QUESTION: Gary and Rose Molz, thanks very much for joining us today. For anyone who’s not familiar with EZ Office Products, these two are Vice President and President respectively, as well as husband and wife. So, the obvious first question we have is, how do you like working together? Have you struck that all important work and life balance yet?
ROSE: I think working together presents challenges. We tried to prepare ourselves as best as we could in 2006, when we decided to start the company. The most important thing is, as most people know who are in business together with their spouse, we definitely need to separate our responsibilities. We did a really good job of that back in 2006, and we’re actually in the process of redoing that now. I don’t know if I want to call it an analysis, but were reviewing who’s responsible for what, and that’s really the key to making it work, both at work and at home.
QUESTION: How about you Gary?
GARY: I would echo that response. I mean, you do need to have a balance between work and life, and I always tell Rose when we’re discussing business, “Hey I’m clocking out.” That means let’s stop talking business.
ROSE: Hah! I guess my clock never stops!
QUESTION: You both have strong roots in the office products industry, which is extremely beneficial to your customers. Gary can you tell us a little bit about that?
GARY: Sure, I’d be happy to. I’ve been around for a long time, and I started in the industry when it was significantly different than it is today. Because of this, I was able to see the maturation of the industry. My career path allowed me to do pretty much everything that you could do in the office products business: sell, deliver, install, take orders, do customer service, do accounting, whatever it might be. That’s helpful, but it also can be insular, and one of the joys I have about being in the office products industry is that it gets us into every other industry that our customers are in. I’ve learned a significant amount from other companies and how they operate, and tried to apply it to help us operate as efficiently and successfully as possible.
QUESTION: And Rose, what’s your office product background?
ROSE: First off, I think Gary made a really good point about learning the industries of our customers, and more specifically learning what our customers do. Our goal is not to sell anyone anything; it’s to help them buy. And the only way we can do that is if we truly understand their world on a day-to-day basis. So, that was really good insight Gary. I appreciate that.
My entry into the world of office products dates back to… not as long as Gary’s. He’s been in the industry since he was a kid, before he was driving. Mine dates back to the early 90s, when I worked for Rayovac, which is now called Spectrum Brands. I sold batteries and flashlights to the industrial channel, and in my selling efforts I bumped into a buying group, called NPA, National Purchasing Association. They of course don’t exist anymore today, but back then it was kind of a big deal. Two years later, Rayovac started a new division, their office products channel. I was lucky enough to be part of its inception. After that, I went to work for United Stationers down in Dallas, TX, and was relocated to Philadelphia. So you could say I’ve been in the office products industry for 20 years now.
QUESTION: Of course we’re all interested as to how you guys met. Which of you wants to share that with us?
ROSE: Gary and I have slightly different versions. I like to embellish my story with minor details that make me kind of smile with memory so I’ll let Gary tell his. Go for it kid!
GARY: Okay, we met in East Orange New Jersey, at a UDI function. UDI was the original buying group in our industry, and I worked for my family’s company. Rose worked for United Stationers and there were presentations in the morning, with lunch. I was lucky enough to sit next to Rose at lunchtime.
ROSE: That was technically the first time we saw each other, but that’s not really how we met. I was working for United Stationers, and Gary was President of B.F. Molz. We sent out a letter about freight increase, and at the end of the letter, which was signed by me, I said if you have any issues or concerns to call me. So Gary did, and then he called me back later and asked me out for dinner, which I politely declined because I didn’t date customers. So then, he called me back and asked me out for lunch, but it was too late because he had already asked me out for dinner. So, long story short we ended up having lunch together and got married two years later.
QUESTION: Rose you’re from Madison and we know it was a big decision to move back here and be closer with your friends and family. Ultimately, what made you decide it was a good idea to open an office products company in Madison?
ROSE: Well, you know, it really wasn’t a big decision, at least to move back to Madison, because Madison is my home. I would say it was probably a bigger decision for Gary because he was so integral to his family’s business, B.F. Molz, as the president. But we were lucky enough to have been referred to a marketing company here in Madison called Lindsay, Stone & Briggs. The Hon Company actually referred us to them because interestingly enough, they used LSB.
Marshall Lindsay, Lisa Anderson, and the rest of the team collectively, that was assigned to our market analysis really helped us understand the entire Madison opportunity for an office supply company and really made us feel confident with a green light. At the time, in the mid to late 2000s, I guess 2006, when we actually launched the company, there weren’t any independent office supply companies anymore. The big boxes, the chains, had bought them all. But that didn’t necessarily mean that was right, so we used a marketing company to make sure they had conversations with users to ensure that there was an opportunity for an independent to come in. It was a great decision, they did a great job, and we couldn’t be happier.
QUESTION: Both of you are heavily involved in the local community, including nonprofit organizations. Can you tell us which organizations you support and why?
ROSE: There’s just so many. Obviously we support all of the Chambers of Commerce in Dane County and the contiguous counties to Dane County. We have our own Buy Local initiative called Dane Buy Local, and we’re a very strong supporter in their efforts.
Really, just from a customer perspective, we try our best to support their efforts and the things they’re trying to initiate, as well as a lot of the nonprofits locally like the Boys and Girls Club, March of Dimes, Catholic Charities, and Bratfest is a big deal. We’re in Wisconsin after all so we have to have a Bratfest.
The USO Wisconsin is something we recently became a part of. Also Gary can probably speak to this too, because he’s run a point on our M-Power Champion Project with Sustain Dane. Sustainability efforts are something we really focus on as an organization. There’s also the Wisconsin River Alliance.
GARY: Community Shares. I think that’s a pretty unique organization too.
ROSE: Yeah, Community Shares is really nice. Community Shares is an organization locally (and other communities probably have something quite similar it) that on behalf of a lot of nonprofit organizations, works collectively to help businesses get a list of nonprofits that are presented on a company level to each business. Then, employees can commit, similar to the United Way Concept. You can have a deduction out of your payroll check, and then decide who among the group of nonprofits, which are a part of Community Shares, that the employees can dedicate specific dollars to go to on an annual basis. So, a lot of our customers are in that list, so it’s kind of a good double whammy for them because we might support their efforts on a relationship level as customer vendor, but we also support them through Community Shares.
QUESTION: So that all leads us to what we think a big focus is for EZOP: the concept of Buying Local, and sustaining the local economy. You’re both really strong advocates of the Buy Local Movement. Tell us why you think it is important, and what organization EZOP stays active in to support the cause.
ROSE: Buying Locally is interesting. The whole local movement has gained such momentum over the past five or so years. We first started getting involved in Buying Locally and really understood that it’s not about reciprocity – “I buy from you, you buy from me.” It’s more about the economics of a local economy.
And when we first joined our Buy Local, I think we were probably one of the first dozen members, and this is back in 2007. There wasn’t as much strength in the Buy Local movement in the Madison, WI area as there is today, since then the movement has taken on such strength. But what we try to communicate to our community and to our clients is that it’s not just about supporting your neighbor – it’s a bigger picture of the dollars staying where they are. We don’t just necessarily talk about the office products industry, but that in general.
In fact currently we run a cute, little fun contest on Facebook that we’re calling the “350 = $350.” The 350 Project, which was started out of Minneapolis, is all about picking business that you would really miss if they went away. Understand that if you just spent 50 bucks at one of those places that would bring it back. Nationally, if everybody did that, it would bring back 46 billion dollars into each local economy, and that’s just such a huge representation of what it means to keep businesses viable that are next door to you.
GARY: Buy Local is more about quality of life than it is economics of business. Economics is very important in that, but it is companies that are looking at the triple bottom line, planet, profits, and people, which we are. That’s the kind of environment and the kind of community we want to be part in and create. It also comes full circle. That’s one of the reasons we moved to Madison, WI. We thought the quality of life would be better here than it was in New Jersey for us, and we have a little bit more of an opportunity to affect the quality of life.
EZ Office Products is our vehicle to do that, not only for Rose and I, but our employees, our customers, and our community. It goes back down to the triple bottom line: planet, profits, and people. That’s sort of how we’re looking at things. Buy Local is a significant portion of that because it allows us to do that. We’re looking not only at buying goods and services locally, but things like our food as well.
ROSE: We’re not naive and myopic enough to think that Buying Locally means you HAVE to buy local. It’s more about thinking local first.
QUESTION: Why do you think that EZOP has been so successful in the Madison area?
ROSE: I would say Gary speaks really well to this. I think it’s not so much that we’re a local office supply company, I think it really has to do with what happens once people experience what we do. People are starved for knowledge, and for ways in which they can help their end users. You know you have one person that buys office supplies but they’re sort of put out. I don’t want to say hung out to dry necessarily, and this is a generality, but if you go to a big box chain, I’m not talking “office supplies in general”, I’m talking “in general,” you don’t really get the experience, the expertise, and most importantly someone who really cares enough to follow up with you the same day. Whether it’s delivery, “I don’t understand the difference between 70 pound paper and 28 pound paper”, or “help me with a design for a custom stamp,” it’s just not the quality of service out there like we provide, and that’s really what has set us apart from anyone else who does what we do. I think that’s hugely imperative to our success. What do you think Gary?
GARY: I agree, and ultimately, business is about business and it goes to the bottom line. You could be the cheapest in cost or you could be the most cost effective. And I believe that we are the most cost effective, because all those things Rose explained helps business manage their bottom line better. It helps them focus on what they’re doing to generate revenue as opposed to, “can I save a dime on a dozen pencils?”
QUESTION: Now that we know a little bit about your business, let’s get to know the two of you. Gary, what are some of your favorite activities, outside of work and the warehouse that is?
Gary: My favorite activity is spending time with Rose.
QUESTION: Rose, how about you what do you like to do in your spare time?
ROSE: I like to work in my spare time. I think that’s one of the things Gary and I think about, working better together, and how we can strengthen our relationship at work. The business is only seven years old, and we’ve spent so much time in the last seven years getting it up and going, that’s not an easy feat. One of the things that we’re focusing on is “gosh what do we do,” that being all that we do.
So, I would say the one thing I want to do outside of work is learn what I can do outside of work. That’s a roundabout way of not answering your question right? I work. I think family is probably, for both of us, really important. Obviously, we’re not around the Molz family, they’re all in New Jersey, but if I could do anything outside of work it would be to spend time with my nieces and nephews.
QUESTION: I’m going to put you guys on the spot now so, Gary can you tell us one thing that you love about Rose?
GARY: I’d be happy to!
ROSE: That she works hard. Haha!
GARY: The one thing I love about Rose is everything. I love everything about Rose.
QUESTION: And Rose, what’s the one thing you love about Gary?
ROSE: I’d probably answer that similarly. I’d probably say that it’s not just one thing, because if you could only pick one thing you’d probably be divorced by now. A marriage, especially when you work together, is so much about balance and acquiescing and knowing when a fight’s not worth a fight. But I’d say one of the things I love about Gary is his admiration for doing things the right way.
QUESTION: And last question, what’s your favorite office supply item? Basically the one you know you can’t live without.
ROSE: I’ve got mine, Gary you go first.
GARY: Post-it Note!
ROSE: Really? Hmm..
QUESTION: Rose sounds a little judgmental.
ROSE: No, I wish I‘d invented them. All these entrepreneurial ideas like, “Hey, somebody should come out with this.” Anyway, I’d say mine is a TOPS message pad. Through the year, I’ve been using the TOPS. I don’t even know what it is. It’s TOPS 4416 I think. Whether it’s my iPad, iPhone, netbook, laptop, or desktop, above all the technology that exists the TOPS message pad goes with me everywhere. It goes home, it’s at work, it travels with me its in my briefcase. It’s everywhere. It’s my brain- my paper brain.
….There you have it! Two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and extremely successful entrepreneurs, you can’t top that.