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Executive Q&A: Chickasha company chief grew up in the office machine business

Executive Q&A: Tim Elliott, president of Chickasha-based Standley Systems, started working in the family business at age 12. His grandfather founded the 80-year-old company, which originally sold and cleaned manual typewriters.
by Paula Burkes Published: August 24, 2014

When he talks about the untapped potential of three-dimensional printing, Tim Elliott, president of Chickasha-based Standley Systems, likes to recount a time in 1979 when a mortgage company owner and one of his company’s longtime customers, the late Fred Smith, called him up to request a “fak-sim-uh-lee” machine.

When he hung up the phone, Elliott asked his grandparents, dad and uncle what it was. None of them knew.

A persistent Mr. Smith called Elliott back five days later to learn what he found out about his facsimile machine.

“What is it?” Elliott asked him.

“I don’t know, but people are calling me wanting my fax number,” Smith said.

“Similarly, when people hear about 3D printing today, they think it’s neat, but they don’t know why they need one,” Elliott said.

“The technology has been around for 20 years, but we’re in the same educational phase as we were with the fax machine in the late ’70s or with copiers back in the ’50s,” he said.

From his Oklahoma City office at 26 E Main in Bricktown, Standley, 56, sat down recently with The Oklahoman to talk about his life, career and the future of 3D printing. This is an edited transcript:

Q: Your company is 80 years old this year. How did it get its start?

A: My paternal grandfather Fred Standley or “Pop” (actually he was my step-grandfather but he raised my father) opened the business in 1938 during the Great Depression. His mother, my great-grandmother, traded Indian-allotted land in Amber to help him buy the company’s first building in downtown Chickasha.

Over the years, the company — which originally was named Standley Typewriter Company and renamed Standley Office Machines in 1968 and Standley Systems in 2000 — has sold and serviced manual and electric typewriters, adding machines, electronic calculators, copiers, fax machines and now state-of-the-art Ricoh-manufactured digital machines, which can fax, scan, print and copy at hundreds of pages per minute.

Q: Tell us about your childhood.

A: My father, Jim Elliott, worked for the family business. He and my uncle, Don Elliott, bought it from my grandfather in 1968. My mom was a stay-at-home mom. I’m the oldest of their three children.

My brother works as a lawyer in Oklahoma City, and my sister, as a Standley saleswoman in Chickasha. From the time I can remember, I was in and around the store. In the early days, Grandpa leased one side to a barber, and I used to ride my tricycle around the barbershop chairs.

Aside from Boy Scout camp, church camp and summer vacations to Colorado, Disney World and elsewhere, I worked, which kept me out of a lot of trouble.

From sixth grade on, every summer I took apart typewriters, scrubbing them with fats, airing them out, oiling and reassembling them. During high school, I not only worked at the store, but also sacked groceries until 8:30 at night and milked a cow in the mornings and evenings to sell milk for a buck a gallon.

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by Paula Burkes
Reporter
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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PERSONALLY SPEAKING

Position: president, Standley Systems.

Website: standleys.com

Birth date and birthplace: May 2, 1958; Chickasha.

Family: wife, Melissa, and children Blake, 29, Standley’s operations manager; Cliff, 28; Ethan, 22, of Stillwater; Carleigh, 13; Jacob, 4; and Lydia, 2.

Hometown: He lives outside Chickasha on 210 acres, on which his family keeps miniature horses, rides four-wheelers and sometimes raises cattle.

Church: College Heights Baptist Church in Chickasha.

Civic contributions: He for years has served as treasurer of the Grady County Economic Development Authority. Thirty years ago, he served a two-year term on the city council, but since decided he can do more to promote Chickasha working behind the scenes.

For fun: Road trips in the family camper. His wife recently chose an annual camping trip to Branson with their Sunday School class over a European river cruise, though they — and all six kids — did spend February 2013 in Australia together on a vendor-sponsored trip.

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