In 1929 the Great Depression was just beginning to take hold and 14-year old Les Olson was enjoying his first week of high school. During the school’s opening assembly, he was pulled aside and informed that his father had died of a sudden heart attack. With a mother and two sisters at home, Les assumed responsibility for the family’s support, never again to return to school. Jobs were difficult to find, but Les managed to secure a position as an errand boy for ZCMI for $50 a month. Considering the state of the economy, he was very grateful for the privilege of having any job at all. Each month he would faithfully turn his paycheck over to his mother, keeping for himself only a small amount of spending money. Les always watched out for his mother and sisters.
Les married Reva Parry on October 24, 1933 and started a family right away. They lived with Les’s mother to save money, help ends meet and continue to watch out for his mother and sisters. With 12 children, it really was “Cheaper by the Dozen.” Reva once said, “Les and I have both been very proud of our large family, six sons and six daughters. Who could ask for any greater blessing? Of course, that definitely brings up the next challenge of providing a good home and living conditions for our size family.” Somehow, in spite of low pay and huge responsibilities, with Les’s careful money management, they got along.
By 1956 at the age of 42, Les was Divisional Manager of the Duplication, Dictation and Audio/Visual Products at ZCMI. Les realized that his large family needed more than his current employment could provide, so one evening he announced around the dinner table that he had decided to start his own business. All twelve children were invited to get their piggy banks and “buy-in” to the new venture. As they dumped their coins on the table, Reva carefully wrote down each child’s investment, for a grand total of $63. Les loved technology, and being a visionary leader he had a way of picking up new ideas and understanding immediately how important technology would become in making businesses more productive.
Les and Reva’s business began by selling dictation equipment. Les was the first person in Utah to sell a copy machine, a pioneering technology at that time. Today, under the direction of third generation CEO James Olson and President Troy Olson, Les Olson Company offers all the technology needed by businesses to work efficiently including Multi-function Copiers, Printers, Document Management Solutions, IT Services and much more. As the years have come and gone, Les Olson Company has grown into the leading provider of business technology in Utah.
Since Reva’s passing in 1989, and Les’ in 1995, the ownership and leadership of the company has remained within the family. Ray Olson became the first CEO after Les, followed by Larry Olson and Jim Olson. Third generation shareholder James Olson serves as CEO, Troy Olson as President and Lisa Olson Thaller as CFO and Chairman of the Board. It has always been a family business through and through. Les treated every employee like family and today Les Olson Company employs well over 200 dedicated professionals.
Les Olson Company continues to grow and is constantly expanding their product offering to meet the needs of their customers as technology changes. In short, with Les and Reva’s careful teaching, planning and commitment to mentoring each generation, Les Olson Company is truly “Built to Last” as we continue to learn, work and serve.