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Most Valuable Players

Slashing prices to keep up with the big chains can spell disaster for the average entrepreneur. It's better to stick with what your business does best: Offering customers value-added services.

By Joshua Kurlantzick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

John Reid should be worried. The owner of SPC Office Products, a chain of office supply stores, Reid has watched as self-service giants like Staples and Office Depot have come to dominate his industry. The closest self-service behemoth is only 45 miles from one of his SPC locations in western Oklahoma-a distance that, Reid says, "in our area is like nothing, since people drive that far for dinner." But Reid, 47, is not concerned.

Over the past decade, SPC has expanded from one to six stores, kept sales up-revenues were $7.2 million last year-and expanded its roster of large clients. How has Reid competed against the two office behemoths, which have more than 2,000 stores combined and enormous catalog and Web-based supply systems? Reid has convinced residents of western Oklahoma that, even if Staples or Office Depot offer products for slightly less, SPC can provide crucial value-added services-services that, in Reid's view, "are just enough to convince people they should come to us rather than drive 45 miles away."

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