Arkansas Office Products…and More, Jacksonville, Arkansas

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Arkansas Office Products, Jacksonville, Arkansas, recently added “…and More” to its name—two small words that say a lot.

“We offer office products, furniture and janitorial and breakroom supplies, like other dealers,” explains president and founder Steven Pawloski. “But we also have an in-house printer. We do trophies and awards; we print corporate clothes and have started a line of our own designs. It’s all part of our plan to be a one-stop shop. Many dealers say they are, but you are not a one-stop shop if you can’t supply everything your customers want. We don’t have absolutely everything ourselves; but if a customer wants a product, we will find a way to provide it and still make money. So we will continue to expand into areas where we receive customer requests.”

 

With challenges come opportunities

In 2006, having worked for another independent dealer who retired, Steven decided it was time to strike out on his own. He started Arkansas Office with his vice president, Sharon Regnas, and one driver. Today, the company boasts annual sales of $2 million; its largest clients are in the automotive, financial and educational sectors.

In an apparent paradox, Arkansas’s business has picked up in challenging times. “When the economy is bad, we do better,” says Steven. “The only reason I can think of is that when times are tight, people look at us. When the economy is good and the money is flowing, people don’t worry about pricing, especially for office products. It’s not their money. Plus, they assume Amazon and Office Depot are cheaper because these companies have done a tremendous job of telling people they are the cheapest, even when that is not true. But when the economy is bad, people look at what they are spending. They see people being laid off and think they could be next, so they are more eager to help their companies save money.”

 

Apples to apples

Steven believes it is independent dealers’ job to highlight the price and product differences that set them apart from the big box sites: “When customers talk about getting better pricing from Amazon or other big boxes, I tell them to be sure they are comparing apples to apples. We sell a box of a dozen pens for $15. They will say they saw them on Amazon for $12.99. I tell them to look closer, since many times the price is not for a dozen. I had a customer the other day say he should have listened to me. He supposedly got a better price but only received three pens. It’s up to us to educate our customers—especially since I think most people would rather buy from a local company if they can.”

 

Personable success

However, Steven believes that Arkansas Office’s success is not down to pricing alone: “The major reasons for our success are being transparent with our customers and having a physical presence—whether a salesperson calling on them or a real person answering the phone. For us, that is huge. People like to talk to people and being unable to get a person on the phone can be irritating. We don’t want to aggravate our customers when it is something we can control.”

When it comes to the challenges, Steven is quick to pinpoint one he thinks many dealers share: “Getting top talent to sell office products. It’s not sexy. Finding people who want to join the industry is difficult.”

Looking to the future, Steven’s plan is straightforward: “To keep going as we are. I am not saying we won’t change how we do business because sometimes you must change to stay in business. But we will keep working toward being our customers’ one-stop shop. We will keep adding to the ‘More.’”

 

 

Headquarters: Jacksonville, Arkansas

Top management: Steven Pawloski, president; Sharon Regnas, vice president

Number of employees: 7

Annual sales: $2 million

Percentage of business online: 40%