Like many small business owners, when Carrie Jacobson started her business several years ago, finding providers for the services she needed for her endeavor was challenging. She was forced to go to nine different agencies to get the services she needed to launch. Today, as vice president of Tech Services and Sales for Office Depot, Jacobson is part of a team that’s responsible for a venture that seeks to remove that pain point from small and medium businesses and provide them with access to core services needed to start and grow their businesses.
During the Investor Day meeting on May 16, the Office Depot executive leadership introduced an integrated business service offering, Workonomy™, designed to create a seamless customer experience. The comprehensive offering will serve both small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) and enterprise customers, allowing them to create personalized support based on their business needs.
“The concept behind Workonomy™ was to bring our business services under one umbrella brand name. SMB services will include administrative, technology and marketing solutions ranging from digital marketing to 3D printing to packing and shipping offerings. Enterprise services will include managed workplace solutions, infrastructure modernization, technology procurement and IT staffing. What can we do to fully support an SMB and put it all in one place so they don’t have to go search?” Jacobson says.
Office Depot CEO Gerry Smith stated, “The formation of Workonomy™ is a reflection of how we are meeting the needs of our customers by creating a cohesive, omni-channel experience that helps them solve their most vital, modern business needs.”
Additionally, the company’s acquisition of CompuCom Systems, Inc., last year played a significant role in the development of Workonomy™. CompuCom provides managed technology services, IT support services and technology consulting services for businesses large and small and boasts of having the largest stable of licensed technicians in the country.
“We have 6,000 technicians that came with that purchase, and have a nationwide offer that we can support you in-home and in your office when you have an incident or have an event that causes you to need that service. Or, you can sign a contract with us and have constant care and agree to a one- to two-year or a three-year contract. Then, you don’t have to worry about it. We have people who will come out and tell you everything you need for your office. They’ll even tell you what kind of protection they recommend depending on what you’re in and help build you out, and then we’ll build it, install it and take care of it,” Jacobson elaborates.
With the rise of online retailers such as Amazon and many shoppers making online purchases, many brick and mortar stores have significant challenges in finding solutions to remain competitive. Workonomy™ appears to be a perfect pivot for Office Depot because of its existing relationships with business owners who come into the stores to make office supply purchases. Now, they can leverage those relationships to sell them new services.
“We have a lot of consumers, or prosumers—people that are really small startups, who come in to buy a file folder, or they come in to buy some supplies. But maybe they don’t know that Office Depot is the go-to destination for all their business and technology needs,” says Michelle Ragusa- McBain, senior director of Technology Sales and Services. “Instead of just selling you a file folder, we want to ask you, ‘What do you do? What’s your business? What are your needs? And how can we help you?’ Because there’s a solution that we have that would help you be successful.”
In advance of developing Workonomy™, Office Depot surveyed 1,500 small businesses and startup owners that said digital services like email marketing, websites and social media marketing were top services needed to grow a business, but many respondents weren’t using the services.
However, the advantages of Workonomy™ for small businesses are numerous. In addition to the business services, entrepreneurs have access to experts who “help identify services suited to their unique needs, better streamlining operations and freeing up valuable time to focus on the real business of innovation and growth.” And, Office Depot believes the platform’s affordability will be a major draw for small businesses.
“As a small business owner, particularly for minority- and women-owned businesses, capital is difficult to come by sometimes,” Ragusa-McBain says. “When you’re an SMB, or a small startup, you need a more robust solution than a consumer would. But you don’t necessarily have the purse strings or budget to pay what an enterprise account would pay. Our go-to-market strategy is to make it the right price point and the right needs for the [small business] market so that they can actually have a customizable solution that meets their needs.
As promising as the platform is for small businesses, Office Depot’s commitment to SMBs goes beyond Workonomy™. Ragusa-McBain and Jacobson both work to advance the interests of diverse businesses and will be active participants at the upcoming Women’s Business Enterprise National Council’s National Conference and Business Fair at Cobo Center in Detroit.
On June 21, from 10:00 am – 11:00 am, Jacobson will present a workshop, “How Fast Changing Technologies Influence the Way We Do Business,” designed to teach attendees about technologies that will help women-owned businesses operate more efficiently and increase their competitiveness. Ragusa-McBain will serve as mentor for the Student Entrepreneur Program, preparing a sponsored student for a pitch competition.
“The opportunity is for us to talk to these small/medium business owners that have a need to understand who can help support them from an end-to-end perspective. Some of them are setting up and some of them growing and some of them maintaining the business that they have today. We’re going to talk to them about how to successfully stand out in business and grow their business or maintain their business utilizing the new tools and services that we’re launching in Office Depot,” Jacobson says.
In their roles, Ragusa-McBain and Jacobson are part of a larger effort to “elevate the conversation” about Workonomy™ and its benefits for small businesses.
“We want to shout from the roof tops that Office Depot is the go-to destination for all your business and technology needs. We’re not the supplies company of yesteryear. We’ll always have that, but we have so much more. And we’re excited to share it with the world,” Ragusa-McBain says.