In 2004, Martin Beck and Chris Crumpton purchased a dealership in Grapevine, Texas that was going bankrupt and started a new operation under the Business Essentials name to serve the Dallas-Fort Worth market. Since the two took over the operation it has grown to almost 20 times its original size.
For the dealership, 2018 has been a year of growth. “Business Essentials is holding on to its market share and realigning its strategies to improve profitability and top-line revenue,” says Chris.
The dealership’s slogan accurately sums up the business approach: Big enough to serve you and small enough to know you. “We want our clients to know that we have the ability to do anything anyone else can do for them, along with the ability to treat them as if they were our only customer,” he explains.
Much of the growth over the last 18 months has come from either promotional products or the vertical markets of health care and education. Promotional products had been sold by Business Essential using online sources but the market was never pursued too seriously. A greater emphasis on the category came about when Chris and Marty realized they were missing opportunities with their current customers.
Cindy Crumpton, Chris’s wife, has become the point person for all promotional and marketing products. She deals directly with the manufacturers and when sales reps have an opportunity, they go to her. The sales promotion effort is still in its infancy but is already showing signs of significant potential.
“Though it is labor intensive, most of the promotional products we sell run margins of 35 percent or better,” says Chris. The program has only reached a fraction of existing customers to date, but has generated close to $100,000 of additional profit.
The Dallas-Fort Worth market is a large and diverse metropolitan area, where virtually every national competitor fights for business. Many businesses buy from Staples, Office Depot or Amazon, admits Chris. The larger companies can count on fairly regular service but, he points out, small and mid-sized firms can’t say the same. “You’d be surprised at how many businesses we go to that can’t tell us the name of their sales rep at the big box they buy from,” he says.
“Our two biggest verticals—health care and education—have also contributed to the growth,” says Chris. For school sales, BE submits annual bids which gets them on an approved vendor list. From there that warm lead needs to be converted to a paying customer. “We do a much better job establishing relationships with schools than the big boxes do,” says Chris.
Business Essential currently has five salespeople covering area schools along with other businesses. Chris can assign a school district with 30 schools to one of his salespeople and they will visit every one. “The typical rep for a big box company probably couldn’t tell you the names of any schools within a district,” says Chris.
One objective at Business Essentials for 2019 is to continue to add salespeople. Plans call for a new salesperson to start January 1, and another one could come on board next June. One of those could be a specialist in either promotional or janitorial products.
Even with all the current industry uncertainty regarding its wholesalers, Chris remains optimistic about his own company’s growth. The Dallas-Fort Worth area accounts for close to $2 billion of sales in the product categories covered by Business Essentials. “We have less than 1 percent of that, so there are always opportunities for growth,” says Chris. “You just have to have enough feet on the street to find them.”
Key management: Martin and Kim Beck, Chris and Cindy Crumpton
Products carried: Office supplies, furniture, breakroom and janitorial, promotional and technology
Year founded: 2004
No of employees: 14
Key business partners: Essendant, Office Partners