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Used Computer Dealer Thrives

Jon Denton
10/03/96


Pace/Butler Corp. started on $62.53 and thrived for three years before almost going bankrupt.

"That's what happens when you create a company with no knowledge and no capital and the business is changing fast," founder Tom Pace said.

If Pace did not quite reach rock bottom, he was close to it, he said. What turned it around was something Pace discovered and now passes along to each employee and client.

In his words, he learned to pair "high-tech and soft touch." It's a topic he will discuss Oct. 10 as the luncheon speaker for the International Association of Business Communicators meeting at Metro Tech Vocational Technical Center.

Not only did the Oklahoma City used computer dealer survive, he prospered. Within five years he expanded Pace/Butler to 30 employees with sales of $3.5 million.
Today he has a national client base. He counts some of the biggest companies in the world - including IBM - among his customers.

In his favor, he said, was his timing. The market was huge for buying, refurbishing, selling and delivering used IBM midrange equipment. A rebuilt machine could bring between $10,000 and $2.5 million.

But his personal odds of success were not as bright. He was a college dropout who managed to exit high school as a functional illiterate, he said. After working four months for computer sales people, he started his own company as a broker-refurbisher-reseller.

"I had to have someone install my first PC (personal computer)," he recalls. "That's how ignorant I was."

Sometime during the early years, he borrowed $11,000. He was about to lose it and everything else when he realized he was repeating some old habits of failure.

He credits an Oklahoma City adviser, Louis Gandara, for introducing him to the quality control principles of American business consultant W.E. Demming.

"We found out I had the right people in the wrong jobs," Pace said. "We reorganized from top to bottom. Secretaries became sales people. Some people left. And we came up with a value statement, goals, a mission statement and an atmosphere statement."

Pace/Butler created an environment where the company and employees can be successful. Nothing was hidden - not company sales, financing or deals, he said.

Today most employees own their own homes and have 401K savings plans.

Pace/Butler's "high-tech, soft-touch" atmosphere includes a company-wide meeting for anyone on the staff. There's also a personal development class from 7:30 to 9 a.m. Mondays.

"It's an investment in people. It's also good for business."

-APNEWSTYPE- DTOBJ
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