Volume 8 | Issue 4 | Year 2005

One is a great number if you’re a company wanting to cut down on the number of vendors you do business with. In fact, one solution is probably all you need.

Allied prides itself on the fact the company is uniquely qualified to provide what it calls OneSolution(tm) to fulfill clients’ needs. But while many companies focus on quality of their products, high level of service or dedicated staff as the core feature that sets them apart, Allied claims every part of its organization exceeds that of its competitors – large companies such as Staples, Office Depot, Office Max and Corporate Express.

“Our competitors don’t like to be in all of the businesses that we are in,” says Chairman and CEO Howard Brown. “Most of them outsource various product lines through alliances involving third parties. We don’t outsource these key lines. We handle everything in-house, allowing us to present and execute seamlessly, resulting in one true delivery and one total invoice.”

“We are the nation’s largest independent company in the business-to-business segment of the office products industry,” Brown adds. “We are a key player by providing clients with the products and solutions they need to make their business thrive.”

Besides general office supplies, Allied can provide corporate and small business customers with office furniture, toner cartridges and computer related products, coffee and other refreshments, printing and forms management services, promotional products and janitorial supplies.

“Our customers can get anything they need, the next business day, in one box, via one delivery, and on one bill,” says Executive Vice President of Business Development Roger Post. “It is definitely an added-value proposition because our customers are saving soft procurement costs. It’s the essence of One Solution.”

Allied defines “soft costs” as the amount it would cost a client to order multiple categories of products and manage all these purchases from separate vendors. Buying products and services from multiple vendors makes for extra paperwork, headcount, overhead, phone time and follow-up. Add these process costs to the vendor’s prices and a client will see the actual cost. Allied’s OneSolution reduces the need for buying from so many sources. As a single source, Post asserts, Allied can reduce or eliminate process costs and positively impact its clients’ bottom lines.

Although Allied dates back to 1947, the firm’s expansion truly began in 1998 when Allied began it’s acquisition strategy. At that time, Brown, a veteran in the industry, bought Allied to act as a platform for a roll-up. “Within our first three years, we grew to $300 million in sales comprised of over 30 fully integrated acquisitions.” Brown says.

“Allied’s ability to focus on technology allows it to maintain competitive leadership, increase productivity and improve performance,” says CIO and Executive Vice President, Supply Chain Mike Palmer. Well-known for its capabilities, Allied’s leading position was further cemented when it received CIO magazine’s award for resourceful practices. In particular, the magazine cited Allied’s strength in “adopting a hosted customer relationship management (CRM) application instead of purchasing and maintaining one inhouse.” As one of the CIO 100 honorees, Allied was selected from nearly 400 companies representing more than a dozen major private-sector industries, nonprofit organizations, government agencies and military outfits.

Allied’s own in-house IT group “provides customized solutions on a daily basis for our customers,” Palmer says. “We are compliant with many systems so our customers can come to us with anything. Our Web-based procurement system is top notch.”

The company’s IT capabilities also help manage a number of other services such as distributing a customer’s proprietary product inventory. For example, one of Allied’s large banking clients gives away lollipops to its own customers. Allied purchases these giveaways and then keeps these in inventory in its warehouse. Allied then ships the kid-friendly item out to the bank’s branches whenever needed – along with their orders of office supplies, forms and coffee, the next day, in the same box with the same driver.

“Not all of our competitors will do this but we will go the extra mile for our customers,” says Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Norman White. “Proprietary inventory is handled as an added item to our assortment, with client-specific inventory levels shown live on our procurement Web site.”

“It is value-added services such as this that have given us an expertise with our legal, medical and financial clients” says White. “They don’t want to worry about products for their office, they want to focus on their clients and let us handle their procurement process. Regardless of the size or type of business Allied’s OneSolution concept benefits the bottom-line profitability of our clients.”

He adds, “Clients who contract us to manage customized, Internet based promotional product company `e-stores` find this feature invaluable. This service allows the customer to control all their spending in one place.”

Allied’s state-of-the-art distribution facilities use the latest in inventory management to keep orders flowing smoothly. Bar code scanners assist in picking, sorting and loading to ensure that every order is filled correctly and shipped to the proper destination.

In a nutshell, Allied Office Products does everything, and what it can’t do, it will do if it means pleasing a customer. “It’s all about commitment”, says President and Chief Operating Officer Michael Brown. “We have built our business by forging strategic partnerships with our clients, our manufacturers and our employees. We have invested in our infrastructure as well as our people to continue to position ourselves as the supplier of choice today and in the future.

The company offers an extensive range of products; these include:

Office supplies: pens, pencils, correction fluid, staplers, paper clips, folders, post-it notes, legal pads of all sizes, fax machines, calculators, copy and computer paper;

Computer supplies: data cartridges, disks, zip disks, CDs, carrying cases, storage boxes, wrist rests, mousepads, compressed air, document stands and surge protectors.

Toner cartridges: ink jet printer, laser printer, fax machine or multi-function machines. In addition to many of the top brand cartridges, Allied is offering a complete line of high quality compatible OneSolution cartridges that are 100-percent guaranteed and can offer savings of up to 45 percent over OEM cartridges;

Janitorial and sanitation supplies: detergents, soaps, cleaners, brooms, mops, vacuums, first aid supplies, sanitary supplies, lockers, shelving, recycling containers;

Office furniture and design: ergonomic assessments, workplace solutions, case goods, seating, storage, computer workstations.

Printing Services: business stationery, letterhead, envelopes, brochures, direct mail pieces and postcards forms; Promotional Products: creative concepts and designs, company store programs, warehousing, employee and customer incentive programs, imprinted T-shirts, accessories, clocks, pens, and much more;

Coffee and refreshments: complete line of specialty coffees, creamers, sweeteners, teas, hot chocolate, snacks, sodas, juices, bottled water, state of the art brewers and equipment, factory trained installation and service technicians, hot/cold cups and lids, plates, paper towels, napkins, and utensils.

The one-stop shop
A major trend experienced by Allied is one branching across all industries; that is, the desire of companies to cut down on their number of suppliers. “This is reflective of the increase in technology; companies are getting more out of office workers and are seeking to reduce the number of companies and the number of people they do business with. This is having a significant impact on our business. Our value added proposition is OneSolution,” White stressesOne area that has paid off for the company is in the complete supply of office interiors, from design to furniture. “Companies come to us wanting the entire office designed,” White adds.

“We will talk to them to get a feel for their budget and the image they want to convey. The furniture comes from any one of hundreds of furniture manufacturers, depending on the style and design they want.”

And this, of course, gives White’s testament to the company’s abilities further credence, as he adds: “None of our competitors do what we do, especially concerning this one solution concept. If a client needs a particular product we’ll find and stock it. We can design a solution that makes sense for them. It’s like the difference between vanilla ice-cream and rocky road. We don’t insist that they fit our vanilla mold. What sets us apart is our flexibility.”