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Building A Business

[ 0 ] Mar. 1, 2007 | SBO Editor

Once upon a time, a gentleman by the name of Harry M. Ferer immigrated to Omaha, Nebraska from Russia. The year was 1900. He worked as a chewing gum vendor, a match boy and a bootblack before founding his own typewriter sales, rental and repair business in 1914.

Mr. Ferer nurtured his business with honesty, loyalty, and clear-cut sincerity. These traditional values are not likely to be found as the working modus operandi in any business setting. But these standards are in fact, the tenets and operational mainstay for All Makes Office Equipment Co., an 89-year-old enterprise still headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, with regional locations in Lincoln, Nebraska, and Urbandale, Iowa.

Today, All Makes is run by the family’s fourth generation—an enviable position considering statistics that state most family businesses start to crack and crumble by the second or third generation.

The company has not only survived but continues to thrive. All Makes sells workstations, equipment and good old fashioned know-how to a wide range of clients from Fortune 500 conglomerates, hospitals, universities and law firms, to the small business owner who wants to purchase a used chair for his or her home office.

Each client, no matter what their status or budget, is treated with respect and offered All Makes’ expertise.
All Makes is gifted with the ability to grow steadily with the marketplace and the times: today the company provides complete space planning and interior design services with expert project management from start to finish.

All Makes Office Equipment Company employs more than 130 and is one of the country’s largest contract office furniture dealers with customers in all 50 states as well as several countries. The Omaha showroom is the size of half a city block featuring the most extensive product selection in the industry.

Each generation that joined All Makes, brought new energy and vision, while respecting the company’s traditional values and legacy. This practice of continual innovation began back in the day of founder Harry Ferer who sold the Ediphone, a then visionary dictating machine introduced in 1916 by inventor, Thomas A. Edison.

When Lazier Kavich joined the company in 1938 he added new lines. Lazier’s son, Larry, started working for All Makes in 1965 and among many groundbreaking advancements, introduced new, high-end contract furniture to All Makes’ mix. In 1983, Larry became president.

Larry’s children, fourth generation brother and sister, Jeff Kavich and Amee Zetzman, now lead the company as co-presidents: Jeff is president/CEO of All Makes Omaha and Amee is President/CEO of the Lincoln, Nebraska, and Urbandale, Iowa, locations. Larry remains active in the company as chairman.

According to Jeff Kavich, “Whether an order consists of a single desk or a thousand workstations, our state-of-the-art, industry-specific computer system ensures prompt and accurate product ordering, job tracking, receiving, delivering and installation,”
“All Makes effectively reconfigures work environments to meet changing needs and increase workplace productivity. Our factory-training installation teams provide prompt, efficient service and our warehousing and storage capabilities mean product is ready when you are,” said Jeff Kavich.

“We are here for the long term providing the best possible products at the best possible prices,” he added. “And we continually strive to present the most current technologies and styling to our customers.”

Amee Zetzman joined the company as chief financial officer in 1994. But after college, Amee moved to Los Angeles in 1989 to work in accounting. She later worked for Arthur Andersen’s Enterprise Group where she managed companies with revenues under $50 million. Married with two kids, she and her husband decided Los Angeles wasn’t the best place to be and the family unit moved to Omaha and Amee joined All Makes.

“Jeff and I each have our own areas of responsibility and we work very well together. Our mission is to steadily grow the company without forsaking quality,” said Amee. The company has not suffered many of the traumas of family succession that have plagued other businesses causing them to topple.

Said Amee, “We take our reputation very seriously and are committed to being the best. It is our family business and that ensures our customers, suppliers and manufacturers that we have a strong responsibility to them and to every aspect of our company.”

Larry Kavich joined All Makes in 1965 and brought his forward-thinking style into the mix. Larry grew the business physically and established All Makes as a multi-product, comprehensive and versatile service center.

“I remember going into my father’s office and being excited to report that we just sold 100 workstations to a company. Today, Jeff and Amee, will report to me in similar fashion but they are saying things such as ‘we just sold 1000 workstations to a company’ or ‘we are working on a number of international projects’ or ‘we are helping a firm in Romania establish a global presence,’” said Larry.

Recently, the company hosted an event for architects and designers and both Jeff and Amee’s kids helped out with the gift bags. One of the girls asked to be paid with money, the other, a Hershey bar. These different styles could indicate how diverse and varied their contributions to All Makes might be in the future. It will be exciting for the entire family to see if the fifth generation joins in to contribute to the legacy of this remarkably pioneering firm. •

ALL MAKES’ HOSTS DINE AND DASH EVENTS

All Makes continues to make a lasting presence within the Architect and Design community through its annual Dine and Dash event. The objective of the Dine and Dash is to strengthen the relationship between All Makes and the A&D community and to show new office furniture product.

Each year All Makes selects a trendy restaurant to host the party. Upon arrival, A&D guests order two take home meals. While their entrée’s are being prepared guests are treated to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and have the opportunity to sample new product while networking with other members in the A&D community. Once the guests’ meals are ready they leave with vendor product literature and a take home gift.

The Dine & Dash keeps the A&D community ‘in the know’ with what office furniture All Makes carries and gets them thinking about how they can incorporate All Makes’ products into the projects they specify. All Makes has hosted 9 Dine & Dashes and usually receives a 96% attendance with an estimated 80 A&D members present representing over 20 firms. The event is a big success.

All Makes’ team of more than 130 professionals is led by Jeff Kavich, left, his sister, Amee Zetzman and their father, Larry Kavich. As a leading dealer in the office furniture  industry, the company has made it their business to  carefully select manufacturers who design and manufacture, high-quality products. All Makes has customers in all 50 states and is branching out to sell to the world.

Category: Magazine, Small Business Opportunities, Small Business Opportunities March 2007