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Posted: July 15, 2011

Colorado success stories: Source Office Products

Faced with a tough economy, Source chose to accelerate growth

David P. Mead

Editor's note: This is another in a series of Colorado company success stories as told by CEOs and business owners. Source Office Products was recognized as a 2010 Colorado Company to Watch.

Faced with a difficult economy in 2008 with existing customers forecasting 15-20 percent reductions in volume, the leadership at Source Office Products  had to make a decision. Most organizations were cutting staff to reduce expenses. However, as Chairman and Founder, John Givens recently told me, "We felt we were already operating efficiently and would be cutting muscle. So we decided to hire and grow. We began to sell more lines of business to those customers who already liked doing business with us."

While it might seem counterintuitive to some, for Source Office Products, the strategy worked well. Source, founded in 1990, grew revenues 40% between 2007 and 2010 and is enjoying an anticipated growth rate of 18% in 2011.Source Office Products is a regional single source provider of business to business office products and services including office supplies, multifunction printers and copiers, managed print services (document management), web-managed commercial printing (business printing & marketing collateral), office furniture, and coffee services.

How is Source Office Products different?

Source Office Products seeks to tailor a solution for each client. We combine a strong commitment to superior IT systems and business processes with a commitment to serve each client as they want to be served. Each client has different priorities and pain points. Our account managers meet with each client 2-4 times a year to assess their needs.

 Then we develop customer-specific programs and solutions. One client may be growing rapidly and office products are a relatively small percentage of the total expenses. That client may be looking to make things easy, simple, and convenient. Another client that is a more competitive environment may need us to provide the lowest cost solution. With automation and IT, we can provide ‘mass produced customization'. Process and work flow is very important since minimizing the number of times people touch the order leads to higher quality, speed, and efficiency. We stress automation with both customers and our suppliers - greater than 94 percent of our business is conducted online in real time by customers.

This carries through to your culture which is very customer-centric.

Ultimately our biggest difference is that we hire the most experienced and talented account managers and provide them a lot of autonomy and the freedom to serve the customer. We let them act as entrepreneurs and we manage to results through reporting and automation. We have a very egalitarian culture. We work hard to make certain that every team member knows how important and valued they are. Management's role is to remove obstacles for team members so they can do their jobs better. We stress what I call "cross-lateral pollination" which means people from all areas are involved in team selling and team implementation.

Founders sometimes have difficulty giving up control. You brought in management with significant growth experience.

In the growth of every organization the best leaders must learn to follow. They must be willing to follow the advice of people they disagree with when the consensus of those they trust goes contrary to their opinion. They must serve the team by continuing to remove obstacles and hurdles that impede success. They must be acutely aware of their limitations and highly alert to the extraordinary qualities of those that make up their team.

Given our growth, it was obvious that we need a seasoned leader to help us assemble the team and integrate corporate resources necessary to provide effective support for our internal and external customers. Ken Larson, our president, has already taken the journey of growth in his career and has very strong opinions about what needs to be done and why. His core ideology and deep genuine passion aligns incredibly well with our high performance culture and guiding principles. Peter Burch, our CEO, puts the team and the organizations success ahead of all else. His knowledge, skills and ability to integrate various departments and team members are beyond impressive. He allows leaders to lead. Peter has high expectations and is constantly working to improve. He is all about taking responsibility and owning your work.

What are the keys to continued growth over the next 5-10 years?

We have to execute well and manage successfully what we've undertaken in the last 2 years. We've added Managed Print Services (document management), iPrint (commercial printing), and the Coffee division. Mergers are also important. To date, we have done three mergers, including Wyoming Office Solutions and a recent merger with Valley Office Supplies in Grand Junction. We need to integrate these well and to identify other possible mergers that have good cultural fit and strong entrepreneur-owners who want to grow with us, and can support our objectives as a regional SINGLE SOURCE B2B provider.
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David P. Mead, President and CEO of The Mead Consulting Group, Inc., has 30 years of experience growing technology, healthcare, education, manufacturing, distribution, and services businesses. The Mead Consulting Group, Inc., founded in 1981, specializes in working closely with the CEOs and business owners of mid-size companies (revenues from $10M to $250M) to help them create value and leverage business strengths to take their companies to the next level. Mead Consulting, with headquarters in Denver, has over 40 senior consultants focused on Colorado-based businesses.

David Mead is President of The Mead Consulting Group, a consulting and advisory services firm, based in Englewood, that has been helping Colorado companies grow since 1981. The firm's 40+ senior consultants with operating backgrounds assist Colorado-headquartered companies with strategic growth and execution, improving profitability and cash flow and maximizing value at exit. Dave is the past Chairman of ACG Denver and a long-time Board member and is on the Board of Young Americans Bank. Contact Dave at: or (303) 660-8135.

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Readers Respond

Thanks for the comment. How many businesses would have had the courage to take such a counterinuitive course of action? By Dave Mead on 2011 07 18
That's a risk they had to tale since they had to go against the flow and follow what they think is best for their company. It sure is a great strategy and a great example for business owners as well. By rossmark22 on 2011 07 15

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