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28-May-2014

Eakes Office Plus' Culture-Shaping Company


Eakes Office Plus (EOP) has provided office solutions to Nebraska businesses for nearly 70 years. Although the landscape of their industry has dramatically changed, Eakes has always focused on providing great service to every customer.


Founded in 1945 by Howard Eakes, EOP has led the office services field in Nebraska. Today, they are one of the top 20 independent stationers in the U.S. and have 12 locations and over 200 employees.


"Each employee has to do the right thing when it comes to the customer," said Miller. "It started in 1945 as the paramount reason Howard (Eakes) wanted to start the company. And I think today it's still the paramount reason why we are still successful."


The current formal EOP mission statement today revolves around helping their "customers work more effectively."


President of Eakes Office Plus Mark Miller started working at Eakes in 1993 as an operations manager. In 2003 he was named president after the founder's sons, Dan and Ron, decided to take a step back from day-to-day operations.


Dan and Ron Eakes are now both retired, but still own a portion of the company.


From 1999-2000 Eakes brought what was then eight stores under one entity. Miller and four store managers bought into the company. Eakes is privately owned by its employees.


Today, each store is run by managers who oversee operations, and according to Miller, the success of each shop is dependent upon its management. Each of the three product entities: copiers, supplies, and furniture, have managers who want their departments to succeed and "corporate has its leaders who want the entire company to succeed."

From the box to the cloud

"When I started here 20 years ago, the photocopier was just that, a box that made copies," Miller said. "Now, you can scan a document and put it anywhere in the world."


Those changes are happening faster and more frequently today as technological advances become commonplace. Eakes has adapted its business model to meet the demands of the industry.


"I could tell you when customers could connect their copier, when customers got color and when customers could take a piece of paper and put it in the cloud and access it 10 seconds later from Europe. Those are things that really change a customer's life," Miller said.


Eakes supplies several large companies with copiers and printing services. According to Advertising and Brand Manager Ginger Krutz, it's their customer service technicians who really make a difference in the company.


"You hear all the time when you go places, 'Your people are great' and it starts with a lot of the training," Krutz said. "I think it's the people we hire, too, and instilling that kind of customer service."
In 2011, Eakes received the "Retail Customer Service Award" from the Nebraska Retail Federation.


"A lot of our locations are in small towns and the people have worked there for quite a few years," Krutz said. "It's not like customers just go in to buy a pencil, they go in to buy a pencil from Judy who is always there with a smile."


Krutz feels the dedication to customer service isn't just a top-level concern.


"Every employee is very dedicated to the store," she said.


Eakes' service technicians and drivers meet customers all the time, so they have to have the training and expectations that carry the company's reputation.


"We put a lot of focus on sales training, but if you neglect the fact that other key employees, like drivers and technicians, need the same training you could get blindsided," Miller said. "Customer service training goes every direction here, and it needs to."


In addition to providing their customers with great customer service and the most up-to-date copiers, EOP creates its own advantage when it comes to delivery.
Their clients can order anything from the Eakes catalog or through their rep and have most of it delivered to their doorstep the next day—for free.

Rich company culture


The company culture is rich throughout EOP and they have individual groups within that help develop their mission. They have recently created a "Culture Club" consisting of employees whose mission is to make their company the most attractive company to work for, for both the new generation of workers and those that have been around a long time. 


The first move of "The Club" was to refresh their core values focusing on: people, integrity, community, fun, respect, being the best at what they do, and hard work.


Through a routine strategic planning method, Eakes is constantly looking at where they are today, where they have been and plans for the future. Much of the progress of the company can be attributed to Eakes' commitment to their plan.


They have recently restructured their core values, focusing on people, integrity, community, fun, respect, being the best at what they do, and work.

Eakes encourages community outreach


"A lot of our people are on boards, volunteer," said Krutz. "Any time we can help the community, we do."
Community can be defined in a lot of ways. Each store helps individuals and organizations in their individual communities, but Eakes reaches beyond their backyard, to come to the aid of people in need.


Last year after Moore, Okla., was devastated by a tornado, Kearney, Grand Island, and Hastings donated two trucks and drove donated supplies down to victims.


Being there when you buy your pencils


First came the competition of mail-order companies, then the big box stores, now the popularity of online ordering. Through it all, Eakes has continued its success by remaining true to its model and worrying less about the models of others. Eakes has remained constant through the advent and growth of each of these particular kinds of competitors.


"Our motivation has been to 'be there' for our customers,” said Miller. “None of those other players could really provide knowledgeable, in-person service so that customers really feel as though they have someone who they can trust to work with."


Over the years, the company has always been forced to look at their pricing. Eakes works in conjunction with other independent office supply dealers in America to pool their resources. In 2005, Miller and the leaders of two other independent stationers created Pinnacle Affiliates, LLC.


Pinnacle is a dealer group that allows its members to pool their purchases to enhance their competitiveness. Pinnacle consists of 20 of the largest independent office suppliers in the country.


"Now, Pinnacle itself has a purchase power of over $1 billion a year,” said Miller. “This turns the heads of our suppliers and allows us to buy from vendors, and sell to customers, at a price that competes with any competitor in the world."



Photo Courtesy Eakes Office Plus |  Eakes FoundersEakes Office Plus offers more than office supplies, they have helped businesses do business since 1945.Carol Heinen stays busy in the Eakes Copy Center in their Grand Island store.Eakes Office Plus has created a company culture that bleeds deep.
Carol Heinen makes copies in the Grand Island Location of Eakes Office Plus. The company has serves over 10 communities in Nebraska.Shelves are fully stocked at Eakes. Their distribution center in Grand Island serves their stores and clients.Photo Courtesy, Eakes Office Plus | The original storefront in Grand Island, Neb.


About the Author

Staff
Open for Business, Central Nebraska
The Open for Business Staff strives to create the most useful content possible for businesses. Whether it's tips and tools available for owners to work smarter, not harder, a feature story highlighting amazing things happening with a Central Nebraska business or a fun tip here and there, you will find something that helps your business thrive at openforbusinessmagazine.com 

    


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