For Buddy and Vince Puentes, business has long been a family affair.
The Puentes brothers lead Southwest Office Systems (SOS), a Fort Worth, Texas company their father—“Pop” Puente Sr.—started in 1964. Then, the company was a two-man typewriter repair shop. Today, the entrepreneurial duo have grown SOS into the largest minority-owned independent office equipment dealer in the Southwest.
The company’s secret to success? “A culture of winning and family,” Vince says.
We sat down with Buddy and Vince at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Summit, where they took home the 2018 Dream Big Minority-Owned Business Achievement Award. During our conversation, they discussed their running a company with a sibling, their commitment to their community, and business lessons they have learned along the way. What follows has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
What’s the best thing about working together?
Buddy: What makes our company so great is, Vince is focused on “How do we get more sales?”, “What do we do to be innovative” and I’m on this side, trying to take care of the invoicing…We’re fortunate because we balance each other.
Vince: We don’t think anything alike, but that’s what makes the mix for the company.
Are there lessons you’ve learned in running your business that you wish you had known when you were starting out?
Buddy: One of the things we make sure of is that we never promise a customer anything that our products can’t do.
Vince: We were a mom and pop shop, then were a tiny actual business, then we were a medium-sized small business…In each of those phases there’s different challenges.
Tell us about your company’s role in the community. How do you use your business to serve as a community leader?
Vince: Our dad really taught us to engage the community, be a part of it… one of the things we’ve done is made ourselves available to serve on boards… at one time I was running seven boards a couple of advisory councils. Our work has allowed us to get to know the community… the Dallas Fort Worth area knows Southwest Office Systems, and I’d say that despite being a small, local company, we’re probably one of the most recognized.
What does it mean to you to be a winner in this year’s program?
Vince: Getting recognized is about getting our team members recognized… we’ll go back and share this. We’ll engage the team and say “this is what you did.”
Buddy: Recognition is important to us and our teammates. Everybody was excited when I told the team the good news. We know we’re a good company, but when someone else recognizes us, that’s super.
Vince: I feel like Rocky. Think about Rocky running up the steps the final time when he’s in shape. He gets to the top of the steps and goes “yeah!” That’s how it feels… and it’s incredible.
About the Dream Big Awards Program
The Dream Big Minority-Owned Business Achievement Award recognizes a minority-owned, small business that has attained outstanding business achievement and exemplifies the significant contributions made by minority-owned businesses in the country. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce awarded Southwest Office Systems from Fort Worth, Texas the 2018 Dream Big Minority-Owned Business Achievement Award, presented by MetLife.
Southwest Office Systems was one of twenty-one finalists selected by a panel of judges from a record number of applicants. All winners can be viewed here. For more information on the program, click here.