For most independent dealers, 2020 was a year that denoted rapid change. It was the same for Kenner, Louisiana-based GBP Direct – but not for the reasons you might think. Founded in 1999 by owner and president Randy Durbin, the company has enjoyed a stellar time over the past year or so, with no less than four acquisitions.
Acquisitive by nature, its first purchases—Apple Office Products and Tri-Parish Office Supplies—were a mere three years after it opened its doors. Since then, GBP’s processes and expectations involving acquisitions have been developed and honed. Including the four in 2020, GBP has bought 10 independent dealers so far, all based in its home state of Louisiana.
According to Cody Durbin, sales and business development manager for GBP Direct, the pandemic accelerated the stress and pressures that some of the dealers were already facing. “Ultimately, the timing just worked out well for both GBP and the acquired companies to sit down and make a deal. We were able to take away the financial pressures they faced from the reduced sales brought about by COVID-19.
“The reason we spoke with these dealers is that they were the correct size to enable us to acquire them with few issues and were also in a position that made sense for them to come onboard with GBP rather than continue operating independently. In turn, GBP was able to integrate experienced and knowledgeable employees into our team.”
The four acquisitions—in chronological order—were: Contract Furniture Group, St Rose; Premier Office Products, Baton Rouge; Gulfland Office Supplies & Furniture, Morgan City; and Ives Office Products & Printing, New Orleans. “We acquired a contract furniture firm which we’re very excited about, and added a 60-year-old large and established printing company which brings printing into our focus for the future. We are continuing to expand our footprint in Louisiana and will keep on making strategic acquisitions throughout the state as opportunities become available,” says Randy.
GBP Direct is currently one of the largest independent dealers on the Gulf Coast and harbors lofty ambitions that have not been dampened by the pandemic—rather the opposite, in fact. Unsurprisingly, health and hygiene was one of the dealer’s fastest-growing categories last year, and Cody believes moves to buy an established jan/san player will be on the cards in the future.
The strategy makes sense on many levels considering the heightened awareness of health and safety, which is unlikely to disappear any time soon, along with a general push in the jan/san sector. Plus, as Cody reveals, there aren’t too many independent dealers left in the area to purchase. “However, the remaining few are invariably on our radar and we are always open to discuss opportunities should such a situation arise,” he comments.
Randy also points out that nothing is off the table when it comes to acquisitions, adding: “We will continue doing our due diligence to acquire office supplies, contract furniture, jan/san and promotional printing companies.”
For any dealers that may be looking to sell up or buy another independent, Cody offers some sage advice: “If you’re interested in selling your business to another independent dealer, don’t be afraid of the possible changes. All of those we’ve acquired have thrived after merging into GBP.
“If you’re a dealer interested in acquiring another independent, it never hurts to introduce yourself to your local competitors and keep the doors open. The timing may work out someday that they want to sell their dealership.”
The father and son duo are steadfast on the end game, with their vision of becoming the largest stocking dealer and first-call supplier for business products in Louisiana. To achieve this goal, GBP is working toward building an inside sales team, boosted by the ability to re-engage with its current customers and establish new connections that COVID-19 prevented and prolonged.
Expansion of a different kind is also on the cards, with a new and larger satellite location in Baton Rouge almost at the finish line. Once completed, the company is ready to press ahead with expanding its corporate headquarters in Kenner by an additional 15,000 square foot.
So, what exactly is the secret to GBP’s success? “Having the right people in place is key to growing a successful business. It has always been our number one priority. Through talent acquisition and our mergers over the years, we have been fortunate to continue adding great people to our team,” states Cody.
Year founded: 1999
Key management team: Randy Durbin
Percentage of sales from online: 78%
Products carried: Office products, furniture, printing, jan/san