Fabricio Morales started his company in the basement of his apartment in 1995 selling niche products such as Day-Timer brand organizers.
FM Office Express Inc. has grown to four locations across the state, with an expanded product line that includes office furniture, commercial products and other professional supplies. Its annual revenue tops $43 million.
“Early in our company development we recognized that to remain a viable business we needed to diversify our customer base,” said Morales, the president and CEO. “The choice was to grow by acquisition.”
Its first acquisition came in 2004 with Merkel Donohue Inc., an office furniture company on University Avenue. In 2007, Morales acquired Business Environments by Ras in Albany. Both companies are dealers under Steelcase Inc., a $3 billion furniture manufacturer based in Grand Rapids, Mich.
To continue the company’s growth, Morales decided next to diversify geographically and in 2010 he opened a sales office in New York City. FM Office Express has its headquarters at 106 Despatch Drive in East Rochester.
The company’s focus has been on design strategies that foster more employee engagement, Morales said.
“You have to have a place to collaborate. It requires us to design a better environment,” Morales said. “Flexibility is key.”
The challenges Morales faces come not only from competitors but also from changes taking place in the way people do business.
“Increasing digitization of the work environment has adversely impacted demand for traditional office supplies like paper and fax materials. Other factors, including a growing trend towards green initiatives that discourage use of paper and the birth of the virtual office, are also driving down the demand for traditional supplies,” Morales said.
On the commercial side of the business, he added, distributors need to use technology and process improvement initiatives to drive down operational costs to better compete with new entrants to the industry such as Amazon.com Inc.
He sees more opportunity than challenge ahead.
“Rochester is well-positioned to become a full-fledged photonics hub. The University of Rochester, RIT and (the) presence of former Kodak resources will help the metro area sustain a competitive advantage in the emerging field. Once the plans evolve, our company is well-positioned with products and services that can help these organizations create the environments to attract and retain the required talent,” Morales said.
He plans to hire as many as eight new employees this year, mainly in sales and distribution, in Rochester and in Albany.
There has been steady employment growth over the past three years, with the number of employees rising from 75 in 2013 to 80 in 2014 to 82 in 2015. There are now 90 full-time and 50 part-time employees, he said. The company has 65 employees in the Rochester area.
Morales values his employees and his vendor partnerships and credits them for his company’s success.
Mary Jo Foster, strategic account manager at Steelcase, has been a vendor partner with Morales for 12 years.
“If he’s told something is a challenge, you see a smile start to form and a little fire in his eyes,” Foster said. “Fabricio sees opportunity where others see a challenge. He built his company with guts and determination, and a ‘never say never attitude.’”
Foster services Morales’ companies in Rochester and Albany, supplying 80 percent of his office furniture needs through Steelcase.
“Fabricio is a true visionary—always laying the groundwork for future growth,” Foster said.
Morales is optimistic there is more growth ahead, having secured a contract with the del Lago Resort & Casino in Tyre, Seneca County, one of the largest contracts in the last three years for FM Office Express.
“Our decision to diversify our business both geographically and across our product categories has really helped us grow significantly over the last several years,” he said.
The Rochester Chamber Top 100 program is presented by the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce and KPMG LLP. Launched in 1987, it recognizes the fastest-growing private companies in Greater Rochester. The 2017 Rochester Top 100 event is slated to be held Nov. 2. For more information, go to greaterrochesterchamber.com.
FM Office Express Inc.
Distributor of office furniture, office supplies, and commercial and industrial supplies
Year founded: 1995
Top executive: Fabricio Morales, president and CEO
Current employment: 90 full time, 50 part time
2016 ranking: 46
Headquarters: East Rochester
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