Senecal On Right Page

July 3, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Tom Senecal began to ink out his future during the pursuit of his master's degree. But it wasn't necessarily the degree that took him places; it was a particular class.

Senecal, president and owner of Laser's Resource, decided to take a class called Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management at Aquinas College while he was finishing his master's degree. It was then that he caught the entrepreneurial bug.

He began shopping for a business and stumbled upon the idea of remanu-facturing laser printer toner cartridges.

"I was working for a computer company called Digital Equipment Corp. and so I had some background in the use of laser printer toner cartridges and was really looking for a business that could meet our criteria," said Senecal.

"We wanted a business we could start out of the basement of our home, and it met the criteria to do something environmental. It also fit my technical background well because I had a sales technical background in the computer market, and it also had a good selling message behind it in that I could go out and offer it to customers to save money."

Laser's Resource began in 1991 by remanufacturing the toner cartridges and selling them to a handful of companies. To start, the company picked up Spectrum Health and Foremost Insurance as two of its biggest clients, which are still with the company today.

Senecal gives the analogy of the milkman of the '50s and '60s who would go and pick up empty milk bottles and bring full ones. Laser's Resource, he said, does the same thing with spent printer toner cartridges.

"Our customers call in their orders for what they need and every day we have two vans that go out during the week to customer sites, pick up empty toner cartridges, deliver the remanufactured cartridges and then the empty cartridges are brought back to our facility to be remanufactured," explained Senecal.

In the last couple of years Senecal's company has evolved into being more than just a supply company. It is now an authorized Hewlett Packard office equipment dealer, specializing in a full line of HP printing equipment for businesses.

Laser's Resource is also a service center for HP machines and the only independent HP dealer in West Michigan. Senecal himself was selected to sit on Hewlett Packard's National VIP Reseller Advisory Committee.

"I work on bringing ideas from the market to the table," said Senecal. "People in these giant corporations don't know what life is like on the street; we take them and educate them on what it is like to sell and service their stuff."

Through the advisory committee Senecal hopes to better educate corporations on what dealers and resellers go through, so they can work together in a cohesive relationship.

Looking back 12 years, Senecal said, he never imagined he would come this far with his basement business. However, he noted that the typical entrepreneur looks ahead only three years and this type of projection would have been hard, because in 1991 he thought he was simply in the printer toner cartridge business.

"It's like you learn in business school: It's just like the railways, who thought they were in the railroad business and had they realized they were really in the transportation business, they might not have been overtaken by the trucking business," said Senecal. "We realize now that we are in the office imaging business, and it is more about putting an image on a piece of paper."

To achieve a deeper sense of putting itself into the office imaging business, Laser's Resource is looking to get into utility-based printing, selling output on HP printers on a cost-per-page basis. That means that Laser's Resource owns the copiers and businesses can sign up for a minimum number of pages a month and pay from a penny to a penny and a half per page.

"We will provide printers, supplies and service, come in and read the meter and determine what they owe on a cost-per-page basis," said Senecal. "So where we are is in the office imaging business, and we are just letting the times and the evolution of the business take us into the next step."           


Briefly
Name:
Tom Senecal
Company: Laser's Resource
Title: President and owner
Age: 44
Birthplace: Muskegon
Residence: Kentwood
Family: Wife, Debbie, and daughters Emily and Amanda
Biggest Career Break: Being selected as Hewlett Packard's only VIP MFP dealer for West Michigan.
Community Involvement: Member of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Roundtable program, served on the boards of the RAYS swim team, Southeast YMCA and Forest Hills Northern Crew Team.

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