Universal Office Products: Ten Years On

One of the Nostell Estate’s original tenants, Universal Office Products (the Zucchi Suite), is celebrating its first ten years in business.

Just over a decade ago, Universal Office Products received its first order – for copier paper from the Chesterfield Print Media company, Prolog Print Media, which has remained a loyal customer ever since.

The business was established by Steve Manley and Mark Broadbent in November 2002 with just one computer and patio-style office furniture. They steadily built up the business with cold calling, networking and hard work before eventually locating to the Nostell Estate in April 2005.

Mark Broadbent (left) & Steve Manley (right) with first ever customer Peter Wells (centre)
Mark Broadbent (left), Steve Manley (right) & first customer Peter Wells (centre)

They will never forget the order from Prolog. Mark recalled: “It took time to set up a wholesale supply chain, deal with the legal matters and get our name known, but when the first customer arrived we were ready to deliver our promise of first class service.”

They show the same hard work and determination today as they did ten years ago.
Peter Wells, Prolog Print Media

A decade later Universal Office Products is one of the largest independent office supplies dealers in the UK with 800 local and national customers. It was the fastest growing company of its type in the UK for the second year running in 2012, according to Vow, a leading wholesaler of business products in the UK and Ireland.

With a staff of 21 it can deliver next day from a stock range of 22,000 items including stationery, computer and machine supplies, IT storage and business gifts. To celebrate a decade in business Steve and Mark staged a gala dinner for 120 guests including customers, suppliers, staff, partners and many associates who have helped them achieve success over the last ten years. They included Peter Wells, commercial manager of Prolog Print Media – the very first customer, who said: “They show the same hard work and determination today as they did ten years ago.”

Debbie Manley and Josie Broadbent with their husbands
Debbie Manley and Josie Broadbent with their husbands

Mark and Steve are now planning for the future and expect to see Universal witness continued organic growth.

“We will continue to invest in our team, the business infrastructure and systems, while our business ethos of supplying the combination of the best customer service of an independent dealer with the sophistication of a contract supplier will remain unchanged,” said Steve.

“Our success is down to high quality customer care across all areas. Customers get a friendly, efficient service from us from the minute they place their order to the moment our van driver leaves them with their deliveries.”

Mark added: “Our outlook has never changed from the day we began the business. We set out to position ourselves between the large contract suppliers and the small independent dealers in order to provide the best of each.”

Internal account managers Kellie Hodgson and Nicola Schofield
Internal account managers Kellie Hodgson and Nicola Schofield

Steve said: “Creating and maintaining strong relationships is key to a successful business and this is paramount at Universal Office Products. Every one of our customers is assigned a dedicated account manager, has their own dedicated internal helpdesk contact and we even deliver them a chocolate bar every Friday. This unique approach has ensured we have a 99 per cent account retention rate. We even offer free ‘health checks’ to companies looking to save on their office supply bills.”



View this article in First For Business, April 2013 (pdf)