Success Story: Union Office
Dealer Keeps Growing in Competitive Market Using ECi Cloud for DDMS
As home both to the industry’s largest big box player, Staples, and its largest independent, W.B. Mason, Boston is among the most competitive office products markets in the country.
But even as those two giants fight it out in a fierce, no-holds battle every day, there is still plenty of opportunity for forward-thinking smaller independents with the right business model. Case in point: Joe Danizio, Jr., and his team at Union Office in Wilmington, Massachusetts.
The dealership was founded by Joe’s father, Joe, Sr., in 1965. Back then, it was father and son, Joe’s mother and two other employees.
Joe’s father would take the orders, his mother would write up the invoices and Joe himself would mail the invoices and make the deliveries.
Joe struck out on his own in 1983, forming Union Office Interiors as a separate company. Fast forward to today and that dealership is in the hands of Joe and his business partner, Lou Fragoso.
Sixty employees strong, Union boasts four locations including a brand-new furniture showroom in downtown Boston and satellite offices in Hanover, Massachusetts, and Augusta, Maine, with a product mix that, in the words of its website, offers “everything necessary for mid-sized, 20-200 employee professional services companies doing business in a digital age.”
Intelligent use of technology is key to success
It’s an impressive story of an organization with the courage to change with the times when necessary and the willingness to invest in the business to stay strong and competitive. Not surprisingly, intelligent use of technology has played a key role in Union’s success. The dealership has been a DDMS house for the past eight years, and before that operated under the Britannia system.
“You can’t compete without near state-of-the-art technology today and if you’re not willing to invest to keep up when it’s necessary, you’re going to fall behind very quickly,” warns Danizio.
At Union, that way of thinking translates into an ongoing commitment to moving as much supplies business online as possible through the ECinteractive Web storefront.
Online supplies sales have been north of 65% of total supplies volume for several years now and, as a result, the dealership is not only positioning itself well for the new generation of office buyers but also boosting its own internal productivity. As Danizio points out, its online success has enabled Union to keep its customer service team at the same level while doubling its supplies business.
The dealership’s ongoing commitment to technology has also meant early implementation of the RouteTrak proof of delivery system from ECi and enthusiastic deployment of the Acsellerate sales analytics solution. Most recently, it has led Union to move business management to the cloud, by adopting ECiCloud, the new hosted version of the DDMS system.
The decision wasn’t exactly a hard one, explains operations manager Juliette Trahan.
“It was time to upgrade and once we took a look at what our options might be, ECiCloud looked like our best choice,” she recalls.
The benefits of a hosted system
Union’s previous experience with the Britannia hosted system had already exposed Danizio and his team to the benefits of the hosted approach—no in-house backups or maintenance requirements, 24/7 access, a superior disaster recovery plan and more. In addition, Trahan points out, the switch also offered some attractive benefits on the technical support front.
“Nobody knows the DDMS system better than DDMS,” she points out. “When we had our own server and issues would come up, there was always the potential for a tug of war between our local contracted technical person and DDMS as to how to solve the problem. All that became so much easier with the hosted system. The DDMS folks know their own system inside and out and if there is an issue, they take care of it immediately. It all runs so much more smoothly.”
And, she reports happily, the changeover could not have gone better.
“It was a true team effort between DDMS and us,” she recalls. “The DDMS implementation team conducted an extensive interview with us as part of the prior planning to make sure they covered all the bases when we made the switch. As a result, we experienced zero down time between moving from a server version of DDMS to a hosted version.”
Union is a complex organization with a diverse product mix and multiple locations but, says Trahan, the DDMS system took all that complexity in stride and then some.
“We had printers in our Massachusetts headquarters that were printing from a computer sitting in Dallas, but it all went very well,” she reports. “And it’s so much easier now for our sales reps and satellite offices to connect and access key data than it used to be.”
The move to a hosted version of DDMS has brought the Joe Danizio and his team significant benefits on several levels, but he’s very much aware the change is only one more point on the journey and definitely not a final destination of any kind. Keeping up with technology is a constant process and, already, he’s thinking ahead to the next steps.
Watch the video on Union Office Supply's move to ECi Cloud for DDMS. (NOTE: Need to link to Union Office-ECiCloud for DDMS when pushed live)
Moving forward with technology
“Our furniture division has been using iPads and smart phones in their presentations for quite some time now and we’ll be learning from them and figuring out how best to move forward as a company,” he explains. “Mobile technology is no doubt the next wave and we need to be ready to do whatever it takes to make the most of it. We’ve also been making some significant efforts in social networking platforms like Facebook and Twitter and that activity, too, will become increasingly important.”
It’s that kind of thinking that has kept Union Office moving forward in a business environment that includes the likes of Staples and W.B. Mason. Going up against those two industry giants every day isn’t exactly easy for anyone. But with innovative technology partners like ECi, Union Office looks well set to keep its growth momentum going, no matter how tough the competition.