On building a business ... and a building
In case you missed the news, QualityDOS celebrated the completed construction of – and moved into – our new HQ in Mount Joy, PA, over the summer. And while we’d be happy to regale you with stories from the build as we show you the new digs in person, you can also quickly catch up on everything from a little QDOS history (dating back to Joe’s garage in the early ’90s) to the lessons we learned in the process of building a new office in this recently published article from the Business Technology Association’s Office Technology magazine!
QualityDOS – Dealership owners share ‘new-building’ experience
They met in 1989 when Joe McMonagle was serving as a district manager for Monroe Systems for Business, the company he had worked for since 1970. Gordon Stapleton was later hired by the company and went to work for McMonagle. That was the start of a 29-year friendship that later solidified the convergence of their career paths.
In 1992, McMonagle left Monroe when he was hired by Quality Copy Products of York (Pennsylvania) to develop and manage the dealership’s Lancaster, Pennsylvania, location — Quality Copy Products of Lancaster — with the agreement that after five years he would have the option to acquire the location. “We started with three customers,” McMonagle says. “We worked out of my garage for about a year and a half or two years. It was fun. We had a good time.”
Not long after his arrival at Quality, McMonagle asked Stapleton to come work for him. “I said, ‘Well, I don’t want to come work for you, but I will come to work with you — let’s buy the company,’” Stapleton recalls. “Two days later I got a call from him and we went after it.”
McMonagle looks back with fondness to the beginning of their partnership, which led to their acquisition of Quality’s Lancaster location — now known as Quality Digital Office Solutions (Quality DOS) — in 1998. “It was love at first sight,” he quips. “We both had the same mindset of ‘the customer comes first.’ We grew the company one customer at a time, making sure each was happy. We still have some of the same customers from 1992.”
While the dealership’s first location was leased, in 2007, McMonagle and Stapleton purchased a building that became the second home for their growing dealership until 2015, when the pair were met with an unexpected, but welcome, opportunity. They shared their building with a tenant that was interested in occupying the entire building. “I said, ‘We need a 10-year lease and that is absolutely non-negotiable’; the tenant didn’t bat an eye,” Stapleton says. “Long story short, we moved our operations to a separate facility that we leased and immediately starting looking for a building to renovate, or land on which to build.”
Building a new home for the dealership emerged as the option of choice. Stapleton had toured the newly constructed home of fellow dealer Ray Derstine, president of Altek Business Systems in Telford, Pennsylvania. “I realized very quickly how important the layout and presentation of a building could be for the future,” he says. “That drove my decision to push Joe. I said, ‘Let’s build a new building; maybe not as big as Ray’s, but very similar, because I think that would help us in the future to expand our business and attract new talent.’”
Soon after, they purchased land in nearby Mount Joy, Pennsylvania, and the process was underway. In June of this year, Quality moved into its newly constructed home. “Ours is almost an exact duplicate of Ray’s building, only smaller,” Stapleton says. “A couple of changes were made here and there, but we matched the overall look of the building and, for example, Ray’s idea of having the control room [where, at Quality, screens display the locations of all service technicians and the monitoring of devices via KYOCERA Fleet Services] visible from the demo room. We even used the same builder.”
Looking back at the process, Stapleton shares details of the experience that may be insightful to others considering the construction of a new building. For example, he says, expect that the permit approval process will likely be costly and take longer than the construction itself. “We broke ground at the end of September and moved in the beginning of June; the construction didn’t take long,” Stapleton says. “It’s the other stuff you have to go through that, for us, was ridiculous. We ended up spending months and a six-figure number just getting approvals before we ever put a shovel in the ground.”
“There is an entire change of culture and talk track to our current and prospective customers because of what we are able to do here.”
Stapleton cites another aspect of the experience in the form of a recommendation to others. “We had a general contractor oversee the building construction, but chose a separate contractor for the excavation work, so there were two separate organizations that worked together to put the puzzle together,” he says. “One piece of solid advice for those who may be looking at this down the road: Don’t do it that way. Hire one company that is responsible for everything and then ‘ride herd’ on that one company.”
Finally, looking back, Stapleton shares another lesson learned that other dealers going through the building process should consider. “I would recommend that you interview the installers, because they do this all the time,” he says. “If we had reached out to those guys before they were starting the job, I would have said to them, ‘You look over plans all the time; do you see things that we missed?’ They may have said something like, ‘Well, it’s odd that you don’t have light switches on that wall over there.’ That kind of feedback can save you the expense of having to redo work later in the process.”
Despite the inherent frustrations associated with the construction of a new building, Stapleton says he and McMonagle are optimistic about the positive impact it will have on their dealership, given the features of Quality’s new home. “There is an entire change of culture and talk track to our current and prospective customers because of what are able to do here,” he says. “With our new demo room, for example, we can now better show customers how technology can improve business processes and take them to the next level.”
Brent Hoskins, executive director of the Business Technology Association, is editor of Office Technology magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (816) 303-4040.