Molz Doles

It may not always be EZ, but Rose Molz thrives on competing with the big boxes.

From the pages of In Business magazine.

When Rose and Gary Molz decided to open EZ Office Products in Madison in 2006, they hired Lindsay, Stone & Briggs to determine if there was room for their business idea in this market. At the time, Rose says, the number of independent office supply stores had been depleted by big-box stores, and while she and Gary both had long careers in the office supply industry, they wanted to proceed with caution.

As it turns out, the timing was right, and next year EZ Op, as it’s known around town, will celebrate its 10th anniversary.

In a recent IB interview, Rose, 52, the company’s president, discussed the business she and Gary built.

IB: People are often advised to avoid working with or hiring a family member. You and Gary have successfully bucked that notion.
Molz:
I did a lot of business research on working with your spouse. The key thing I found was that you should not overlap responsibilities. Sometimes that’s hard. As president, I have the responsibility for setting the strategic direction and overseeing technology, HR, payroll, and accounts payable. Gary [vice president] has responsibility for operations, distribution, and now purchasing. We share responsibilities for sales. So our responsibilities are pretty clearly divided, which makes life at home much easier!

IB: Despite the big retailers such as Staples, Office Depot, and Amazon, you’ve managed to thrive. What’s the key?
Molz:
We sell a lot of commonly used items, so what’s most important to me is that overall we really are less expensive than big-box stores.

IB: What trends are you seeing in the office products business?
Molz:
People are buying less because they’re trying to be more environmentally responsible. So if they’re buying less paper, it means they’re printing less, which means they’re buying less toner and buying fewer printers. It’s sort of a spiral.

IB: So how do you cope?
Molz:
We diversify in a lot of areas. We print customer business checks, for example, and do notary work. We’re also selling more furniture now that the economy is better. Also, we now offer a greater variety of break room and custodial products, from soap dispensers to paper plates, cups, and microwave popcorn.

(Continued)

 

IB: What’s your biggest challenge?
Molz:
There is a current shift going on with younger people moving into [purchasing] positions that don’t understand the value of single sourcing. They’re very good with technology, but they’re not being taught the importance of the business-vendor partnership and what that can mean in terms of saving money.

Face it, office supplies are typically on the lowest rung of a company’s radar for 11 months and 30 days out of the year. Then, all of a sudden, it’s ‘let’s look at what we spent in office supplies.’ So the ordering function often gets delegated to someone with a multitude of other responsibilities in a company, someone who has never learned how to develop that vendor relationship.

IB: What are you most proud of?
Molz:
That we’ve made it for almost 10 years in a very competitive industry; that the people we hire stay, which to me means they’re happy in their work and that we pay a competitive wage.

IB: EZ Office Products is very supportive of the community. What’s behind that?
Molz:
Local businesses should be giving back. It just makes good business sense. We need to support each other professionally and personally. It’s part of the triple bottom line: planet, profit, people.

We sponsor a stage at Brat Fest, and I try to focus on things relating to kids, primarily literacy because if kids can’t read, they’re doomed. I also recently participated in a program that taught high school seniors how to network. What side do you wear your nametag on? How do you start a conversation or get out of one?

I’m re-launching my online storefront. It will be called Rosie’s World and highlight anything we’re involved in, whether it’s something that we sponsored or participated in, an organization that we’re supporting, or one we want to see succeed. I’ve been thinking about it for a couple of years. Our whole focus as a company is being able to grow deep into the community and not wide. We don’t want to be another Staples.

IB: Looking back, is there anything you would have done differently?
Molz:
Except for meeting Gary when I was working on the East Coast, I wish I had never left Madison thinking the grass was greener somewhere else because it’s not. I was gone for 13 years in Dallas and Philadelphia. After three years in Dallas, I looked around and wondered, where’s spring? Where’s the beauty of October?

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