Revered E.O. Johnson Company President and COO Roger King Retires
Since my days as a DSM, dealers have taught me the meaning of the word entrepreneur. I have a great respect for what these successful entrepreneurs I have met during my career have built. One of those successes is Roger King. I first met Roger King at a BPCA meeting some 10 years ago. He is truly one of the most special people in this business, and one who is admired by many.
A few months ago, we learned that Roger was retiring from E.O. Johnson Company, where he has served as President and COO. It was the only company he ever worked for (after completing his education) in this industry. He graduated in May 1975 from the University of Wisconsin and the following Monday, he was hired by E.O. Johnson Company in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
“When I met E.O., I was so impressed with him,” said Roger. “I said to myself ‘I want to work for this guy.’”
Roger is a humble man and has said to me many times, “we are truly blessed,” and “count your blessings.”
For the company E.O. Johnson, it all began when Emory Orville Johnson became a 3M Thermo Fax dealer in 1957. For the next 18 years, Johnson built a company that would become an industry leader with offices in Wasua and Eau Claire. When Roger joined the company in 1975, he was trained on the 3M Thermofax VQC3, and it was the first model he sold.
As for 3M, the company was acquired by Harris, then Lanier, and finally Ricoh. The Lanier line continues to be sold by Ricoh today. E.O. Johnson added Canon in 1979 with the NP 200, a revolutionary copier for its day in that was an A3 tabletop machine, operating at a speed of 20-cpm, with a traversing top employing fiber optics.
When talking to Roger, you get the distinct impression that he has enjoyed every one of his 41 years in the business.
“I get up all the time looking forward to going to work,” he noted. “This business is all about what we make of it.”
By that he means taking advantage of all the opportunities our industry provides. His persistent goal is to “maintain a relevancy to the customer,” which we interpret as taking care of the customer.
“They know we are there to help them,” stated Roger. “What is neat about what we [E.O. Johnson] do is our approach in figuring out what the customer needs— learning about the customer’s business so that we are able to suggest something that makes sense.”
When conducting interviews such as these, we like to ask about what delivered the greatest sense of accomplishment. Roger had a tough time answering this question simply because his fundamental belief is that it’s not about him, but about the company and how it chooses to go to market. He’s proud of the culture that he has helped create and foster at E.O. Johnson and how management team takes care of its employees and business partners.
“It is all about doing the right thing and having fun in what you do,” said Roger. This response was typical of how he thinks and how he lives.
After knowing Roger for about a decade, I can easily tell you what it is about Roger King that I admire so much. Roger is a man who firmly believes nobody ever does anything alone. Life is all about working with good people and providing products and services that help the customer and that we could be proud of.
Roger King is humble. He feels fortunate to know so many entrepreneurs whom he feels are the heartbeat of our industry.
“There are so many remarkable brilliant dealers out there who do such awesome things,” he said. “Look at what these dealers have done to give back to the community.”
What Roger would not say is that he is all about giving back. Every year, he sends The Cannata Report personal checks for our Annual Dinner and veteran’s causes.
“I look at it is an honor and a blessing to be part of this business that continues to offer a great future,” stated Roger. “If I had to give any advice to the dealers in our business, I would encourage owners to give back to the industry.”
We enjoy Roger’s down home way of describing things.
“They talk about the dash,” he said. “You know, the one on your tombstone—the time you were born and time you died,” he said. “Left unsaid is what did you do with that life.”
Even as he is preparing to retire, Roger is still giving thanks to others.
“I was fortunate to have E.O. Johnson as a mentor and friend who had such a huge impact on my life,” he said. “I also
have to say that [CEO] Mary Jo Johnson is a remarkable person and a remarkable owner with a heart of gold. She challenges all of us.”
Although he is retiring, Roger still plans to stick around the business, doing the special projects for Mary Jo, as he eases into a more relaxed schedule and spends more time with his family. The Kings have two boys and four grandchildren, with one more on the way. Roger still plans on attending the annual BPCA meeting, at least in 2017, and we hope we have an opportunity to see him there.
In all certainty, Roger King can look back with a great deal of pride for what he has contributed over his 41 years in our industry. He leaves a company with 275 employees that generates $53 million in annual revenue. If I had to make a biopic of Roger’s life story, the end scene would feature him walking out the door with Frank Sinatra’s “The Best is Yet to Come” playing.
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A Caring Company
For 41 years, Roger King has worked for a company he truly loves, doing something he enjoyed more than anything else in the world: “Helping our customers,” as Roger put it.
E.O. Johnson Company can best be described as a dealership that is highly introspective and does business in a proactive fashion to anticipate what their customers need from them. In 2009, when the economic downturn was hurting many companies and their employees, CEO Mary Jo Johnson held a board meeting to address what the company should be doing to help their customers who might be struggling financially.
The Board looked at recent sales to large accounts (less than one year) and determined how many employees those customers were going to let go. That information allowed them to discern how many machines they had leased for five years that would now be idle.
Then, they came up with a plan, in conjunction with their leasing partners, and began visiting those customers to explain that they understood their pain and had a plan to lessen some of their burden. When they told the customers that they would take back machines that were no longer needed, contingent upon rewriting of the leasing agreement, customers could not believe it. Roger originally told me this story in 2011, and he added, “Do you think any of those people we helped in that way would ever want to buy from anyone else?”
A Few Words from Roger’s Peers
“Roger King has played an integral role in the overall growth of EO Johnson through the years, and the expansion of the business with Lanier/Ricoh. He has always exemplified the highest level of integrity, passion and cooperation throughout his career. Although I am sure he will continue to have an influence on the business, we will miss working with him on regular basis.”
–Jim Coriddi, Vice President Dealer Division, Ricoh Americas Corporation
“Roger King embodies the words ‘Valued Leader’ in every sense—personally and professionally. His integrity, intelligence, genuineness, and energy inspire others to be their best and believe that they can.”
–Jennie Fisher, SVP and GM, Office Equipment Group, GreatAmerica Financial Services.
“Roger King has been a great partner and a great friend to Canon for decades. He has been instrumental in making Canon a household name throughout Central Wisconsin, and his advice, partnership, and expertise have been substantial in building Canon’s relationship with EO Johnson. We wish Roger the very best in his retirement, and we hope that the legacy strength that he has built between Canon and EO Johnson Company will grow even stronger through what he has accomplished in his storied career.”
–Paul Francis Piotrowski, Direct of Field Sales, BISG FSD Dealer Sales Division
“Roger King has been a long-time supporter and key member of the BPCA. He has really worked tirelessly to promote and assist the organization, and no one represents what we try to be as an organization better than E.O. Johnson and Roger King, in particular.”
–James Kreikemeier, President and CEO, Capital Business Systems, Inc., and immediate past president of BPCA
“Roger has truly been an outstanding ambassador for GreatAmerica! Once we earned his confidence and trust, he seemed to find every opportunity possible to help us. He is also one of the most sincere and genuine people I have ever known. Within GreatAmerica, Roger is like a member of the family, so whenever he comes to visit, it feels like a reunion. He is obviously a great customer of ours, but even more importantly, we truly cherish his friendship.”
–David Pohlman, Office of the President, Chief Operating Officer, GreatAmerica Financial Services