Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Champion Supply recognized as Small Business of the Month

We are pleased to recognize Champion Supply as Small Business of the Month.

Read on for our interview with owner Bruce Johnson.
Tell us a little about the company's history.
Champion Janitorial Supply builds custom packages of products to match the goals of our customers be it health, facility experience, problem solving, odor issues, or cost savings.  Champion Supply has been serving Asheville and Western North Carolina since 1971 and our team includes members with over forty years of experience in maximizing customer value.  Owners Bruce and Mary Margaret Johnson began in the janitorial supply business in 2002 and bought Champion Supply in 2005.  Bruce was the Director of Operations at Harrah’s Casino in Cherokee prior to beginning his career in janitorial supply.  When it came time for Bruce to transfer, the growing family decided to stay in the mountains so Bruce began a new career.  Mary Margaret and Bruce propelled the growth of the company through acquisitions including Diversified Supplies in 2002, Champion Supply in 2005, Johnson Supply in 2006 and Carolina Wholesale in 2007.  Champion is based in Asheville and serves all of Western North Carolina.  Beyond traditional cleaning supplies, paper products, janitorial supplies, hand soaps, and can liners, Champion also provides food service items for offices, warewash items for commercial kitchens, commercial laundry dispensers and chemicals, pool supplies, and items in multiple other categories.  We serve everyone from the big factories and hospitals to small offices.

Most Proud of About Champion Supply...
Champion Supply has invested in the latest in customer-centered technology.  Each salesperson has an IPad where they can show customers youtube videos of the latest in product innovations.  The IPads are also a portal for hundreds of documents in Dropbox where the sales team can show product brochures of the latest in product promotions and sales opportunities.  The IPads are also where the team utilizes the best in Customer Relations Management (CRM) tools to manage the relationships with customers and potential customers.  Champion Supply also has an Online Catalog System where anyone can go on to browse our product offerings, learn more about product capabilities, and even print out MSDS sheets.  Current customers can create an online account where they can order from their standard basket of goods at their pricing.  We set these customers up with special pricing on all items in case they want to order something new.  The Catalog System also allows Champion to build custom catalogs and slicks on product specials.  The operating system we use offers us the tools to virtually eliminate back orders and input errors.  The customers get what they want, when they want it.

Best Advice You’ve Gotten for Leading a Small Business
It is very important to strategically manage the business all the time.  Changes will continually occur to your team, your industry, the local market, and technology.  Many small businesses find a way to do business that works and then they feel it will work forever.  I have looked at many companies that I have bought and several that I have not bought. The most common thing that I have seen in companies in trouble is that something has changed significantly around their business and they have not changed their business model.  I find it imperative to continually evaluate the organizational structure, the company cost structure, the competitive market, product innovation, and technology innovation.  For example, we are currently expanding our building by about 50%.  Our business has grown but not currently to require that much space.  However, constructions costs are low and financing is historically inexpensive.  Now is the time to expand and not just for now but also for five years from now.

Favorite thing in your workspace?
My favorite thing in my workspace is the building expansion that we will open in April.  This new area will provide more space for inventory so we can take better advantage of volume discounts to pass on to our customers.  We will also upgrade our equipment maintenance and repair workshop.  The space also includes a state-of-the-art training facility to provide continual development of our sales team and to house workshops for our customers.  And for our employees, a new kitchen so that they will be even peppier in providing excellent customer service in person and over the phone. 

What's next on the horizon?
The beauty about the horizon is you just don’t know what you will find.  In the shorter term, I look forward to maximizing the space provided in our expansion.  I especially look forward to utilizing our new training space to work even more with our customers.  There is also new technology we in the process of implementing that will allow us to enhance the value we provide to our family of customers.  This new technology downloads the expertise of the industry’s best minds into a system downloaded on our sales team’s IPads.  We will be able to choose what type of facility we are entering, say a school. Then we will input what area we are looking into, say a classroom.  The software will provide the latest on what products are best for cleaning and sanitizing a classroom and how to use them.  The software is interactive so we can input specific questions and receive the latest in solving the problem.  No matter how smart or experienced any sales person may be, they cannot beat the measured advice of the dozen or so best minds in the industry.

Connect.  Engage.  Impact.  Thrive.
I am privileged to be able to connect with our customers so many of whom have interesting stories in their personal and business backgrounds.  Asheville seems a magnet for original and inspired people who bring energy and passion to what they do.  It is fun to engage with them to find what system of products works for their style or will solve their problems.  Then we can see the positive impact these solutions have to their business and to the experience their customers have in their facility.  It’s a great feeling to see my customers’ businesses thrive, creating success for them and their employees.

The Small Business of the Month program allows the Asheville Chamber to recognize outstanding small businesses for their contributions to the community. Nominate an Asheville area business.

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