Simple Doesn’t Always Mean Easy

James Engel is a lucky man.

“Every day,” he says, “I look forward to coming to work.”

Today he is ProStar’s Vice President of New Business and Vending, but the title cannot capture all the hard work he has invested in this company.  Like Randy, James was employed by the same OCS company back in Oklahoma (the two men first met when they were in college).  And like Randy, James moved to Dallas from Oklahoma to continue his OCS career.

When Randy started his company in 1986, it was James’ garage where, a year later, Randy began storing his extra equipment and product.  During those earliest years, James ran the delivery routes while Randy serviced the equipment.  The business plan was simple, but it also involved a great deal of tenacity, gumption, and labor.

“The first Coke machine we ever delivered was tied into our van with a rope,” says James, “with Randy sitting in the back, holding it.”

But even from the very beginning, James was energized to work at ProStar.  “It wasn’t scary,” he says of joining Randy when his business was just getting off the ground.  “It was exciting because I trusted Randy and Debbie [Randy’s wife].  And I trusted myself.  We knew the business.  As Randy used to say, ‘People don’t go out of business, they just give up.’”

James has a unique perspective on the company that ProStar has become.  He has seen the complete trajectory.  He says his first trade show with Randy was the moment when he knew the company had arrived, so to speak.  The two men saw their former OCS employers there in Boston, and “they acknowledged us.  That was huge.”  Another milestone came in July 2004, when the first ProStar satellite branch was opened in Houston.  As James says, “I like knowing that I was there from the ground floor.  And I like seeing it build and continue to grow.”

Like Randy, however, James is also quick to point out that there have been many lessons to learn along the way.  Some of the best lessons came from the years they spent trying to establish ProStar has an office-product supply company, as well as an OCS company.  “We were up against giants,” James says, “and it brought us a lot of new ideas about marketing.  It taught us how to catalog our products….  But coffee is the better business.  We control our own destiny since we can roast our own coffee.”

Randy has said that ProStar is what it is because of the “help of a lot of great people along the way.”  He is speaking of people like James; people who bring their enthusiasm and talents to the job every day.

“I have never met anyone in the industry who is as much of a visionary as Randy is,” says James.  “He has so many ideas, and then we put them into action.  We make things happen.”

I like that assurance:  “We make things happen.”  One coffee bean at a time.  One work-day at a time.

Next Week on Behind the Bean:   From One Employee to 160!