Centric Business Systems’ Rick Bastinelli reflects on his dealership’s first three decades.
In 1975, Rick Bastinelli joined Copyworld, a dealership with locations in Reading and Allentown, Pennsylvania. After 15 years at Copyworld during which he rose from sales trainee to vice president of sales, Bastinelli felt it was time to go out on his own.
“I liked the business and felt confident I could be successful in establishing my own company,” he said.
The owner of Copyworld was Ben Simone, who was—for Bastinelli—a good mentor. In 15 years, Bastinelli’s career evolved from sales training to vice president of sales. He tips his hat to Simone, describing him as one of the early dealers to understand a growth-by-acquisition strategy. As a result, when Simone left Copyworld, the dealership had seven branches with locations from Allentown (eastern Pennsylvania) to Pittsburgh and south to Princeton, New Jersey.
In 1990, Savin was divesting itself of its branches, and Bastinelli had the Baltimore-D.C. market in mind.
Savin had sold its Baltimore branch to Earl Garrison, and after a short period, he decided to sell it. With Brian Merriman’s (president of Savin) assistance, Bastinelli acquired Garrison’s Copyworld in Baltimore. That is correct—the same name as the dealership Bastinelli worked in for 15 years.
Baltimore’s Copyworld had two salespeople, eight techs, two admins, and revenue of $1 million. At the time, Bastinelli identified many synergies to launch his company. Savin was experiencing financial difficulty during that period, and Bastinelli believed he needed a stronger and more financially stable partner. In 1992, if you were a dealer, Sharp was a good way to go. In 1990, NOMDA published a Fortune Magazine study, “Manufacturers: A View from Office Machine Dealers,” in which dealers were asked to rate the manufacturers. A total of 529 dealers selected Sharp as the number one manufacturer. Shortly after that report was published, Bastinelli became inactive with Savin and focused on Sharp products. In 1999, when the demand for digital copiers was on the rise, Bastinelli took on Ricoh and, together with Sharp, built a solid foundation to address the connected environment. If you asked him at the time which was his primary manufacturer, he would tell you Sharp.
We wanted to know how Bastinelli was able to grow in such a competitive market as Baltimore. He developed specialists for key vertical markets such as healthcare, legal, finance, government, and education. At the same time, he focused on connectivity, which was the biggest challenge dealers were facing in the 1990s. He also built a major accounts team.
In 2006, Bastinelli wanted to rebrand and create an identity as a technology company. He struggled with the name and finally determined Centric Business Systems was the answer. Having observed what Ben Simone did in Pennsylvania, he began a well-planned series of acquisitions, coupled with expansion by forming branches. That same year he acquired Maryland Copy, a company that served the suburbs of D.C., one of the top markets in the U.S.
In 2010, he acquired a second dealer, Office Suppliers, Inc. with offices in central Pennsylvania and western Maryland. It was a good fit as the dealership sold Sharp, and it filled a void in Centric’s authorized geography. To the east, Bastinelli established a branch that gave him excellent coverage in Maryland.
One year later, Bastinelli acquired six acres in Owings Mills, Maryland, to build Centric’s new corporate office and warehouse. Carol and I were invited to the grand opening, and we were impressed by the physical layout and the impressive floor plan that addressed every phase of the business. We remember that event well, and it was something special.
At that grand opening ceremony, Bastinelli reported that his business had reached $35 million over 20 years. Even then, he was looking ahead and envisioned another building across the street from the headquarters. He wanted to create a Centric campus, and he did. Over the next nine years, he increased the size of the business by 46%.
The building was intended to be the first in a Centric campus. Across the street, Bastinelli subsequently added a second building that functions as a warehouse, supporting all seven Centric Business Systems locations, which are embedded in three states, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. Geographically, it covers Philadelphia to Richmond, Virginia.
When asked to identify the key decisions that allowed him to fulfill his original plan, Bastinelli responded, “Hiring the right people and caring about what they do. Build a culture that says to the customer ‘we care about you.’ Selecting the right partners because to achieve success, there has to be a true partnership with your vendors and that includes both hardware and software.”
The objective, as it is with every dealer, is all about generating recurring revenue.
“We enjoy a 90% retention rate, and you can’t do that without delivering on all your promises,” said Bastinelli.
This brings us to the present.
Bastinelli acknowledged that it has been a rough five months with sheltering in place and markets shut down. But, he added, “June was a good month and it has started to come back.”
In our opinion, Bastinelli sees the situation for what it is and recognizes that the imaging market as we know it will not come all the way back. At the same time, he understands the importance of being able to support the growing trend of a remote workforce.
When taking care of the needs of virtual workers, dealers need to stress security to the client. Installing this protection for the home worker currently represents 54% of net new business for Centric. Bastinelli is also a fan of the bundled concept with flat-rate billing for the remote locations. Depending on the need, the bundles can include an MFP or a computer printer, shredder, and a scanner loaded with the appropriate software.
To sell in the post-pandemic period, Bastinelli believes it is going to take a more sales-experienced person because the need will be to build those new relationships.
We asked Bastinelli to sum up his thoughts.
“Things are going to rebound in 2021,” he said. “Our business has been recession-proof in the 44 years I have been in business. I believe dealers will continue to succeed because we will provide the correct solutions for the untethered worker.”
Kudos to Rick!
“Congratulations to Rick Bastinelli and the folks at Centric for 30 years of outstanding work building a high quality, high growth business. Rick is a strong leader and visionary, and we greatly appreciate his partnership with Ricoh, and we look forward to working together to continue to grow and expand for years to come.” Jim Coriddi, vice president, dealer division, Ricoh USA
“Rick has been on the Sharp Dealer Council for pretty much the entire time I have been at Sharp. We want him there because he puts aside the interests of Centric and focuses on what Sharp has to do to support ALL dealers. That is what makes him so exceptional.” Mike Marusic, president & CEO, Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America
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