There was a time not long ago when Dan Strull felt like he was not actually the CEO of Copier Headquarters. The corner office had his name on it, but it seemed like someone else was in charge.
Now, after 17 years of operating as a Xerox agent, Strull has been reinvigorated by the freedom that comes with being an independent dealer for the office technology space. The Woodland Hills, CA-based business now predominantly offers the Sharp line of multifunction printers, along with a variety of products from Samsung, Brother, OKI, Xerox and HP that cover A3 and A4 products, as well as mailing, finishing, booklet making gear, scanning and software solutions. Its menu of services includes managed print (which has grown at a clip of 15 percent per yet), managed IT and security-as-a-service.
The move to offering Sharp products has been a fortuitous one. Backed by 9 percent equipment growth, Copier Headquarters captured the Hyakuman Kai Award for $1 million in sales – a feat few other dealers have accomplished in their first year – and catapulted the dealer to north of $5 million in total sales. It serves a variety of markets including healthcare, hospitality, aerospace, legal and finance.
But what has really energized Copier Headquarters is the freedom to dictate its own destiny, grow past geographic borders, and carve out an identity that resonates with clients as well as employees. ENX Magazine spoke with Dan Strull, CEO; Paul Cooper, senior vice president; and Stuart Fratkin, executive vice president; to garner insight into how the whirlwind changes of the past two years are shaping the company and guiding it toward a prosperous future.
How is business this year?
Strull: We’re on track to have our best year ever. We’ve had a lot of success in some key markets. We’ve had a couple of big wins in the hospitality area, along with an aerospace account. These are all new customers.
Cooper: We experienced strong, continued growth in key markets, such as hospitality and legal. Product expansion has opened doors for us. Without the limitations we’d been experiencing previously, it has greatly opened new sales and marketing opportunities.
What does Copier Headquarters pride itself on?
Strull: We live by our mission statement and our core values. It’s important to us that we sell our “why.” We’re focused on offering a boutique-level service. We deliver at the speed of business. Quality of life for our employees is very important to us. We offer flexibility to come and go so employees can see their kids participate in sports or perform in plays. We have a highly-tenured team because of the way we go to market and do business. We have a best-in-class support team and great experience in service and admin. The sales team has tremendous tenure as well.
What has been your biggest growth catalyst?
Strull: The expansion of our product line has helped us so much. We were able to expand our geography because we were limited with our old vendor. We’ve had a lot of success in our vertical markets as well. Through our growth in IT, we’ve opened up some new doors. We’ve rebranded ourselves as a technology company, and that’s helped our growth.
Cooper: We’ve also taken on a third-party, first-class telemarketing organization that calls into our territory to generate high-quality sales leads for us.
What are some of your newer areas of business? Is it going the way you hoped?
Strull: We sell a whole new line, so that’s been our focus. We added more A4 options, envelopes and finishing devices that we couldn’t sell before. We’ve got so much in our bag that we can sell now; we can offer what the customer needs, not necessarily what we have in our warehouse. We’re also looking to continue to grow our IT services. We started in IT long before it was commonplace in our industry. We had some success, but I didn’t control it. We had a sales rep that was running it, and he did a great job, but we didn’t’ have the right of control over it. We let the rep branch out on his own, so we’ve had to rebuild it ourselves.
Is there a product or solution that you are looking to add in the near future?
Cooper: We continue our growth in the MFP side, so that’s constantly evolving. We’re going to start marketing a unique, specialized water filtration system for commercial use in the next 90 days.
You were a Xerox agent prior to 2015, then became a Sharp dealer. What prompted the switch and how has the move been for Copier Headquarters thus far?
Strull: We discovered 10 years prior that it wasn’t a sustainable business model. We had no value on paper, no control of our destiny. Our long-term plan was to be a full dealer, supplement the lines and grow our geography. So we rebranded ourselves in 2008 and again in 2012. We took the vendor out of our name, took the logo off everything we could and tried to brand ourselves as Copier Headquarters. We created a mission statement and changed the way we went to market with our own service and our own leasing. This gave us a revenue stream that was recurring and provided instant value on paper. We were able to get credit and do a lot of things we weren’t able to do in the past. It gave us a future that is very bright.
Fratkin: When we made the switch, there was a lot of trepidation about moving forward. There were some challenges that Paul and I needed to overcome. First of all, [what vendor] were we going to go with next? We felt it was important that we represented our customers and company properly. We truly believe that our partnership with Sharp, first and foremost, was an excellent step in the right direction in our rebranding of Copier Headquarters.
Earlier this year, Copier Headquarters was recognized by Sharp with the Hyakuman Kai Award for $1 million in annual sales. What variables have factored into your success?
Strull: It starts with our leadership of Paul and Stuart. They vetted all the products and made the decision to go with Sharp. We were definitely brainwashed into thinking that the Sharp product was inferior. What we found out was the exact opposite, it’s a superior product. The biggest test was what our customers would think. We learned that our customers were buying from us and they didn’t care what the brand was. Then we did product demonstrations. We would bring customers in here and take the risk of putting the product on site to see if they would like it to give them an out. We’ve had incredible success from that. We’ve spent so much time training and have gotten really good at selling the product. The Sharp partnership was also instrumental. Our technical and admin teams were able to wrap their arms around the product. Success has come quickly. When we won the Hyakuman Kai Award, it was no surprise to us, but the Sharp people were thrilled with how quickly we got there.
What was your dealership’s most significant accomplishment or biggest win last year?
Strull: We’ve had more new business than ever before. In the process, we brought a new level of professionalism. We manage ourselves now, where in the past we felt were betrothed to the vendor. We became our own company.
Cooper: Previously, a number of wins, such as hospitality, aerospace, the national law firms, would have been reserved to our previous vendor, either directly or through another channel, and we would not have been allowed to participate, present or offer our products. So when those restrictions were removed, both by account and geographically, it was a tremendous advantage for us.
What do you look for in your employees? How do you recruit and retain good ones?
Strull: We’ve been really fortunate in that we haven’t had to do much recruiting. What we do differently is top-down interviewing. I start the process by phone or even a quick on-site interview. I look for a fit before I look for skills. Will that candidate’s personality, sense of humor and core values fit with us? Then I turn it over to Paul and Stuart to make a decision. We really push our culture and our core values. We spend a lot of time discussing our quality of life and want to find out from the individual what’s important to them. We want to make sure that they know we believe family comes first because being with their kids and not missing life’s great moments is important. We pride our flexibility in that. It really helps sell us and retain people for a long time. They’re not treated as a number; they’re treated as a person.
Fratkin: The culture that Dan has created at Copier Headquarters tends to blend into all our sales cycles. Once we have that conversation with our customers and they see what kind of company we’ve created internally, they want to partner with us and feel more comfortable doing so.
What is the secret behind the new business acquisition?
Cooper: We developed a specific structure in the way we present ourselves. The first impression is critical when you’re meeting somebody. We’re all equipped with iPads and are feverishly writing down information and finding out from the customer what makes them work, their organization and workflow, what’s important to them, what they like or don’t like about their current vendor. We also never disparage the current vendor, no matter what the client says about them. Then we present a solution to them that is very professionally done, in a format that most people won’t take the time to do. A lot of sales reps put their quote on one sheet of paper and throw in a brochure. Our method is comprehensive and follows a structure all the way through the post-sale process. We’ve had customers repeatedly tell us that we are by far the most organized, knowledgeable and professional.
What was your biggest challenge in the past year?
Strull: Previously, I didn’t always feel like the CEO; it seemed like the vendor was the CEO. It’s been an adjustment, but it’s been wonderful in opening doors. We’ve grown, become better people and a better company. There’s just so much that we can do and there isn’t enough time in the day to accomplish everything we want to do. For me, I wish we could work seven days a week, but can’t do that because you’ll burn out people. Slowing things down a bit is my biggest challenge.
Who do you see as your biggest competition, and how do you differentiate your company from them?
Fratkin: I equate our philosophy to that of a lot of big league baseball managers who tell their teams that as long as they take care of their own business – which is understanding what our customers’ needs are and what kind of value we can bring to their company – the rest will take care of itself. One quote I preach to my sales team is to not blow out the candles of our competition just to keep ours lit. I think it’s ingrained in their DNA by now.
Last year, Copier Headquarters held its inaugural food and toy drive. Can you talk about the importance of philanthropy, for both the community and your workforce?
Strull: We feel very fortunate for what we’ve got, and we have a responsibility to give back. We do a big project every year, and the current one is Operation Gratitude, which focuses on the military. We have these things called battalion buddies, which are stuffed bears that are delivered to the children of recently deployed members. We have a party where we stuff the bears personally, and with every order we get, we give a bear in that customer’s name. We give time for causes such as Alzheimer’s, the Michael J. Fox Foundation (Parkinson’s disease) and Niemann-Pick disease. All of them have touched the lives of the employees’ family members at Copier Headquarters. We’re focused on being a beacon in the community, and it’s a big part of our culture.
What are your goals for this year?
Strull: We’re focused on growth and revenue profit. We’ve been fortunate to have growth nearly every year. Business process optimization is big; we’re simplifying our offering and are focused on new customers. Our revenue goal of $6 million is a big target.
How do you view the industry changing in the future and what are you doing to adapt?
Strull: It’s very important for us to diversify. We follow the lead of our vendors and keep up with the industry. I belong to Pro Dealer Group, which is a group of dealers that get together a couple times a year and discusses what the industry’s doing and what can make our businesses better. We’re constantly looking within, sharing best practices and finding better ways of doing things. We’re utilizing empirical data to make decisions, and we’re adding new types of IT services all the time. We offer social media services as a diversification; we’re looking to growing that as well.
What is your most and least favorite aspect of your job?
Strull: Lease favorite is easy: it’s the L.A. traffic. On the positive side, making our customers’ lives better is very rewarding. We don’t fish for it, but we get a lot of compliments, and it really makes my day. When I walk into the office in the morning, everyone seems pleased to be there. Our office is beautiful; our people are fun. Between the growth and getting the Hyakuman Kai Award, it’s been a rewarding experience.
Fratkin: We also do a lot of sponsored events in our office, like retreats for each one of our departments. Pitch and putt golf and lunch is popular with the sales staff. We’ve done cooking classes, bowling, wine tours and ice cream function. During the fourth quarter, we hold Fun Fridays that can range from food to massages, which gives the employees something to look forward to. It makes for a really great place to work.
This article was originally posted October 2017 on ENX Magazine.