WHEN a young Tony Le Tiec started his career as an advertising salesman at the Jersey Evening Post, he made two interesting discoveries.
The first was that he was hopeless at spelling. The second – and the one which was to define his career – was that he was very good at selling.
And it was this knack for persuading people to part with their money which prompted the founders of what was then a small stationery and office supplies company to offer him a job.
‘PBS – or Professional Business Systems to give the company its full name – was set up in 1972 by Kevin O’Toole and the late Jonathan Littlemore,’ Tony explained. ‘They started out in Waterloo Lane in a small office, with just a desk and a chair each, as the dealers for Hanimex calculators. Those were the only things they sold at the beginning.’
But from those humble beginnings, the business soon grew – although its early expansion came as a surprise to one of its founders.
‘One day, John came back to the office after an appointment and told Kevin “I’ve sold your desk”. From that day, PBS became a furniture agent as well,’ smiled Tony.
Further diversification followed and, in the company’s fourth year of trading, PBS became the first agency in Europe to partner with Canon.
‘That was a key step for the company and it is a partnership which has endured ever since. In fact, PBS is now a gold partner for Canon, as well as for HP, Xerox, Ricoh and Sharp,’ Tony added.
Tony’s own story with PBS began in 1988, at which he was selling advertising for the Jersey Journal.
‘I knocked on the door of PBS and tried to sell them advertising, which they declined,’ he said, with a chuckle. ‘However, they said “We don’t want your advertising but can you knock on other people’s doors and sell our products to them?” I quickly started learning about photocopiers and, after five years, we had gone from 25 machines in local offices to 15,000.
‘Many years later, we realised it was far more efficient for offices to rent their office equipment from us, instead of buying it, and we changed our approach to the system with which many people will be familiar with today.’
And it isn’t just PBS’s business model which has changed over the years, with the technology which the team supplies and maintains today almost unrecognisable from those early machines.
‘The transformation is incredible,’ Tony reflected. ‘At the beginning, I was selling photocopiers with moving tops. The machines weren’t even connected to networks and, in many offices, the copiers were hidden away in dark rooms. Now, these machines are a fundamental part of a document capture system and take centre stage in many workplaces.’
The ability to offer equipment from so many internationally renowned manufacturers is also, says managing director Alan Medcalf, one which is unique to the Channel Island firm.
‘PBS is the only company in Europe to have all of those marques under one roof but it is a status which has arisen from customer demand,’ he said. ‘Many Jersey-based companies are governed by global corporate agreements, which mean they have to work with a certain manufacturer. They were coming to us and saying: “We want to work with you but can you supply this brand?”’
‘From a maintenance perspective, there isn’t …….