chevron, small business find value in each other
June 3, 2015 – When Houston-born entrepreneur Robert Jimenez started his office supplies company, Today’s Business Solutions (TBS), in 2002, he was operating out of a family attic and living off borrowed funds. But he wasn’t afraid to think big. He already had experience with two previous office supplies companies. Above all, he had a strong belief in customer service and the importance of building relationships.
Over the next decade, Jimenez’s approach paid off as he garnered contracts from academic institutions and health centers, while developing a strategic alliance with Office Depot/Max. The best was yet to come: in February 2015, TBS received a five-year contract to provide office supplies to all of Chevron’s U.S. operations.
The contract culminated a rigorous sourcing process initiated by Chevron Business & Real Estate Services’ (CBRES) and Procurement/Supply Chain Management. The outcome represented a win-win for Chevron and for TBS, validating our focus on cost savings, reliability and value creation.
“The real success story is that the winning bidder is a small minority business enterprise in partnership with Office Depot/Max,” said Anand Gadgil, CBRES’ operations and projects manager. “This was a tough test for a small business to compete and go head-to-head with big box suppliers and perform better at all levels throughout the sourcing process.”
Focusing on Customer Needs
For Jimenez, TBS president, and his daughter, Priscilla Luna, the company’s vice president, the Chevron sourcing process demonstrated a chance to do what they do best – show that they run a lean operation, manage costs, focus on the needs of each customer and are attentive to every detail. TBS’ strategic partnership with Office Depot/Max has been key to its ability to operate a small company that can compete with far larger organizations.
Speaking of the current alliance, Jimenez said, “The partnership combines what we do best with what they do best. We can’t replicate what they can achieve from their large warehouses, but we can provide a strong customer orientation.” Office Depot/Max acts as the fulfillment branch while TBS does the ordering, billing, and all customer services, including having an employee answer the phone by the second or third ring.
In its approach to Chevron’s business initiative, TBS brought another important attribute – the ability to target an organization long before the sourcing process begins. Luna explained: “A key part of our strategy is to develop an exposure to companies that may eventually need our services. We nurture relationships, partly through organizations such as the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. And we do our homework.”
Doing their homework entailed learning the scope of Chevron’s U.S. operations in detail. Luna explained: “When a Chevron executive asked us, ‘How would you handle delivery to 4,000 users in 200 locations?’ our answer was: ‘It’s easy: You start off with the fact that 80 percent of your users are in Houston and San Ramon.’ He was impressed that we knew so much about the specifics of their operations – from their refineries to their complete service station network.”
The rigorous sourcing process involved face-to-face meetings, presentations and a dollars-and-cents accounting of every office supply need – from paper clips to break room supplies. “The process is driven by business needs,” said Dave Feldman, Chevron manager of Supplier Diversity. “Our focus is on cost, capability, partnership and the capacity to deliver our commodity.” Feldman added that TBS won the contract based on its ability to deliver in the most efficient, cost-effective way.
‘A Small Business Doing Big Things’
Thirteen years after starting up TBS, Jimenez describes the company as “a small business doing big things. We follow Lean principles out of necessity – not to follow any trend.” TBS’ staff of 18 includes six family members – Jimenez; his wife, Mely; Luna; and three aunts. He added, “We hire talented people who learn to wear a lot of hats. We train and cross-train, identifying what job suits each person best. And we never lose sight of each customer’s needs.”
For Chevron, TBS’ ability to win the office supplies contract from its biggest competitors helps to validate its process. “When we initiate the sourcing process, we rely on our understanding of the marketplace and who are the best potential suppliers,“ said Feldman. “Sourcing is a complicated process, which helps to ensure that we get the right people involved. TBS proved to be the right people.”
Published: June 2015