Formerly Des Plaines Office Equipment, iconic business grows in reach, expertise
Chip Miceli gets a gleam in his eye when he discusses "the office of the future."
"When you walk into an office, it's going to be used by five other people other than yourself," he said. "You sit down at your computer and it knows who you are, your password is already there and you just take off and start doing your job. It says, 'Hello, Rich, your computer's ready to go.'
"When you walk out, I'll walk in and it says 'Hello, Chip, your computer's ready to go.'"
The office workplace has changed dramatically since Miceli's father started selling calculators in his small shop in Des Plaines in the 1950s. But Chip and his brother, Victor, have been keeping their dad's business ahead of the curve over the past decades, making Des Plaines Office Equipment one of the largest independent suppliers of equipment and service in the metropolitan Chicago region.
The company, best known for sales and support of copiers and printers, has expanded its portfolio over the years to include print services, video displays, IT network and cloud-based services, document software and office furniture and supplies. And, as of the beginning of the year, the company changed its name to Pulse Technology to reflect its broader portfolio.
"We're a service organization," Miceli said, "Whether we're servicing your copy machine or servicing your computer -- whatever we're doing for you -- I want you to be successful because, if you are successful, then I'm going to be successful."
The company's 4,000 customers range across the spectrum of size and industries, from large companies such as First American Bank and Alpha Baking, to small startups, and from legal and health care to education and government.
Vince Miceli, Chip and Victor's father, started the business in his garage in 1955 selling calculators. He eventually opened a small shop in downtown Des Plaines and expanded his product line to typewriters and word processors. He added copiers to his lineup in 1969, Chip Miceli said.
Chip joined the company in 1972, and he and Victor took over as owners when their father retired in 1986. During that time, the company grew its product line and expanded into a larger location in Des Plaines, then later to a facility in Elk Grove Village. A microburst in 2017 damaged the Elk Grove building, leading them to relocate to the current headquarters in Carol Stream.
Miceli said during that time he foresaw the technology revolution in the office workspace and moved the company into that direction as his vendors integrated tech into their products.
"I'm a visionary and I love technology," he said. "I'm always looking at ways that we can help our customers use some of the tech that's out there."
But the key to Pulse Technology's success, he notes, remains in the trust relationships his employees build with their clients. Miceli notes many clients have followed the same path as his father, and helping customers succeed in their business also means success for his team.
"We're always looking at how do we help our customers do their infrastructure better," Miceli said. "You have to work with your customers. A lot of companies don't do that."
And that help can go beyond copiers or IT systems. Miceli said he has tapped into his own professional network to help a client who may need help, such as obtaining a business loan or modifying payments when the client is struggling financially.
"I've been doing this a long time, and I got a lot of relationships out there," he said. "And if I vow for someone, they usually get what they need from whomever I vow for."
Acquisitions of smaller companies have been a part of Pulse's growth during the past 15 years, Miceli said. Most recently, the company acquired Indiana-based company Kramer & Leonard, a family-owned office furniture company, in 2017 and McShane's, a business IT services provider a year earlier. The acquisitions were the company's first move outside of Illinois.
While the acquisitions fit with the company's plans to expand with its customer base, that wasn't the direction Miceli said he first envisioned.
"I always thought I would go into Wisconsin because a lot of our customers are migrating up that way," he said. 'But we do have customers who have migrated into Indiana, and now some (customers) are asking about us moving into Michigan."
Pulse has established a greater footprint, with locations in downtown Chicago, as well as Rockford and Chesterton, Ind., and Miceli said the company will continue to grow aggressively over the next year.
The company will move its headquarters from Carol Stream to a larger facility in Schaumburg this summer, designed to accommodate a larger customer call center and sales offices, as well as the additional employees Miceli plans to hire. He said the company will have 150 employees by the time it moves to Schaumburg, with plans to double that in the next five years.
That growth goes into the heart of the company's new name, Miceli points out.
"We all have one," he said. "Without a pulse, we'll die and there's no future for us."