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Judges name Highland firm as best in Britain

By Calum MacLeod

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Highland Copiers director Mike Rae with the firm's national dealer of the year award.
Highland Copiers director Mike Rae with the firm's national dealer of the year award.

City businessman Mike Rae admits it was an emotional moment when he heard his firm, Highland Copiers, named as one of the UK's best office equipment companies.

The Inverness-based business was named Dealer of the Year (up to £5 million turnover) by office equipment trade magazine “Print.IT Reseller” at its 2020 awards ceremony.

Mr Rae took a leap of faith in leaving a successful role with another firm in 2013 to set up his own business when he felt there was a gap in market for a locally owned office equipment company.

"When I heard our name announced as winners, there was a lump in my throat thinking back to starting the company," he said.

"You wonder if it is the right thing to do, there are times when you doubt yourself, so with moments like that it feels very nice to be recognised. It started with an idea, then turned into a business, then a good going business, and now to be recognised by your peers within your industry as a leading business, it makes you feel very proud of what we have achieved."

The Print.IT Awards are usually held in London as a prestigious black tie event. Although Covid-19 restrictions meant this was not possible for the 2020 event, the organisers still made a special occasion of it, sending a hamper to each of the shortlisted companies for them to enjoy while they watched the livestreamed awards announcement, and a celebrity host in comedian Tom Allen.

The dozen-strong judging panel kept the results secret until they were officially announced, so it was a surprise to everyone, not just Mr Rae, when the firm was named the winner.

The judges were particularly impressed by the level of service the firm provided over an area the size of Belgium, with host Tom Allan commenting: "The judges recognised the company's success in delivering excellent customer service in what they described as a challenging environment to do business in where you are not operating in cities, but extremities of Scotland."

As with all finalists, Highland Copiers was asked to pre-record an acceptance speech in the event of a win.

Mr Rae – who donned full Highland dress for the occasion, said it was a great achievement for the business and thanked his hardworking staff and their families, the judges and suppliers, but most of all "the loyal customer base we have here in the Highlands."

Highland Copiers was also shortlisted for UK service provider of the year, but Mr Rae he was delighted to win the dealer of the year category which includes recognition of service.

All entrants are nominated by their suppliers for the awards, before going through a rigorous selection process to whittle the entries down to the final shortlist.

"We are very proud to be recognised by our peers within the industry," Mr Rae said.

"We felt we were massive winners by just getting to the finals stage.

"We are a company that has originated from the Highlands and completely independent and that has obviously helped us to stand out from the rest. We don't have the luxury that a lot of city firms have when they go to a call. If they don't fix something first time, it's not a big issue because they can just nip back to the office, where for us, if we are driving to Skye, for example, it's a complete false economy not to get it right first time. The onus is on us to make sure that people are able to continue to print and there is very little downtime. The reason for that is because we have such a large geographical area, but that in turn raises the overall service standards to an extremely high level. That is again one of the big factors in our winning the award."

Mr Rae again thanked the firm's customers for their support, especially over the last 12 months.

"We are hugely extremely thankful to the loyal Highland and Moray customer base," he said.

"It is because of our customers that we have that we have managed to navigate through Covid without having to make any redundancies, and we are delighted about that."

Not only has Highland Copiers managed to retain its entire team of staff over the Covid-19 crisis, but there are also plans to add a further members of staff to the team in the months ahead.

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