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Staley Electric; since 1951, the family firm has wired many a building, security system and cash register.



Customers, whether they're making purchases from Dillard Department Stores in Arkansas, the Higbee Co. in Northeastern Ohio, Joske's throughout Texas, Macy's in California or New Jersey and Bloomingdale's in New York, can thank Staley Inc. in Little Rock for breezing through checkout lines.

Cash register wiring can be similar to that of an old-fashioned string of Christmas tree lights, all of which lose electricity when one bulb burns out.

Staley, through a subsidiary, POS Wiring Specialists Inc., has developed ways to keep other registers going, while some malfunction.

The company got its springboard in the market by wiring cash registers, known in electrical jargon as point-of-sale (POS) terminals, for Dillard Department Stores. Now, POS Wiring Specialists is sought out by retailers across the nation.

The use of electricity has matured from lighting simple bulbs to powering computers and sophisticated manufacturing machinery. The process continues, and Royce E. Staley, patriarch of the companies bearing his name, has tried to be prepared.

"We have grown with the flow of new technology," says the Staley Inc. chairman. "You've got to keep close tab with new things coming on the market."

The other two Staley subsidiaries are Staley Electric Co., (incorporated in 1969) specializing in electrical contracting, and F & B Alarms Inc., (incorporated in 1986) which installs security systems. POS was incorporated in 1988.

The parent company's achievements and its outlook earned it top honors in the 26-75 employee class of the 1988 Arkansas Business of the year awards. (See issues Dec. 19, 1988-Jan. 15, 1989; Jan. 16-29, and Jan. 30-Feb. 12.)

Staley, 62, who recently turned the companies' reins over to his 41-year-old son, R.E. Staley Jr., began Staley Electric Co. in 1951 as a part-time business, paying promptly for his supplies. The initial venture has spawned three other companies with a combined projection this year of $5 million in sales. But the Staleys still pay as they go, rather than pile up debt to expand. Generally, the only things they have bought on credit have been their company cars and trucks.

An example of the companies' strength is seen in a current Dun & Bradstreet report, indicating Staley Electric's net worth as $602,745. "Total debt is light compared to net worth," states the D & B report. "This is a well-established business with experienced management and favorable trade payments. The condition is considered strong."

"They're what you would call a banker's dream," says Tom Wetzel, a commercial loan officer at First Commercial Bank, where the company banks.

While the bank is not going to profit by making loans to them, the institution makes money on deposits they have placed into money market funds and certificates of deposit. Their accounts average in the moderate six figures, according to D & B.

"We have grown along with our clients and expanded our customer base, in large part, through their referrals," crows the younger Staley. "The single most important characteristic of the business, however, is our emphasis on what we call powerful performance -- which is doing high-quality work and doing not only what the customer expects, but going the extra mile."

When Staley Electric was a two-employee company -- Royce did the work and his wife, Virginia, kept the books -- it worked on small residential and commercial projects. In the 1960s, it moved into the installation of lights for highway bridges and wiring for service stations.

In the 1970s, Staley's clients grew to include fast-food restaurants, not only in Arkansas, but throughout the region. By the early 1980s, it added computer room installation and POS design and build capabilities to its repertoire. The company services clients in 40 states.

The business is diversified so that Staley Inc. is not dependent on any one customer or any one market. The parent company is highly profitable and retains its profits. The Staleys do not pull an exorbitant amount of money out of their companies and they live a moderate lifestyle.

Staley "is a leading edge kind of a company, always looking for a niche," says Steve Butler, branch manager at Graybar Electric Co., a major supplier to the Staleys. "Handling the difficult tasks nobody else can tackle has been the secret to their success."

Among the difficult tasks the Staleys have accomplished is conversion of cash register systems following the buyout of one retailer by another. One of the most challenging conversions involved 1,512 cash registers at Joske's stores throughout Texas and parts of Tennessee.

Staley employees took several weeks to wire each of the cash registers, and then about 6 1/2 hours to make final adjustments at the central control center.

One of their more interesting projects was helping build a back-up electrical system for Dillard Department Stores to prevent the loss of information stored in computers when commercial power is interrupted. If the electricity should go off, a set of large batteries immediately kick in and hold the system until diesel generators are switched on and begin producing sufficient electricity. The main computer would never sense there was a power outage, Staley says.

The elder Staley, who was born in Ward (Lonoke County) 30 miles north of Little Rock, got his start in electrical work as an electrician's mate 3rd class in the Navy during WWII. Anticipating the day when he would take over the family business, the younger Staley obtained a bachelor's degree in industrial management from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

The younger Staley owns a patent on POS controls used to manually take cash registers off line when they are malfunctioning. His family's companies are working with a computer software firm in North Carolina to perfect automatic cash register switching techniques.

From making it easier on shoppers in checkout lines, the Staleys are moving to make it more convenient for motorists washing automobiles at coin-operated facilities. Staley Electric holds a patent on a device that would allow people to change from soap, to rinse water to wax by squeezing a device attached to a hose. The gadget is being developed with Whiting Equipment Co. of Little Rock.

Asked about big obstacles he had to overcome, Staley senior says he never had any. "A lot of people have big hurdles to hurdle. I've hurdled them, a little bit at a time, and that way you don't have big problems," he says.

After carving out the Staley niche, he says he's trying to retire, but it's difficult for a self-proclaimed workaholic to slow the engines down. He will leave expansion up to his son.

"You don't even look at the end of the tunnel," says the elder Staley. "You don't want to see the end of the tunnel because if you do, only one thing's going to happen -- You're going to see a decline instead of an increase. You'll be backing up instead of going forward."

He says he never thought he'd see the company get as large as it is. From a mom and pop operation, it has grown to where it has needed more technicians, middle-level managers, financial, marketing and public relations experts.

As inventors devise more contraptions to be powered by electricity, Staley Inc. will be ready. Perhaps the future will bring even more pleasant surprises for the family of electrical companies.
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Kern, David F.
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:company profile
Date:Apr 10, 1989
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