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Innovation leads to store’s growth

Chamber names Office Outfitters Small Business of the Year

By Robert Cloud

Office Outfitters was named the 2015 Small Business of the Year at the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce banquet Tuesday, Jan. 26.

The chamber knows that locally owned small businesses are what make our economy work,” said Terri Schulz, chamber president. “We are happy to see Office Outfitters continue to improve and innovate on the services and merchandise they offer, keeping their business ahead of what customers are looking for.”

In the eight years since Bill and Mary Zimmerman purchased Office Outfitters, the store’s sales have grown by an average of more than 7 percent a year.

The store moved to its current location at the corner of Badger and Washington streets in the fall of 2010.

In addition to basic office supplies, Office Outfitters offers printers and copy machines, printer inks and toner and office furniture. It also provides printing and graphic design services, packaging and shipping.

Bill Zimmerman attributes Office Outfitters’ growth to his ongoing investment in technology.

“Our website is also an e-commerce site, so our customers can order online,” Zimmerman said. “It opens unlimited markets. We can do business with anyone in the lower 48 states. We have a customer in Waupaca that has 30 locations around the country.”

Office Outfitters works with a distributor with 20 locations nationwide.

“We can process an order from anywhere in the country and have it shipped from the closest distributor,” Zimmerman said.

The website has improved the efficiency of Office Outfitters’ staff. Less time is spent keying in orders or taking them over the phone.

“We’ve invested really heavily in our digital printing to increase our capabilities, quality and efficiency,” Zimmerman said. “We don’t print using a press with ink. We use laser or ink-jet printers, but it’s production-quality equipment.”

Another key element has been Office Outfitters’ imaginative and humorous advertising.

“Lori Sasse-Jensen does a nice job with all of our marketing,” Zimmerman said. “She understands our culture and our values. We’re not afraid to make fun of ourselves, either, and I’m usually the butt of that humor.”

Office Outfitters currently has 10 employees.

“We do everything we can to give our employees incentives to help us grow and make them feel part of the decision-making process,” Zimmerman said. “We pay annual bonuses based on the profitability of the company.”

Continuing to learn is also part of Office Outfitters’ business strategy.

Schulz said one of the people who nominated Office Outfitters noted that “Bill and Mary treat their staff as family, investing 12 percent of pre-tax profits in employee training and education, as well as sharing over 6 percent of their earnings with their team.”
Another reason the chamber selected Office Outfitters as its Small Business of the Year, Schulz said, is that the Zimmermans devote money local charities, sponsoring Project Backpack and devoting time to Kids Hope USA.

“We really make an effort to be part of the community and contribute to making our community a better place to live and work,” Zimmerman said.

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