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It’s all about the timing

Twenty-three years ago, Tim Hines and Paul Murrall were encouraged by Panasonic to set up an independent dealership. The rest,

Hines and Murrall had been colleagues for a number of years when the printer reseller they both worked for was bought by an American organisation.
Hines and Murrall had been colleagues for a number of years when the printer reseller they both worked for was bought by an American organisation.

as they say, is history

Hines and Murrall had been colleagues for a number of years when the printer reseller they both worked for was bought by an American organisation. Worrying that the sale might reduce its presence in the Midlands, Panasonic approached the duo to see if they would be interested in setting up on their own.

This was too good and opportunity to pass up, and in the summer of 1993 Office Options began to trade as an authorised Panasonic dealer from newly acquired offices in Redditch. The young company rapidly established itself as one of the leading Panasonic resellers in the Midlands and the following year relocated to central Birmingham.

According to Director and Co-founder Tim Hines, the company went from strength to strength by focusing on service. “We were very successful at selling in to companies and we grew our customer base and revenue consistently year-on-year. The first eight years saw us double in size every two years,” he said.

“From day one we have focused on service delivery and we strategically overmanned our service function, investing heavily in engineers, whilst tactically keeping sales and support staff to a minimum.”

Ten years ago, the firm was one of the first to sign up with DSales when Managing Director Jonathan Whitworth set up the Develop distributor. “We knew Jonathan back when he worked for Panasonic and we were, I believe, his first dealership when he joined Muratec some years later. The Develop range is really strong and we’ve got a superb relationship with the DSales team, so much so that although we also carry HP printers and are a UTAX reseller, the bulk of our deals are won using Develop kit,” explained Hines.

In recognition of its outstanding sales and service, Develop named Office Options as its ‘Dealer of the Year’.

Acquisition trail

The new millennium saw the company embark on a series of acquisitions that have significantly boosted both its MIF and customer base in line with its ambition to become a national business.

Its first buy in 2000 was the Wolverhampton-based Ricoh reseller Atlanta (UK) Ltd. The combined business traded from Wolverhampton for a number of years until it was merged into the company’s purposebuilt head office in Dudley, which Office Options secured in 2005.

The acquisition of network printer solutions specialist Colour Business Solutions Ltd followed in 2002, and in 2005 Office Options extended its geographical reach into Gloucestershire and the surrounding areas with the acquisition of Butec Business Machines Ltd, a Panasonic and Konica Minolta dealer located in Cheltenham.

Early in 2009, Office Options made its largest acquisition to date, Photofax Systems, a Northampton-based business with a long history and reputation for quality and service.

Office Options has successfully integrated its acquisitions and now offers customers a nationwide service from two established bases – its head office in Dudley, housing administrative offices, a customer showroom and the service division, and its Northampton office, which accommodates sales and service. The firm also has warehouse capacity close to its Dudley HQ.

“Each of the businesses we acquired were carefully selected for their reputation and quality of service,” said Hines. “They were all strong businesses and the acquisitions have without a doubt played a key part in our growth.”

Today, the company has a turnover of more than £4 million, achieved through a combination of acquisitions and organic growth. “We have always been consistent in winning new business and securing additional revenue from existing customers through the provision of MPS and software solutions,” explained Hines. “I’d say that it’s a fairly even spilt to date.”

He added: “We’re absolutely in the market to complete further acquisitions and are always interested to hear from dealer principals who are perhaps looking to sell up and retire.”

Whatever future acquisitions Office Options makes, one thing’s for certain; the company’s priorities will always be to deliver excellent service – all eight Office Options engineers are fully trained by Develop and spread out geographically to ensure service call-out response times are kept to a minimum – and to build enduring relationships with customers and employees.

“Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity,” explained Hines. “We strive for longevity in customer relationships, and that same mantra applies to the people who work with us. Most of our team have been with us since day one; I think the newest member of the team joined us fifteen years ago!”

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