the success of Highlands’ clients. The team works alongside clients to create personalized eCommerce strategies that maximize sales and deliver easily measurable results. This comprehensive and holistic approach creates consistent and best-in-class online retail experiences for our clients and their customers.

Darren Laycock pic (cropped) (cropped)

Darren Laycock Joins Highlands as Territory Sales Manager for Western Canada

July 3, 2018


Highlands is pleased to announce Darren Laycock as Territory Sales Manager for Western Canada. Darren has more than 30 years of sales account management experience, specializing in Office Products/Furniture, and Educational institutions.

 

“We are delighted to have Darren join our team and help us with the growth of our business. His years of industry experience in the Canadian market provides our business with the right person to continue growing sales for our clients, “said Brendan Lane, President and General Manager of Highlands Canada. “I am looking forward to working with him.”

 

Before joining Highlands, Darren was President of Dynamic Marketing Inc., and will continue to represent those same manufacturers in Western Canada.

MickeySandor_Headshot

Mickey Sandor Joins Highlands As Business Development Manager

May 29, 2018

Highlands is pleased to announce Michelle (Mickey) Sandor as Business Development Manager, responsible for building relationships within the Multi-Family and Hospitality channels in the United States.  Mickey’s background as a Hospitality Specialist at HD Supply gives her great insight and knowledge to accelerate sales for Highlands’ clients. 


"Mickey's prior experience working in sales for HD Supply and on the manufacturer side - calling on the Hospitality vertical - make her a great fit for Highlands as we move to support our partners and grow market share in these key business sectors," said Mike Douglas, VP Sales for the Central and West.

Untitled-1

It is with Sad Regret that Highlands Announces the Loss of Kevin O'Gara

March 19, 2018

On March 11th, at the age of 82, Kevin O’Gara passed away in Ponte Vedra, Florida. A fixture in the office products industry for over 30 years, Kevin was the founder of KOGCO, the precursor to what is today called Highlands, and retired in 1995. 

“Any success Highlands has achieved would not have happened without the foundational work my father did over thirty years from 1962 until 1995.  He was a great business person but also a great mentor to many.  All of us who were lucky enough to work with him will carry some part of him with us for the rest of our lives.  For many, this will be the best part,” says Bob O’Gara.

Kevin’s funeral will be held on March 24, 2018 at 10:00 am, at the Holy Spirit Church in Atlanta, Georgia. In lieu of flowers, the family appreciates contributions to City of Hope in his remembrance. 

City of Hope donations can be directed to:

City of Hope - NBPI
C/O Kevin O'Gara Memorial
1500 E. Duarte Road
Duarte, CA 91010
Attn: Matt Dodd

Signature Highlands Logo

Highlands to Support City of Hope’s Efforts through “Run for Hope” Sponsorships and Donations

February 26, 2018

Join us for “Run for Hope”, presented by Highlands, in honor of S.P. Richards Company President and CEO, Rick Toppin. Our combined efforts will raise funds for City of Hope - the comprehensive research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other serious illnesses. “Run for Hope” will be held at Georgia International Horse Park, a former Olympic venue, April 13 - 14, 2018.  

“Run for Hope” is a 123-mile race where each member of an eight-person team will run 3 five-mile segments (15 miles total per team member).  The 24-hour race includes camping and running through rugged terrain, pine forests, flowing streams, and wildlife.  Alongside Highlands, FireKing, Georgia Pacific, GMi Companies, ideal, ShurTech Brands, Static Control, and Zep will be co-sponsoring the event. 

Shannon Blake, Partner and Senior VP of Strategic Accounts at Highlands says, “Highlands is grateful for the opportunity to support City of Hope and Rick Toppin’s 2018 campaign. We appreciate all the generous support we have received from our co-sponsors for this event.  We are excited about this athletic challenge while engaging in a fun team building experience”.  

For more information on how to register and for sponsorship opportunities, please email [email protected]


About City of Hope
City of Hope is an independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Designated as one of only 49 comprehensive cancer centers, the highest recognition bestowed by the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is also a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, with research and treatment protocols that advance care throughout the world. City of Hope is located in Duarte, California, just northeast of Los Angeles, with community clinics throughout Southern California. It is ranked as one of "America's Best Hospitals" in cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of bone marrow transplantation, diabetes and numerous breakthrough cancer drugs based on technology developed at the institution.

For more information about City of Hope, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Instagram

moving forward

Highlands in 2018

January 9, 2018 

It was Paul Tudor Jones who said. “You adapt, evolve, compete or die.”  And, he’s a man worth listening to (120 / 400 on Forbes).

It’s no secret that the office supplies category is in decline and has been for some time. Like any successful company with its heartland in office supplies Highlands has been evolving its business for some years.  We try to stay ahead of trends and help our clients evolve and win with us.  

Office supplies will always be a cornerstone for our business however today it constitutes less than 25% of our sales income.  2009 was a turning point year for Highlands; we could offer true US-wide field sales representation and we entered the cleaning and break room categories.  Since then we’ve invested in e-Commerce capabilities, opened international offices in Canada and the UK, enhanced our furniture and facilities offering and added marketing to our portfolio of services.   

Over the last year we’ve clarified our vision and the principles that guide us, both internally and externally.  This has helped us and our clients to prioritize the direction we take from now, from 2018 and beyond.  One principle is ‘Channel Agnostic’.  That means we’re not fixed to any channel or marketplace but rather focused on advising our clients on the best place for them to be, and then help them get there.

That’s why marketing is such a vital component of our service offering.  Creating and executing strategies to exploit new markets is critical.  Helping clients with their proposition and positioning is not only exciting work but also helps drive effective sales advocacy.  Also, as more and more business is transacted online, the need for digital marketing strategies and assets becomes paramount. As a result, Highlands made the investments in people and capabilities to help those that require this service to increase their sales.

Highlands will continue to expand our facilities and furniture offerings, as our customers are looking for more support with these categories, and we have demonstrated the ability to help connect suppliers to these customers. We also expect to do more with safety, which is a natural next step for many of the partners we collaborate with.  

Beyond expanding product interest, Highlands is focusing on two distinct but well-defined end-user segments this upcoming year: hospitality and multi-family. These segments will take us firmly into the MRO space with clear focus. Further, this focus on specific verticals brings value to our traditional customers as we will be working with suppliers that can help traditional customers broaden what they sell and who they sell to.

An increasingly wide reach across multiple channels, integrated sales and marketing capabilities and access to the entire US market, as well as Canada and European markets, are a few examples of what sets Highlands apart in the sales and marketing space. In 2018, we look forward to helping our clients grow into new channels, markets, and geographies.



Gordon High Res

Gordon Christiansen promoted to COO of Highlands and makes his move across the pond to the U.S.

January 5, 2018

In the early weeks of 2018, Gordon Christiansen, Senior VP of Marketing and newly appointed C.O.O., has moved from his home in the U.K. to the home of Highlands’ corporate headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Bob O’Gara, C.E.O. at Highlands, commented “Gordon’s move to Atlanta and assumption of the C.O.O. role will allow him to become even more intimate with the entire business.  Since joining our European operation 3 years ago, Gordon has made a positive impact on the business providing leadership and operational rigor.  I look forward to working with Gordon and all of our associates as Highlands continues to grow through the addition of new services, geographies and market segments,”  

For over 55 years, Highlands has delivered greater sales for clients by providing the most effective and efficient brand advocacy programs. Today, Highlands serves its clients in the United States, Europe and Canada, supporting manufacturers and brands in the B2B, B2C, and eTail marketplaces.  

Jade-2

Highlands promotes Jade Wilson to Managing Director, Europe

August 8, 2017

Highlands, announces the promotion of Jade Wilson to Managing Director, Europe. He will have the primary responsibility for all business operations in Europe.

“Jade’s aptitude and contributions have been invaluable and he embodies so many of the wonderful traits of our company. His innovative thinking and vision will continue to enhance the strategic direction, growth, and profitability of Highlands in Europe” said Gordon Christiansen, partner at Highlands. Jade has been with Highlands for more than 6 years. Prior to his appointment, he led the sales team as Sales Director. In his new position, he will be responsible for leading all client programs in Europe maximizing their effectiveness through all reseller, retail and eCommerce partners. “I am delighted to take on this role for Highlands Europe,” says Jade.  “It is a great opportunity for me personally especially at this exciting time in the evolution of Highlands Europe.”

Highlands is the only multinational sales and marketing services agency supporting manufacturers and resellers in the B2B, B2C, and eTail marketplaces with custom product, sales, and marketing strategies. For over 55 years, Highlands has focused on engineering greater sales for its partners by providing the most effective and efficient brand advocacy programs, brand resources, and technologies for entire channels.

Today, Highlands serves its clients in the United States, Europe, and Canada.  Highlands is proud to combine the most effective and efficient multi-channel brand advocacy strategies with world-class tactics to ensure product sales are maximized throughout the supply chain and across the globe.


BO + GC for opi Blog_edited

opi article - Outsourcing Sales Xtra: The whole package

March 2, 2017

 

Heike Dieckmann from OPI speaks to sales and marketing agency Highlands CEO Bob O’Gara and Gordon Christiansen, Managing Director Europe and SVP of Marketing, about the challenges that exist and how the company is addressing them.

 

In line with the evolving nature of the business supplies sector, the role of manufacturer rep groups is changing. OPI has been following their progress over the years. But while outsourced sales reps continue to play an integral part in our sector and nowhere more so than in the US, the pressures facing both the manufacturing as well as reseller communities have taken their toll and highlighted some of the perceived cost/benefit challenges that exist.

 

US-based Highlands is arguably the best-known sales and marketing agency in the global business supplies market, with a strong nationwide presence in the US, an expanded regional presence in Canada and a solid footing in the UK, with developing plans for the rest of Europe.

OPI: The business supplies sector is changing massively and, by default, so are manufacturer rep groups I believe?

 

Bob O’Gara: Yes, absolutely. If you talk about manufacturer rep groups, or a sales and marketing agency as we at Highlands prefer to be viewed as, you need to consider the macro environment and what’s happening in the broader industry.

Consolidation is happening at both supplier and reseller level and that’s inevitably going to impact rep groups. We’re still in the early stages of this consolidation which is largely driven by the decline in traditional office products. The resulting margin pressure affects independent rep groups the most, as these manufacturers are struggling with overcapacity and need to assess how much money they can afford to spend and on what specific sales and marketing activities.

On the reseller side, scale matters now more than ever before. To be an effective B2B service provider you need to have scale, invest in websites and all manners of technology to drive your business. And you need to have a partner that is familiar with that technology and can help you with that.

It’s a challenging time to be in this space, but I think there’s still plenty of opportunity because many of our legacy suppliers are actually in greater need of these types of services. 

OPI: Can you give an example?

 

Bob: A great example would be assisting suppliers with the creation of digital marketing assets. We have a number of clients that use Highlands as a marketing resource as well as a sales resource. Everyone knows that to maximise sales you need great copy, great product images and great videos. It’s not one-size-fits-all.  For those suppliers that don’t have the internal resources to create great digital content, Highlands can step in.

Another example is diversification of markets. Manufacturers accept that if they’re only selling into companies like Office Depot, Staples, SP Richards, Essendant and the large OP independents of this world, it is becoming ever more difficult to achieve significant growth. The question is: How can we as a sales and marketing agency assist those suppliers in terms of penetrating mass market channels, the MRO sector or the education vertical? How can we spread their business out into other channels to help them find other paths to growth?

Gordon Christiansen: We are in the same boat. At Highlands, we’re diversifying in terms of the types of accounts that we service and how we service them. This diversification is happening in three specific areas. The first one is different distribution channels, as Bob mentioned.

Then there are new product categories that we represent, such as jan/san. This now puts us into the same boat as other resellers and wholesalers. Like them, we need to broaden our scope in terms of the brands we represent and into what channels we represent them.

Third - services. Yes, field representation is still a critical part of what we do, but we also need to provide a wider range of services including technology. This will greatly help brands increase their channel penetration and volume. 

OPI: Where do you see the greatest traction in your manufacturer relationships?

 

Bob: Again, its not one size fits all. Highlands is built to allow manufacturers to work with us in a variety of ways, based on their unique set of needs. That said, some of our most effective engagements are deeply strategic. We work with clients to help them to shape their strategy and product development, and then map out the best and most cost-effective paths to market right through to the end user. It’s a completely different type of engagement than we had in the past.

 

OPI: The channels you outline mass market, MRO sector, education…Are these within the realms of a manufacturer rep groups generally? I assume size matters here as well?

 

Bob: In the US and Canada there are reps working in all of these channels.  Generally, these groups focus exclusively on only one channel and are regionally focused. With respect to office, facilities and MRO, we are seeing increasing overlap that will present challenges for suppliers and agencies.

In a blurring marketplace, what is the distinction between a jan/san dealer and an office products dealer? Generally, the suppliers of janitorial products hire groups on a national basis to service the office channel. This should give those groups an advantage over the regional rivals in other janitorial and MRO markets.

OPI: Amazon, do you have a relationship with them through the brands you represent?

 

Bob: We do. We have a robust online business. But it’s not all about Amazon.   What’s unique about Highlands is that we serve the totality of the e-tail marketplace, rather than Amazon only or Overstock only. This is important as it involves managing the interplay between these accounts that lets you maximise online sales.

With respect to Amazon, this is not a relationship company but rather an analytics company that prefers to do things over email. Plus, it has a high staff rotation, so you never see vendor managers in the same seat for very long. 

We are effective with Amazon because we’re really good at the technical part. We have a team of people that really understands how to promote and maximise our suppliers’ product exposure, how to manage the e-tail marketplace, how to work with the complex pricing algorithms" and in the process drive considerable growth for our partners in that marketplace. 

OPI: You have a unique advantage in that you are very well known through your international presence?

 

Bob: We have derived great benefits from being in multiple markets. We have significant opportunities coming to the US business based on our Canadian and European presence and this has worked in the opposite direction too.

The best part is that we are discovering new suppliers to drive incremental business not just for Highlands, but for all of the customers we sell to across all of the markets served.

OPI: You now have a solid presence in the UK I believe, representing a variety of brands including RB very successfully. What about continental Europe" what’s your experience there?

 

Gordon: Europe is very much on our radar and we are well-positioned to make it a success. We have the expertise to help brands from the US, for example, that have no experience in the European markets to introduce them to the key resellers and wholesalers across the continent as well as help with product information and promotional activities.

That said, it’s not been easy. There are a couple of manufacturers, British and US-based, that would like to have some representation in Germany, for example. The challenge is pure economics. You can’t just do it for one or two manufacturers, you need ten to make it economically viable. We don’t quite have the traction we need yet and maybe the model in continental Europe will need to be adapted somewhat, away from a pure field sales model.

We currently represent a number of brands across the whole of Europe and helping them sell into German resellers, pan-European wholesalers and online marketplaces. The office channel for them is an exciting place to grow and we believe we’re the ideal partner to help them do that.

By the same token, having a European presence provided us with the opportunity to help manufacturers from that geography be more successful in the US. Having a footprint on both sides of the pond has really worked for us because of the interactivity between the US and Europe, and many manufacturers wanting to move both ways.

OPI: In our recent article in OPI we talked about commission-only agents that are still pretty prevalent in some parts of Europe and also the associated cost that comes with dealing with a company like Highlands. What’s your view?

 

Gordon: I think there’s always going to be a market for the commission-only concept. For some manufacturers that works well because it’s a relatively low-cost, low-investment model.

Our model is different. We tend to represent large brands that are well known in the marketplace. It’s about creating a point of differentiation for the reseller to incentivise them to focus on the brand we represent rather than a competitive one.