Hilyards Inc. Business Solutions

looks to serve cutomer needs in new Salisbury location
August 4, 2011



Not too long ago, Robert Hilyard, president of Hilyard’s Inc. Business Solutions, hired a consultant to evaluate how his company was doing. The consultant interviewed all of Hilyard’s employees and reported back his findings.

“He told me that he didn’t think that he’d ever seen the reaction that he saw here,” Hilyard said. “He said that every one of our employees knew that the customer is the most important thing.”That attitude, which Hilyard said sets his company apart from other document handling companies, is something that he practices as well as preaches. “It all starts with me,” he said. “I don’t screen my calls. So if somebody has a problem, they can get in touch with me. And our customers know that they will get an answer. I will lose money to make a customer happy.” Our reputation is that Hilyard’s will do whatever it takes to make the customer happy.”
This is something that Hilyard learned from his dad, Charlie, who started the company in 1959. “Dad instilled a great value here, and that is that if we take care of a customer, we will have a customer for life,” he said. “He was a good salesman and he brought that attitude here with him.”Before he had his own company, Charlie Hilyard was a salesman for National Cash Register (NCR) on Shipley Street in Wilmington. He had been there for 13 years and was doing well, his son said, when higher-ups told him that they were cutting his sales territory.“
He had a junior salesman under him and they said that they were going to let the junior go out on his own,” Robert Hilyard said. “And any order that wasn’t filled in 30 days, they weren’t going to pay commission on. That was hard because it took six months to get a cash register in.”
Charlie Hilyard was very upset, his son said. He left NCR and, borrowing $25,000 from his mother and from a boarder she had living with her, bought the Typewriter Exchange, a Wilmington company that was founded in 1928.
“He had three children,” said Robert, who was just a year old at the time. “He really took a chance. Back then, $25,000 was a lot of money.”Charlie’s gamble paid off. A year after buying the typewriter sales and repair company, he renamed it Hilyard’s. And he started selling mimeograph machines, as well as repairing them and selling the supplies that they required.“That really launched us into the copier business,” Robert said.Today, Hilyard’s customers number in the thousands. It has 40 employees in four locations: the original Wilmington office, offices in Dover, opened 20 years ago, and Paoli, Pa., opened in 2009, and its newest location in Salisbury, Md., which just opened in June. A ribbon cutting was held at Hilyard’s newest facility on June 29.“We cover Chester County and Delaware County in Pennsylvania and Delaware and the whole Eastern Shore,” Hilyard said. “We were continually getting more business down in the Salisbury area and wanted to have the same reputation for service down there that we have in our other locations. So we opened an office so we can offer more immediate service.”The company sells and services printers and copiers. It sells computer systems and software and maintains servers and networks, checking to make sure they aren’t going to shut down because of over-capacity and monitoring for viruses. It also offers off-site backup capability, so that important documents can be retrieved if something happens to a company’s network.Hilyard’s service people go out five days a week, seven days a week if requested by the customer.
Each technician has a fully-stocked van so that parts are readily available.“We have customers that are very small enterprises and customers that are Fortune 500 companies,” Hilyard said. “We care about the little guy as much as the big guy.”Robert Hilyard was named company president in 1992 and became full owner five years ago. (His father, 86, and his mother still live in Wilmington.) He led the company into the computer age, he said. And he has given his employees more authority to make decisions than his father did.“When my dad went on vacation, the whole company was on vacation, because no one could make a decision,” he said.
“I knew that I had to empower people to do things. It makes them feel responsible and gives them a stake in the company so that they want to see it succeed.”Hilyard wants the company that his father started to continue to expand. “I think that we will stay fairly local, continue to move from the center out, but I want to grow,” he said. “I just don’t want to grow to the point that the customers aren’t important anymore.”He is pleased with the company’s new office in Salisbury. 
“People are noticing us,” he said. “They say to me, ‘I saw your van the other day,’ and I say that they have probably seen our vans before, and just didn’t recognize the name. Now, with our new home, people are paying attention to us and we are starting to be recognized.”
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