Originally posted on Industry-Era.com.
COECO Office Systems is a hundred-year-old fourth-generation family-owned office equipment and technology dealer founded in 1921 by Grover Robbins. Grover’s’ son Austin Robbins followed him and managing the company for over fifty years. Chuck and his brother Bill, followed in their father’s footsteps as the third generation emerged. The three men worked as a three-man management team for many years and were responsible for a tremendous amount of growth during that time. Chuck has been the CEO for the last 20 years, and has been fortunate to have the fourth generation of family members to join the company. Chuck states, “My two sons, Austin Robbins III and Irby Robbins, as well as my daughter, Walker Coleman, are all managers or directors in locations throughout our regional company, which includes North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.”
COECO has evolved from a traditional office equipment company to an office technology company that is a solutions provider for the document management industry. “Change is inevitable in our industry and we pride ourselves on being able to adapt to the evolving world of office culture,” says Chuck. “One of the best things about our business is that because of the changing technology we never run out of new products to sell. There is always new coming down the pipe that provides our customers with new opportunities to expand and grow.”
The business today is providing digital technology to enhance office productivity giving COECO the ability to connect digital products via the internet to provide a new level of support for document imaging providers. “One thing that makes COECO stand apart is it’s Professional Service Group. This group uses personalized Document Analysis software to analyze and identify problems in workflows creating selling solutions through networking applications.” According to Chuck, all of this leads to benefits that include immediate access to the documents, improved security, and control, thereby reducing operating cost. COECO’s offerings include Managed Print Services, Managed IT Services, and Production Print. Production Print, which uses the latest technology in hardware and software to create today’s modern day print shop.
What is most important to Chuck and his team at COECO is defined by the enduring relationships they have built through the years with their customers as well as the employees. Their success through all these years has a direct parallel to having served them well with a dedication of hard work, integrity, respect and taking care of their business with quality products and solutions.
Like most businesses, COVID-19 brought on unforeseen challenges for COECO. The company was in the middle of March preparing to end its fiscal year and as April arrive, they began to realize that there was going to be a problem with the spreading virus in the industry. Their concerns were not only how it would affect the business but also how it would affect customers and their ability to pay bills. Cash flow becoming an immediate concern. About this time, the federal government was making available the PPP loans for small businesses, which the company was one of the first to apply and be accepted. “We made a decision to have as many employees as possible begin working remotely so we sent them home and helped set up for offices by providing them with computers, printers and an online network. They all were provided mask and gloves and were told to wear them at all times around customers and other employees,” says Chuck. “We then began the process of cutting all operating expenses and renegotiated building leases. We were successful in substantially reducing our rent in most cases. We stayed on top of our AR’s working with some customers in allowing them to delay payments as a result most eventually caught up and have begun paying their bills on time.” The PPP loan turned out to be very helpful as they were able to keep the majority of their employees on payroll. The SBA recently notified the company that the loan had been completely forgiven. “Today, as a result of our quick response on all these measures profits are coming back but sales are gradually increasing. Given all the challenges the world has faced in 2020 we feel fortunate and proud of where we are today, and look forward to a successful and prosperous 2021.” adds Chuck.