November 27, 2020

Flux: Business technology firm helps clients keep working in pandemic

Resilience is part of the business plan at San Antonio-based DOCUmation. The digital imaging and business technology company handled the pandemic like it handles any other shift in the industry — it found a way to adapt.

As essential businesses looked for ways to minimize health risks for their employees, DOCUmation introduced contact-less thermal scanners that took a person’s temperature.

Co-Presidents Hunter Woolfolk and Preston Woolfolk say they learned early on about the need to adapt from their grandfather, Lou Scantland, who still serves as board chairman.

They watched as their father, Scott Woolfolk, and uncle, Lee Scantland, navigated an ever-changing industry. The company mpoved from selling copy machines to opening a print shop and offering information technology, software and phone support.

The brothers, who were born 14 months apart, worked every summer beginning in middle school, but it wasn’t until they graduated from Abilene Christian University that they were officially put on the payroll — as the company weathered the economic collapse in 2009.

DOCUmation continued to expand, opening branches in the Hill Country, West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, In 2015, the company moved its headquarters into a large building on Lockhill Selma.

Over the past few years, the company settled a trademark lawsuit with a competitor and expanded into Dallas, Ft. Worth, Houston and Austin with the acquisition of documentWORKS.

We talked to the third-generation owners about some of the biggest challenges in their industry and how the coronavirus pandemic has affected their business. Here’s an edited transcript of the interview.

Q: Can you tell me a little about the roots of the company and how it first started?

P.W.:

So our grandfather has been in this industry, the business technology industry, since 1956. So he actually, through a series of events growing up in Detroit, ended up opening the first privately-held permanent copy dealership in America. It’d be like opening the first car dealership in America. A lot of people refer to him as the founder of the industry. They had companies under previous names that they bought and sold, but our company goes back to 1990. This is our 30-year celebration here in the Texas markets. It’s a weird way to celebrate.

H.W.:

Right. Before we’d have a big Christmas party and a lot of fun at the end of the year, and instead we can’t invite our people across the state to come visit to see each other. It’s taken on a different tone.

Q: What services do DOCUmation and DocumentWorks provide?

P.W.:

It’s all under the umbrella of technology services and technology solutions. That would be IT, print, conference services, software. We have a print shop, install phones, voice and facilities management. Hardware rental now including contact-less thermal scanners. At the time, one of the most effective models of screening for infection was to make sure that everyone was checked for (high) temperatures before they entered a public place.

Q: Something else happened in March, besides the pandemic.

P.W.:

Yeah. I had my third son. He shows up a week early, and that was a blessing in disguise. But my wife’s water breaks and she calls me and says, “I need you to come home immediately because we’ve got to go to the hospital.” I drop everything, get to the hospital. I look at her and I say, “Hey honey, March Madness was just canceled.” She just looks at me like, “I do not care.” He was 10 pounds 11 ounces — he is a big boy. So we’re in the hospital watching Trump declare the coronavirus a pandemic. When we leave the hospital, the world’s shut down. We can’t see anybody. We can’t talk to anybody. Grandparents can’t visit their grandchildren. Uncle Hunter here doesn’t see his nephew for the first time for three or four months.

H.W.:

He wouldn’t let me. I tried.

P.W.: We had so much uncertainty in those early months, and our people still stepped up to the plate and said, “We care, we’re still going to get the job done.” So many of our clients were doing this across the city.

On ExpressNews.com: Get the latest update on coronavirus and a tracking map of U.S. cases

Q: How many clients do you have?

H.W.:

Over 3,000 across the state. Maybe 2,700 here in San Antonio.

P.W.:

One of our clients is Christian Assistance Ministry. As people are being laid off and showing up to their doorstep saying, “I know you’re closed but I need emergency services. I was just evicted or I don’t have a job or I can’t put food on the table.” We support them because they need to still be able to quickly respond.

Q: Did your business qualify for the federal Paycheck Protection Program?

P.W.:

Thankfully, yes. I won’t say we were 100 percent reliant on it to just make ends meet. We’ve been very thankful that we have three generations of family, and they’ve been doing this since the ’50s. You get to passively hear at the dinner table decisions that need to be made for the business. We’ve always stayed a predominately debt-free company, being conservative with our cash and we’re not going to overspend. Many people liquidate companies just to pull cash out, and leverage it for their families. We’ve never done that so when hard times hit, we were able, not easily, but we were able to weather the storm. The PPP was supplementary to that, and that’s been a big blessing. And all that hitting at once, being financially solvent ahead of time prepared us for a rainy day. We have emergency savings in our personal life — why wouldn’t you for a business when you have 150 employees and their families, their kids, their wives, their extended family relying on you?

Q: How did COVID-19 affect your business?

P.W.:

We had several needs from the community within the technology services realm. One was that businesses were going remote overnight. IT guys were going to go to their homes and make sure they get it set up so they can work from home. They needed to be able to work remotely with their teams and communicating as effectively as they do now. So we need to set up their camera systems, their voice systems so that they could be understood and heard and not hear the echo in the background and not talk over each other.

On ExpressNews.com: San Antonio IT company now selling thermal-scanning kiosks

Q: How did the pandemic affect your workers?

P.W.: Operationally, we made a decision early on that we’re going to have everybody who could work from home. Probably a third of our office is clerical in nature, a third is sales and a third is service and support. We’re considered an essential workplace. For example, we have six full-time employees who work at University Health System. They manage its print and software programs. So think about printing name tags and work orders for surgeries. All across the city, not just hospitals, you have a lot of industries trying to manage and serve these needs.

H.W.:

Even the tent companies that put up remote hospitals. Those would be our customers. The AC people, plumbers, you name it. We’re servicing any business that has business technology. If there was a need for that organization to be open, we’re servicing them and helping them stay open.

P.W.:

What’s really neat was the willingness to support and help people during COVID. Not only the essential workers. We’re really proud of our employees who, without batting an eye, are still out in the field. There’s people out driving around in cars, going to offices, that didn’t even stop.

H.W.:

What a blessing to have such a great team. It was really awesome to see them shine and jump in, excited to help each other, help the community. I mean, we had managers setting up to lead Zoom classes remotely at 8 a.m. every day for Zumba or yoga. We had one of our guys in Houston lead a cooking class for the whole company at lunch one day.

Q:

Was this to improve staff morale?

H.W.: Yeah, for morale. He was hilarious, and it was probably one of the best things that happened that month. I mean, April was dark.

Q: How has the company grown its local workforce since you two took over in 2016?

P.W.: We were roughly 120 employees two or three years ago, and we were at 150 right before COVID hit.

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Q: What challenges does your industry face?

P.W.: Well, we’re in the technology business so every 12-18 months we’re constantly repositioning because what’s fun today is not useful tomorrow. That permeates the business place because I’m used to doing something on my phone that’s a quick and easy app, but I’d like to do that on my computer, too. That mentality sort of transitions into the workplace. And all new technology is not great technology either. We watch that constantly — as technology enters the market, people fiddle around with it, decide what works, what doesn’t work, and then they slowly exit. You’ve got to see what works and consult with customers against new market fads.

Q: So what’s the next big thing?

P.W: Lots. I think the biggest advent we’re going to see next is improvements to (artificial intelligence). I’d say in the next 10 to 20 years, we’ll be seeing different robotics across the entire workforce.

H.W.:

Augmented reality as well.

P.W.:

You’re also going to see employers play with the remote work situation. Some love it, some hate it, some are apathetic. There’s a new status quo, and companies are slowly figuring out what that looks like.

Q:

Where do you see the company going in the next five or 10 years?

H.W.:

I mean, we’re in the process of definitely doubling the size of the company and moving toward tripling the size of the company. But the key is making sure we have the right leadership team.

Laura Garcia covers the health care industry. To read more from Laura, become a subscriber. [email protected] | Twitter: @Reporter_Laura

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