Michigan-based Applied Imaging expands with family-owned atmosphere at heart
That moment arrived for Grand Rapids, Michigan-based office technology solutions firm Applied Imaging in late 2021 when it acquired Advanced Imaging Solutions of South Bend, which also has offices in Merrillville and Fort Wayne, and Sands Office Equipment Service in Warsaw near Goshen. The Lowerys purchase of the two northern Indiana businesses added about 50 employees, raising the company’s full count to 490.
The Lowerys have further expansion in Indiana in their sights, specifically Indianapolis as well as in other neighboring Midwest states, including Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and their home state of Michigan, as well as Florida. The firm today has several locations around Michigan as well as Toledo, Ohio, and Tampa, Florida.
Applied Imaging is family owned, launched in 1987 by John Lowery, president and CEO. His two sons also are part of Applied’s leadership team: Casey, chief operating officer, and Kyle, director of print production.
When the time came to move ahead with the Indiana business acquisitions, a priority for the Lowerys was to maintain a family-owned atmosphere as well as keep as many of the current workers.
“(My father) and Steve Klatt (owner of Advanced Imaging Solutions) had been friends a long time, and the time came when Steve felt like he was ready to be done,” Casey Lowery said. “We shared a lot of mutual customers, and there were a lot of synergies already between our two companies.”
Casey Lowery said Advanced Imaging’s company culture was a good fit with his family’s business. The Lowerys’ business culture is built around making decisions to benefit clients and employees, commitment to the community and having fun.
“We saw a good opportunity to keep Advanced part of a family-owned business and keep that culture of a family feel,” he said. “In a deal like this, we wanted a real culture fit, and we’ve seen that the past month and a half.”
John Lowery said his company’s physical move into northern Indiana was the first step to further expansion in the state. The Sands Office Equipment business was referred to his company through an attorney he knew from Indiana. The Lowerys saw the merger as a good business fit because Sands sold and serviced similar product lines.
“Indianapolis is a target for us down the road (because) there is a lot of growth happening there,” he said. “We feel like we speak Midwest well, and places like Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin are great places for us to be.”
John Lowery views his employees like members of his own family. At the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the Lowerys experienced a drop in their business much like the rest of the world, but leadership found ways to keep everyone employed even as work became lean.
“Our business went down 50% at the height of the pandemic,” John Lowery said. “We hung onto our techs and didn’t let anyone go because we felt like we were also looking out for (our employees’) families.”
He said his firm benefited from that strategy because as conditions rebounded, the service side of his business returned to pre-pandemic levels.
“Aftermarket, the service and supply side, is about 50% of our business,” John Lowery said. “We thought that would come back at about 90% but it came back 100%.”
Besides his sons, other members of the Lowery family also work for the company and its subsidiary businesses. John’s wife, Sandy Lowery, is the payroll manager and owner of Grand Rapids, Michigan-based ShredHub, a document destruction business.
Megan Tietema, John’s daughter, is an administrator at ShredHub. John’s son-in-law, Mike Tietema, is a director of business development at Applied Imaging.
John Lowery said his industry benefits from face-to-face interactions as it helps build familiarity and trust with customers. That’s why his business wants to retain employees from businesses it acquires.
“There’s no doubt we couldn’t do it without all the people, which is why it’s important for us to find those businesses with a close culture fit to our own,” Casey Lowery said. “We always try to find the best roles for everyone, because we couldn’t deliver the kind of service we want without the right people in place.”