Office Supply Solutions hasn’t been able to celebrate its 10th anniversary this year quite in the style that it had hoped, but that in no way detracts from its achievements or its relentless customer focus.
Personal service and word-of-mouth recommendations are at the heart of this St. Louis, Missouri-based business. One of Office Supply Solutions’ biggest accomplishments is that it has averaged more than one new account per business day for the past 10 years.
Referrals have been key to achieving this. As founder and CEO Mark Brimer says: “We have built our business by referring others—often our own clients—to their key target prospects, and by helping them become more successful. In exchange, they help us connect to our ideal clients. To put it differently, less than 5 percent of our accounts have come from cold calling in the past 10 years.”
Office Supply Solutions is mainly a stockless dealer that delivers more than one-third of orders received the same day. A large proportion of orders are also delivered by its own drivers. Says Brimer: “Using a courier company is less personal, we feel—it’s really not much different than ordering from Amazon.”
Helping with the logistics side of things is S.P. Richards (SPR), both locally and across large parts of the U.S. Brimer comments: “We work closely with SPR, which allows us to pick up orders in the St. Louis, Chicago, Memphis and Kansas City markets, so we can expedite these orders for our local needs.”
In addition to same-day service—which Brimer highlights as one of its core differentiating factors in an era when customers expect instant service—Office Supply Solutions prides itself on its can-do, can-help approach and what it calls its “rock-star” customer service. “A client of ours in the construction industry had problems with its shirt vendor, for example,” says Brimer. “We supplied that customer with a new provider within three minutes—a supplier that turned out to completely exceed the client’s expectations.
“Also, we’re not afraid to contact customers after an order is placed—by phone, email, text or on our website—and suggest a cost-saving option if they are interested. Much of our sales growth has actually come from suggestive selling at the end of each call, as well as our Instagram videos showing different products. Anyone can put something in a box and get it from point A to B; but is it done with care and always with the best interests of the customer in mind?”
Office Supply Solutions delivers to homes as well as businesses in its standard delivery area. Again, this is clearly something that is now more important than ever.
Brimer also refers to technology and the part it has played in the company’s success, especially from a networking perspective: “When our dealership turned five in 2015, we hosted a business networking party which over 250 people attended. We now do these quarterly and around 1,000 people attend them yearly (see www.networkathon.com). During these events, people see us as a community leader, which allows us easier entry into many prospective clients.”
So who is Office Supply Solutions’ typical customer? The usual answer to this question might be small and medium-sized businesses, mid-market operators, customers in certain verticals and so on. But not for Brimer and his team. “Our typical customers are people who value their time,” he explains. “They understand it is our job to do their product research and not shove them to a catalogue or website. We have both, of course, and they can use them—so that is not my point.
“We’ve made it to 10 years in business by constantly exceeding our customers’ expectations and paying attention to the little things,” he continues. “We are more than a company that delivers office supplies. Instead, we are a resource and a partner for their entire business. This includes bringing them new clients. The thinking is: if they are successful, so are we. And it’s everyone’s job at Office Supply Solutions to grow the company—we encourage our staff to get involved. If they bring in new opportunities, they get compensated for that; not just once, but throughout the legacy of the account.”
Key management team:
Mark Brimer (founder/CEO)
Year founded: 2010
Key business partners:
Percentage of sales from online: