Carolina Business Equipment (CBE) has grown with the times since its 1975 inception as a copier merchant, now offering software, IT service and training at its Columbia headquarters plus additional locations in Charleston and Florence.
In partnership with high-profile industry vendors including Microsoft, Toshiba, Sharp and Cisco and employing 45 team members, the firm has grown exponentially in the past several years.
John Eckstrom, originally the company controller, bought 50 percent of the company in 1995, when CBE’s annual take was less than $2 million; and when sales hit $3.5 million in 2000, he purchased the remainder.
Eckstrom sensed that the venture needed a reboot and could also benefit from expansion. In 2015, CBE netted $6.5 million, relying mainly on office hardware for the bulk of its business.
At the core of its success is Managed Print Services (MPS), a specialty that has experienced much change over the years itself. Another key component comprises reliable, consistent vendors. CBE also delivers remote support, 24/7/365 monitoring and cloud-based services.
“Every one of our reps can sell all the brands we handle,” Eckstrom said. “It’s a pretty simple thing: You don’t need specialists to sell a copier.”
Straightforwardness has proven to be a successful part of CBE management’s approach. Eckstrom consciously seeks employees who wish to excel in what they do well, and the company is a factory-authorized training center for technicians. He firmly believes that the end game is not about leading with software, but rather understanding customers’ needs.
“Oftentimes that road still leads toward software and managed IT, and it’s pretty easy to figure out both the pain points in the market and what the overall solution is,” he said. Currently CBE has seven staffers focusing on managed IT services, having moved all its clients — who are predominantly SMBs — to a managed platform.
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