Amee Zetzman has made a career out of coming home. The fourth-generation co-owner of All Makes started her career in public accounting before joining the erstwhile family firm, for example. And, truth be told, serving many of the firm’s clients — to say nothing of the company’s 80-plus employees — feels a lot like visiting relatives, too.
“I know it sounds so cliché, but we are a family business and we treat our team and our customers like they’re family,” she said. “If you call our main number, a human is going to answer the phone. And that human is going to find another human to help you with whatever challenge you may be experiencing.
“It’s our name and reputation on the line. We not only are going to sell a quality product at a good price, but we are going to service it if there is a challenge.”
The fingerprints of the previous generations — dating back to 1918 when Russian immigrant Harry Ferer founded All Makes Typewriter Co. — can be found throughout All Makes today. But just as the periodic name changes suggest (to All
Makes Office Equipment Co. in 1960, today colloquially known as All Makes), the company didn’t survive without adaptation. That includes the present generation of ownership, Zetzman and her brother Jeff Kavich, who are as much about the company’s future as it’s storied past.
“Since my brother and I have officially taken over, we have several new locations — Kearney, Columbus and we have representation in North Platte now,” Zetzman said. “Our reach in the state of Nebraska has increased in combination with our ability to do projects in other markets. We have a client who we just did a hundred locations for around the United States.”
The product line has also multiplied under current leadership, an extension of the firm’s oldest operating principles. When Ferer founded the company — later to be passed to son-in-law Lazier Kavich, Zetzman’s grandfather — one of his products was an Ediphone, a state-of-the-art dictating machine invented by Thomas Edison. This focus on office technology waned for a time, lately to become a focal point, to great success.
“Our company started selling typewriters and I think we went through the motions with technology for a time,” she said. “Jeff and I got much more involved in that side and it has truly grown exponentially in the last couple years.”
Working with family is a corporate art form all its own, Zetzman said, extending past job responsibilities right down to job titles.
“We alternate. That’s my dad’s concept,” she said. “In Omaha, Jeff holds the title president and CEO and I am CFO. But in all other locations — Des Moines, Lincoln, Kearney, Columbus – I am president and CEO. So, I generally like to call us co-owners. It’s easier.”
Titles aside, it takes work, experience and even the occasional pointed discussion to keep everyone performing according to their skill set and moving the company forward.
“We watched our dad work with his father. We saw how that worked, what we liked about it and maybe what we didn’t,” she said. “We always tell the truth, which I think gets in the way in other people’s situations, and we are always 100% honest with each other. Sometimes we don’t like what the other has to say, but we’re still family at the end of the day and we work through it.”
Zetzman said the same principles apply when building a great team and she’s got enough 20- and 30-year employees to prove it.
“I think building a team that can act in your absence with clarity and confidence is one of the most important things that you can do,” she said. “I feel that we’ve done a great job of building an excellent team that can take the ball when we need them to. They can act autonomously.”
“Amee doesn’t ask anybody to do anything she wouldn’t do herself.
She’s very engaged,” said Doug Schuring, company vice president who’s known Zetzman for decades. “If there’s something going on with a client, if her schedule allows, she absolutely will be there. She doesn’t shirk anything off to anybody else. I don’t know of any other dealership principle in the Omaha area that’s as engaged as she is.”
Hard to Shock
That involvement was in high demand during COVID-19 and the ripple effects of supply chain disruptions. It’s a period Zetzman, a 2003 Midlands Business Journal 40 Under 40 honoree, describes as one of the most challenging of her career.
“The situations of the last 18 months are times I have just never seen us have to pivot so many different ways,” she said. “We literally had a container ship carrying photocopier parts go down in the middle of the ocean. I watched our manufacturer pivot, remake the parts and charter a plane from Japan. It’s the lengths to which our team and manufacturers have gone to.
“It’s hard to shock me these days, because of some of the things that we have dealt with. It’s been truly unbelievable at times.”