When you see Spry, Inc.’s logo, Jeff Williams—chairman and CEO of the Anderson, Indiana-based dealer—hopes it reminds you of two things: “Spry, like an older gentleman kicking up his heels. Our industry is great, but sometimes it gets stuck in old ways. The Spry logo represents a company in an old industry that keeps innovating. The fox represents being quick, nimble and creative in the way we meet client needs.”
Interestingly, the way Spry meets clients’ needs is entirely online—although it hasn’t always been that way.
A fast start
“My neighbor, Frank Franks, owned Financial Forms and Systems, a mainly print company that was doing about $800,000 in sales annually,” Jeff recalls. “When I graduated from college, I was looking for a sales job. He hired me instead to work in the warehouse but said I could make sales once I had finished my warehouse work. Not long after, and still eager to get into sales, I suggested we offer more promotional and office products to make it a one-stop shop.”
Jeff realized the best way to expand was through e-commerce. In less than a year, the company had all its offerings—including office products, custom printing and promotional apparel—online. “Within a year, I knew we were onto something,” Jeff says. And he was right.
“Within three years, the company had doubled its sales to $1.6 million,” he continues. “By year eight, when I bought out the owner, sales were up to $3.3 million. This year, we should hit $23 million; four years from now, we hope to be at $50 million.”
Part of the growth has come through acquisitions: the company has made 10 in recent years, and Jeff says an 11th is “in the works.” The other part of the company’s growth has resulted from precisely what the Spry logo stands for: innovation and creative flexibility.
Eight years ago, the company founded Standing Ovation Group to further broaden its print and promotional offerings. “This gave us the creative part to be a full-service agency,” Jeff says. “We can do it all now: we create content; we have a digital library; and we shoot and produce videos.” In 2019, the company consolidated Financial Forms and Systems and Standing Ovation Group under the current Spry umbrella.
Poised for success
When asked what is responsible for Spry’s continued success, Jeff doesn’t hesitate: “The people and the culture we’ve developed are number one. Second is innovation. You can hear in our story that we’ve had to innovate. It’s been hard work—even painful at times; but it is the reason we are growing.”
Jeff elaborates on other key growth factors for the company: “The logistics are better for customers when they consolidate five or six print vendors into one. Think how much they are saving on shipping. The old way is to have products coming in from all different places. We have multiple warehouses, so all the products can come from one vendor: us. They get the print, promotional and office products in one shipment, and we ship them together, so it’s better logistics for us. Also, our reporting helps. Data is king! Anything our customers want to know, they can just log in to our site and find the information they need by department, cost center or individual. We have people switch to us just for our reporting.”
Looking ahead—and perhaps to buy
Jeff is highly optimistic about what lies ahead for Spry. “I know 2023 is going to be a good year,” he says. “Our growth is based on organic sales and mergers and acquisitions. If organic sales are down, M&As are up. M&As are a little slower when prices are up; now prices are down a bit, so M&As are up. But we are selective. I don’t care if a company we might acquire is print, promo or office supplies. If we buy a promotional company, we’ll bring in office supplies and print. If we buy an office products company, we’ll upsell print and promotions. It doesn’t matter how we do it, as long as the company is a cultural fit. That’s first and foremost.”
Headquartered: Anderson, Indiana
Number of employees: 55
Top management: Jeff Williams, chairman and CEO; Marty Anderson, president; John Schneider, chief operating officer
Annual sales: $23 million
Main wholesaler: S.P. Richards
Online business: 100%