Hilyard’s Business Solutions Inc. celebrates its 60th year in business this year, yet its mission remains the same as when the company was founded in 1959: to serve the customer with unsurpassed excellence. Built on integrity and an honest day’s work, the former typewriter sales company now is a fast-paced document management, business equipment and voice solutions force. “We would like the opportunity to help you with your printing and office equipment needs, wide format, IT services, cabling and PA systems, phone systems and voice solutions,” said CEO Rob Hilyard.
Looking back, Rob tells how his father, Charles Hilyard, now 94, served in the Marines in three campaigns of World War II — in Iwo Jima, Guam and Guadalcanal — and came home with two Purple Hearts.
After the war, Charles returned to Wilmington, where he was born and raised. He worked for National Cash Register for 13 years. When he was 32, he decided to purchase a small company, The Typewriter Exchange, on 8th and Shipley Streets in Wilmington.
“He ended up buying the company for $25,000, which in 1959 was a lot of money!” Rob said. The Typewriter Exchange sold Olympia typewriters. A company representative told Charles he wouldn’t make it selling typewriters alone, so he started selling mimeographs, which a lot of churches used at the time to print their bulletins. Those sales, plus ink and paper, kept the business thriving for years to come. Robert, following in his father’s footsteps with a willingness to adapt to customers’ needs and expand the products and services offered has enabled the business to keep pace with the latest technology and be successful.
From the beginning, integrity and a good reputation meant everything to Charles, and he instilled those values in Rob.
Born in 1958, Rob was one of four children. He attended a technical high school and took electronics. “No one ever said I had to go into the business; I wanted to.”
Charles was always the boss of his company. He was in command. Rob came to realize, however, that employees were afraid of making decisions for fear of being yelled at. “Dad wasn’t bad; he’s very compassionate and he cares about people. Some have worked here for 45 years. They loved working for him. He’s a very good person who knew how he wanted things done.” Rob continued, “He taught me the way he handled things, but I’ve learned over the years to empower my managers to make decisions. To grow we need managers who can do just that without the fear of being yelled at,” Rob says with a short chuckle.
Rob started work with the company in 1977 and took over for his father in 1994. He said, “I credit my dad for instilling the values I needed to run the company and be successful. I’ve passed these values on to my sons, Michael Hilyard, 32, and Charles Hilyard, 29, who also work for Hilyard’s. Dad always said, ‘If you treat the customer fairly with honest practices, you’ll have a customer for life.’”
When Michael and Charles joined the business, Hilyard’s became a third generation company. In addition to Michael and Charles doing their daily jobs as account managers, they are learning what it takes to transition a business to the next generation. Susan Hilyard, Robert’s wife, joined the company in 2008 and became president in 2010. Michael said, “We are keeping the family tradition alive. We are excited to continue our grandfather’s legacy by providing the best service we can to our customers.”
Rob added, “I have also learned over the years; you have to be able to change. If you don’t, you’re not going to thrive. We’ve had 60 years of success, but if we’d stayed in the typewriter business, we’d be out of business.”
Two and a half years ago, Hilyard’s added telecommunications to its services. “We purchased Collins Business Systems, which started the same year Hilyard’s was opened.” Rob said. “We were serving the same customers. It was a good fit. Mr. Collins wanted to make sure his customers were well taken care of.”
Then a year ago, Hilyard’s acquired Automated Copy Systems Inc., which was owned by Joe Sabo. With the purchase, Rob said, “We were able to grow our southern territory and modernize the Automated team by integrating them and their customers into our systems.”
Today, Hilyard’s has 48 employees and has offices in Dover and Wilmington, Del., and in Salisbury, Md. “We service all of Delaware, all of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the six closest counties in New Jersey, and Delaware and Chester counties in Pennsylvania,” Rob said. “We have technicians who live in these areas. To enhance our customer experience, our technicians are provided company vans that enable them to stock the most frequently used parts to ensure maximum uptime for our customers’ office equipment. Combine this with the use of integrated software, and our technicians are able to see the parts availability both in their stock or the stock of fellow technicians, allowing them to be very responsive in taking care of our customers.”
Rob’s son Charles said, “We pride ourselves on excellent customer service. We’re a local service provider, providing fast, reliable service by technicians in your community.”
Hilyard’s Business Solutions recently received the Better Business Bureau of Delaware Edward M. Rush Sr. Memorial Award for family run businesses exemplifying excellence and integrity in business.
Hilyard’s also won the Delaware Business Times Family-Owned Businesses award in the large category in the large category for 2019.
When you think office technology, think Hilyard’s Business Solutions. Call 302-995-2201 or 800-247-2201 or visit hilyards.com.