Reed Group Completing Changeover

August 15, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — The reorganization of The Reed Group, the largest independently owned office-equipment company in the state, is sailing along smoothly following the departure of the firm’s top executive.

Michael Reed retired as TRG president on June 30 after 32 years with the company that his father, William Reed, started in 1957.

Michael spent nine years as company treasurer and six as executive vice president before taking over the firm in 1988. Sales nearly tripled during his tenure. He is staying on with the firm as a consultant and is overseeing the construction of the company’s new 40,000-square-foot building in Walker.

“It’s been going good. We had a succession plan in place. The underlings here have pretty good experience in the business and have been managing a good portion of the business for a significant amount of time,” said Russ Reed, Michael’s younger brother and new president of the W.S. Reed Co.

“I think when he took over the helm it was a $12 million company and we were over $35 million when he exited,” said Russ of Michael’s term. “He came in as a CPA and was critical in the finance area. Tom and I have always been in the marketing and operations side of it.”

Russ has been in the industry for three decades, spending 26 of those years at TRG. Tom Reed, also a brother, is now president of the Commercial Equipment Group. He has been in the business for 20 years, with almost all of those at TRG.

Russ and Tom are in charge of the daily operations of their respective companies, which, along with Reed Office Systems Inc., fall under the TRG banner. Commercial Equipment Group is the parent firm and Global Imaging Systems owns TRG.

Richard Peterson is the new TRG president. Based in Pittsburgh, he serves as a regional leader for the firm and Amcom, a Global Imaging Systems dealer in the Steel City.

TRG broke ground on its new facility last month, which is large enough for both W.S. Reed and Commercial Equipment. In fact, the new structure has twice the space both currently have at their two locations. Russ said both will move in on Feb. 1 and the shift would give both businesses a few more efficiencies to work with. Each will have its own section in the building.

TRG sells a full line of office equipment from names likes Toshiba, Konica-Minolta, RISO, InFocus, Panasonic, Ricoh, Canon and others. The line includes digital copiers, wide format copiers, color copiers, facsimile systems, document management solutions, digital duplicators, newtworkable computers, publishing systems, projectors, micrographics and electronic imaging.

TRG has a dozen offices across the state and 212 employees, including 60 sales specialists and 75 factory-trained service technicians, at those offices. And in the not-too-distant future, the company may find itself opening another office or two in a market that could turn out to be one of its most productive.

“We’re classified as a core dealer for Global Imaging Systems, and as a core dealer one of our charters is to acquire other businesses like ours and expand our business geographically. So a very logical area for us to grow is in the Detroit market. We’ve never really been real active in Detroit,” said Russ. “That is something that is high on our radar screen.”

Russ said being an independent has its ups and downs. Trying to maintain the necessary margins while competing against larger companies that can buy cheaper can be tough. But having the freedom to make all the decisions instead of having those come from somewhere else has allowed the company to direct its attention toward its clients instead of an out-of-town corporate office.

“One key thing is the level of support that you bring to the customers and we’re very passionate about that. Our customers’ productivity — and it’s a saying we have throughout our company — is No. 1 with us,” said Russ.

“There are a lot of products out there with a lot of similarities. But making decisions on a local basis on how you go about taking care of your customers, or reacting to situations that you’re in, is a benefit.”

The industry has made more advancements in the past decade than in the previous four, back when William Reed started Commercial Equipment almost 50 years ago. Then the firm was a sole 3M dealership in Grand Rapids and the 3M line consisted of a small copy machine known as the Secretary Thermo-Fax Copier.

What separated the Secretary from others was that the 3M machine made dry copies in less time than it took competing copiers to produce wet ones that usually smeared. Today, the machines are capable of doing multiple tasks more efficiently, and Russ sees that trend continuing in the coming years.

“I think the future looks good in our industry. The technology is a fast-paced, ever-changing technology. As we can provide more productive tools to the end user, it becomes more valuable,” he said. “Because it’s so digital now, it’s just changing a lot faster, so a lot of companies will need to make sure that they have the latest tools in their office.”     

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