Economic Development, Human Resources, and Retail

Leanness, learning pay off for Michigan Office Solutions

The office equipment dealer hustles to keep up with changes in technology.

May 20, 2016
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A shift in philosophy six years ago has done wonders for Michigan Office Solutions.

The Grand Rapids-based office equipment dealer, which was purchased by Xerox in 2007, opted in favor of a “leaner” philosophy — one that would put more of an emphasis on sales staff.

In 2009, Michigan Office Solutions’ sales revenue was at $37.7 million, a figure previously reported by the Business Journal. Sales increased over the next six years, and in 2015 sales revenue was $73 million — a 93.6 percent increase.

“I think it’s being focused on operational efficiency — really, being the most lean we can be,” Michigan Office Solutions President Ralph Slider said. “And that leaner philosophy helped to make us operationally as smooth as possible, while allowing us to invest in more salespeople and the business, in turn growing our sales.”

Though Michigan Office Solutions has thrived in recent years, selling office equipment in 2016 is not without its challenges. As technology continually changes and improves, Michigan Office Solutions must constantly work to stay ahead of the curve.

In a modern office using multiple printers, copiers, scanners and fax machines, there typically are several networks in play. Each machine is connected to a network, and navigating the various intricacies of those machines and their corresponding networks can be tricky.

To combat any potential disconnect, Slider said employees are constantly learning about the new products, and Michigan Office Solutions invests significant time and money into ensuring its staff is well-versed and up to date on all the latest information.

He added the company employs a pre- and post-sales team that works to bridge the knowledge gap between what the technology can do and how it is best suited to handle the needs of the customers.

“It requires quite an investment in people and planning development to fill that gap,” Slider said. “Though customers are more savvy today, they’re still trying to figure out how to connect and be more efficient. That’s where we come in.”

On the whole, Slider said the office equipment industry in West Michigan is still going strong. Michigan Office Solutions posted record sales in West Michigan in 2015, although revenue has leveled off somewhat: The company experienced double-digit percentage growth each year from 2010 to 2013.

“What we’re seeing is that the companies that excel in the future will have two characteristics,” Slider said. “They’ll be much more proactive in the connection with the client than the industry has ever been, and they’re also going to have the ability to connect with software solutions and allow for clients to actually print less.”

Slider is confident that, by investing in the employees, Michigan Office Solutions has created a workplace culture that exudes productivity. In addition to revenue growth, Michigan Office Solutions also has seen headcount growth. It is now up to 267 full-time employees from about 150 in 2009.

Michigan Office Solutions has received a number of human resources-focused awards. For five consecutive years, it has been named one of the 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in West Michigan, and its Detroit offices have been honored twice.

“We’re striving to really develop a continuous improvement culture — a culture of learning and a culture of innovation,” Slider said.

“We transitioned from a company founded almost 60 years ago by a great entrepreneur, one managed by professional managers, into one managed by its employees, and we’re pretty proud of that.”

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