Above: MOEbiz headquarters in Monroe, Louisiana.
Adapting and innovating are keys to the dealership’s longevity.
Chap Breard, president of MOEbiz, is still flying high after celebrating his dealership’s 100th anniversary in October. It was a stellar event that attracted customers and vendors alike. A few weeks after the celebration, I connected with Chap via Zoom to discuss the history of MOEbiz and learn about today’s dealership.
What I discovered during our conversation was that this dealership is not afraid to take chances or make the difficult decisions necessary for survival in an evolving business climate, market, and industry.
A MOEbiz History Lesson
MOEbiz was founded by Chap’s grandfather, Armand V. Breard, in 1923 as Monroe Office Equipment (the MOE in MOEbiz). The company initially sold typewriters. When Armand V. retired, his son, Armand E., took over the business in 1969. “The story goes that my grandfather threw the keys on my dad’s desk with a note and said, ‘Here’s where I need my check to go every month. See you later,’” said Chap.
Chap’s father Armand V. Breard beside his wife, Travis, shares his thoughts on the dealership’s 100th anniversary.
Over the years, the company expanded into office supplies and furniture, operating out of numerous locations, including Alexandria, Lake Charles, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Alexandria location, which was near the Army base Fort Polk, had a vibrant typewriter business throughout World War II. That location was closed after the war, and the Lake Charles location was sold to an employee. The business expanded into Baton Rouge in 1972. In 1983, Armand E. moved to New Orleans with his wife and opened another location to sell office products.
Two generations of Breards, Chap and his father Armand V.
Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur
It wasn’t a foregone conclusion that Chap would join the family business even though he worked there part-time during high school and college. Chap admits he was a bit of a screwup and wasn’t the best student. “I did so well in college, they sent me a nice note that said, ‘Why don’t you take the semester off?’ And my dad said, ‘You can’t live at home.’”
So, Chap joined the Navy Reserve, matured, returned to Monroe, finished his degree, married, and returned to the business as a full-time employee in January 1989. He took over leadership of MOEbiz in 1990 during a pivotal time in the company’s history. Two years before, the company, which had grown to 115 employees, had its best year ever with $15 million in revenues. The business was focused primarily on furniture, supplies, and office machines. Two locations sold copiers.
In 1991, with the emergence of office product superstores and issues with one of its furniture suppliers, revenues fell to $985,000. The Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Alexandria locations were closed. “It was tough times,” recalled Chap. “The business got turned on its end from ’89 to ’91.”
For Chap, it looked like the beginning of the end. He even had another job lined up. Things changed prior to a bank-forced auction of company assets. Armand E. arrived on auction day and told Chap to take the shelving because he had found a new place to lease.
That was pretty much the seed that propelled MOEbiz into the dealership it is today. It wasn’t easy because the entire sales team had left and started a competitive business. “It was dog-eat-dog,” recalled Chap. “We only did about $1 to $1.5 million for eight or nine years.”
Diversifying the Business
MOEbiz was still selling office supplies and furniture, as well as Gestetner copiers. Realizing that office supplies were a commodity business, Chap added Rena addressing equipment and Friden Alcatel (now Neopost) mail machines. In 2003, he acquired an Office Furniture USA franchise. That became a catalyst for growth. “We built a new building because we had a little bitty rat hole,” recalled Chap. “We stayed there from 2003 until 2019 and then moved into our current facility.”
Josh Wachendorf and Key Kain of GreatAmerica Financial Services present Chap with an award recognizing MOEbiz’s 100th Anniversary.
Left to right, Blair Breard (Chap’s sister), Terri Caldwell of Sharp, Robbie Cunningham of MOEbiz, and Nicole Wronsky of Sharp.
Left to right, Robbie Cunningham of MOEbiz with HP’s Jim Petty, and MOEbiz’s Heather Toms and Krystal Weaver.
The new building had a furniture showroom, and a walk-in business for supplies, furniture, and mail machines. Even though furniture was 47% of the business, Chap realized that hardware, with its higher margins, was more profitable. After joining the Select Dealer Group (SDG) in 2003 and attending his first Pro Finance session, he had an epiphany about office technology. “People are actually making money in this business,” Chap realized. “We were down in the 3% to 4% net income, and it’s hard to make a living and invest in the business. There was no way I’d ever get to the dealer benchmark without selling the furniture business.”
It took about four years to find a buyer, which he did in 2012, the same year Monroe Office Machines was renamed MOEbiz. Selling the furniture business turned out to be another savvy move. “We made more money on 50% less revenue that year,” revealed Chap.
Today, MOEbiz sells Ricoh, HP, Epson, and Sharp imaging technology. It also sells the NEC AV products that Sharp distributes and built a 3,000-square-foot audiovisual showroom to showcase them. Chap expects to do about $300,000 in AV products this year.
The next move was starting a managed IT business. Building an IT business was a struggle. MOEbiz lost money for about three years, but it was a learning experience. Today, its IT partners are ConnectWise and Collabrance, and even though there is room for improvement, Chap reported it’s moving in the right direction.
MOEbiz also sells Crexendo cloud-based phone systems. “We got into that during COVID and fell flat on our face,” acknowledged Chap. “I sold eight systems, and then everybody was mad at us because we didn’t know how to install them. As usual, I put 10 pounds of crap in a five-pound bag, but now we’re getting better at it. We’ve got a full-time sales rep and our own install team.”
For the Records
Another risk that was rewarding was the acquisition of a records storage business in 2016. “They only did $160,000 in revenue, but we tripled it in two years,” said Chap. That business has since merged with MOEbiz’s scanning and shredding services, and this year will be responsible for $1.2 million of the dealership’s revenues.
The next acquisition was a DataBank location (real estate only) in Monroe that offered scanning and storage throughout the state. That location also had a print shop that primarily handled residential and commercial plans. Chap knew the man who ran that business and owned the real estate. When he learned that DataBank was planning to close his print shop, he called Chap and offered him a sweet deal just as long as he hired an employee who had been with the company for 30 years.
Six months later, the contact called to tell him that DataBank was closing the Monroe location and to ask if he was interested in acquiring 60,000 square feet of real estate. Since MOEbiz was leasing space for its records business it made sense to purchase their facility. “We were also able to hire a few of the Databank employees that had been with the company over 20 years, and they helped us pick up a number of their local customers, which gave us a jumpstart in the scanning business.”
Bigger and Better
MOEbiz continues to grow and expand. An acquisition in El Dorado, Arkansas, allowed some growth, as well as opening up in Ruston, Louisiana, and this has significantly broadened the dealership’s footprint. This expansion now encompasses managing devices in several states, including a bank with 54 branches.
The dealership’s strategy remains focused on additional acquisitions. “We’re actively seeking opportunities,” noted Chap, who is keen on expanding further into the western and southern regions of Louisiana. Additionally, MOEbiz is looking to bolster its scanning business by adding more sales reps. “There are no barriers to going 300 miles to pick up two pallets of records and scan them,” said Chap.
Chap cuts the ribbon to signify the opening of the dealership’s new Technology Showroom during the 100th Anniversary celebration. The ribbon cutting was presented by the Monroe Chamber of Commerce.
The showroom is officially open.
Chap takes immense pride in MOEbiz’s new state-of-the-art showroom. The key to perfecting the showroom experience involved ensuring the flawless operation of all print technology, particularly the many features that are strong selling points. The dealership’s sales team is encouraged to take customers to the showroom where they demonstrate all the technologies’ capabilities. “If we could be successful with that, we could differentiate ourselves,” said Chap.
Far right, Roy Heatherly, president of the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, thanks the dealership for its active role in the Monroe community.
Chap has come a long way since he first took over the business. “Those were tough days,” he said. “There was many a day that I came home and said, why don’t we find something easier to do?”
Maybe it hasn’t gotten any easier, but in an ever-evolving industry, it is MOEbiz’s resilience and ability to reinvent itself that helps the dealership keep pace and evolve with changing trends. No wonder why Chap is excited about the next chapter in MOEbiz’s history, even if its second century is only beginning.