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Chelsey Bode and Mike Kelly say managing growth means having the right employees on board.SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON
Chelsey Bode and Mike Kelly say managing growth means having the right employees on board.

SBJ photo by WES HAMILTON

2017 Dynamic Dozen No. 12: Pearson-Kelly Office Products LLC

Posted online
SBJ: What has been key to your recent growth?
Chelsey Bode: We have focused very strongly on customer needs and empowering our employees to meet those needs. Really, what we focused on six years ago was taking a deep look at who we are as an organization and what we wanted our focus to actually be.

There are several other companies in town, and we also cater to the Joplin market, too, so we had to take a strong look at why someone would choose us. A couple of the things we identified at that time was that we wanted to ultimately focus on the customer’s experience outside of what we sell. There are several elements to that, but ultimately we figured if that’s our No. 1 goal, it’s pretty simple to take each variable and ask yourself if this decision points to that goal or points away from that goal.

SBJ: What are your top issues when it comes to managing growth?
Bode: There are lots of them. We had to get out of our comfort zone and be sure we communicate a very clear vision to our team via the leaders and every employee in the office. So, at first, when we identified we were growing just because we were good at what we did and that customers liked us, then we stepped back and we recognized in order to sustain that growth, and our own sanity, we had to develop a purpose driven strategy we could clearly communicate to our employees.

One of the things we identified is not everyone is cut out for a very fast-paced, changing environment and that had to be OK. So, it’s hard, but if you ignore that or if the leadership can’t clearly define the vision and the goals and the strategy of the company, then we found we were spending an enormous amount of energy trying to pull the wrong people along for the ride. At a certain point, you’re either on or you’re off.

SBJ: Is your fast growth sustainable?
Bode: We think so. Our vision is to have very purpose-driven growth. We’re not going to grow just to get big because our strategy is to get big. If our top-line revenue grows but our profit margins suffer, we have a problem we need to address. If our customer experience starts to suffer because we aren’t staffed with the right people, we then have a problem that needs to be addressed. There are definitely reasons where we’ve seen companies grow themselves out of business. So, we closely monitor the categories we feel could be problematic and feel as long we keep our vision and continue to remember why we’ve grown in the first place, then there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be sustainable.
 
SBJ: Where is the tipping point?
Bode: We were established in 2002 and we’ve had lots of things that have played into us growing as still a relatively younger company. But some of the biggest changes started taking shape and changing our business course in 2011 when we made some leadership changes. Shortly thereafter, we were also approached by one of the leading industry manufacturers that wanted us to represent their entire product line. Both of those happened almost in tandem and it seemed like that was really where the focus, direction and substantial growth year-over-year started to occur.

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