Thrive Global's Charlie Katz recently interviewed our CEO, Chip Crunk. They discussed RJ Young's beginnings, the organization's defining moments and its recent evolution. Read more below.
Aspart of my series about the “How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies,” had the pleasure of interviewing Chip Crunk, RJ Young’s President and CEO.
Chip has worked atRJ Youngsince he was fourteen years old. In his own words, working for RJ Young is “the only life I’ve ever known.” In 1987, Chip started officially at RJ Young as a sales representative after graduating from the University of Mississippi. In 1989, he graduated to director of sales, then eventually executive vice president, and chief operating officer.
In 1995 Chip was named president and CEO of RJ Young. Guided by an innovative, entrepreneurial spirit, Chip has led the company to see double-digit annual growth — now ranking as the largest, privately-held dealer of office technology solutions in the Southeast and one of the largest in the nation. He oversees an operation that covers eight states including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisiana, and Tennessee, and employs more than 600 people in 30 locations.
Chip Crunk serves as the president of the School of Business Board for Ole Miss, is a founding member and past president of the Nashville Entrepreneur Organization (EO) and serves on the board of directors of Fourth Capital Bank. Throughout his career he’s also been an active member of the Ricoh Executive Steering Committee, the Canon Dealer Council, and the Copier Dealers Association. He is active in community and civic organizations and enjoys flying, boating, golfing, and the Tennessee Titans. Chip and his wife Gina reside in Brentwood, TN, and have two children.
Q: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
A: RJ Young has been with me my entire life. My father was the company’s third employee when he began working for RJ Young in 1958. Fast forward nearly 30 years when he became president and CEO.
I started working with RJ Young right out of college as a Junior Sales Rep and for the first 18 months, I left a lot to be desired. I wasn’t great, to say the least. It was in my second year that I really figured it out. I always say that the key to sales is — he or she who makes the most calls usually gets the most wins. In my second year at RJ Young, I was the top rep at the company. I discovered a true passion for the company, but also recognized the opportunity we had to grow and flourish. When my dad retired in 1996, I became president and CEO — which was a surprise to me and everyone in the company.
When I stepped into my new role, we were a $12-million-dollar business. At that time, I told our team that in ten years, we’d be a $100-million-dollar company. I had no idea how we were going to do that but having a clear vision of the future and where the company was going was important. And plus, there’s no better way to make things happen then to force accountability. I had to keep myself honest.
Because I grew up in the business and had a heart for it, I recognized the opportunity we had to take the business to the next level. And to do so, we had to take the processes we had built and go beyond the Middle Tennessee market — which is exactly what we did. I spent a year in South Mississippi to learn how to expand what we had, and how to grow RJ Young to become one of the largest office equipment dealerships in the country.
We’re still focused on the document, but the thing that has changed is technology. The industry is changing, and technology is improving, and along with this change comes a need to stay ahead of the curve. Our goal is always to deliver what our clients’ needs are not only now, but also into the future. All our customers have different demands, and at RJ Young, we have the technologies available to meet their demands.