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January 28, 2013
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Meet Your Merchant: Business partners perfect Workmates

Paula Harryman had a secretarial background. Selina Madson had a business management background.

The two women, with their respective skills, have proven to be perfect workmates.

They’ve been partners in Workmates Copy Center and Secretarial Service, 1625 N.W. Estelle St. in Roseburg, since 1983, when Selina and her husband, Michael Madson, purchased half of the business from Paula and her husband, Jerry Harryman.

“It started with a friendship, and it’s worked for 30 years,” Selina Madson said.

“I think we’re probably as close to being sisters as you can be,” Paula Harryman said. “We’ve always had a connection. We value our friendship, so we’ve always worked business things out.”

The two, who are now both 61, said they understand each other’s strong points and that they complement each other. Early in their partnership, they settled into their respective niches and have understood their roles without having to tell each other what they’re doing or what to do. Their husbands are not involved much in the operation of the business, which offers copying, printing and secretarial services.

Harryman and Madson said their business has evolved through the years because of technology. In the 1980s, they had a lot more copying jobs and stood for hours at machines doing the work because not many other businesses had their own copy machines. As the cost of those machines gradually came down, more businesses purchased their own. But the technology and capabilities of copy machines also increased. Workmates then was able to take on bigger and more complicated orders, programming instructions into the machine and leaving it to do the printing and sorting.

The owners said their first copier, purchased in the mid-1980s, cost $110,000. Their most recent digital copier, purchased three years ago, cost $60,000 and is half the size of their first one.

Madson said she has the patience and likes the challenge of learning and implementing new computer programs. After she figures them out, she teaches Harryman.

“Twenty years ago, we were doing a lot more copying,” Harryman said. “But whenever something changes, it seems like something else comes along to keep us going. Now people email us jobs. We have a more economic way to copy larger quantities.

“It had been so labor-intensive, so hands-on, so physically demanding in the ’80s,” she added. “But this business has evolved with technology and has enabled us to stay this long. There’s no way I’d still be doing this job if I was still standing all the time ... It’s not physically demanding anymore, but it’s still mentally demanding.”

Although Harryman and Madson and their families have been the best of partners and friends for many years, their backgrounds are entirely different.

Harryman, formerly Anderson, was born and raised in Douglas County and graduated from Glide High School in 1970. She attended Oregon College of Education in Monmouth and Umpqua Community College before working in a legal office. She married Jerry Harryman in 1973. When they moved to Idaho, she worked as a corporate secretary at the Albertsons headquarters.

The couple moved back to Douglas County in 1978. The following year, Paula Harryman began to help at Workmates, a new business that was started by Diana and Dick Allen and John and Nancy Snodgrass. Diana Allen was Harryman’s sister-in-law. But less than a year later, those two couples moved out of town to take jobs. They asked Harryman to run Workmates by herself. A year later, she and husband, Jerry, decided to buy the business and a deal was completed.

While rural Oregon was home to Harryman, Madson was born and raised in the big-city atmosphere of Hong Kong. After graduating from high school, she came to Oregon because she “wanted to go to the Wild West.”

She majored in business economics at Oregon State University and was thinking about returning to Hong Kong to help her father in his garment factory, but then she met Michael Madson, who was from Douglas County, in her senior year at OSU in 1974. They were married in 1976 and in 1980 moved to the Roseburg area.

Jerry Harryman and Michael Madson had known each other since their youth, and through that connection Selina began to work part time for Paula at Workmates. Three years later, they became business partners.

Both the Harrymans and the Madsons had young children at that time. So the two women worked out a schedule to work part time, covering the business for each other while allowing them to also be home with their children. They also had a couple of part-time employees.

“It gave us flexibility to be with our young families that we may not have had if working for somebody else,” Paula Harryman said. “Our families are the best of friends.”

Harryman and Madson now rotate working three- and four-day weeks and reserve their weekends for family. They still have two part-time employees.

Outside business, the two are longtime co-chairwomen of the annual Douglas County Friends of Doernbecher Children’s Hospital fundraiser, an event that includes a dinner, an auction and a golf tournament.

The partners and friends said service is what has made their business a success for 30 years.

“The quality of work is what people say brings them back,” Madson said.

Scott Hendy, owner of Parkway Animal Hospital in Roseburg, said he has been placing orders with Workmates for 30 years. The orders were for Parkway, the Rotary Club, Saving Grace Pet Adoption Center and the Douglas County Livestock Association.

“They’re available, they’re cooperative, they can do a bunch of different things, and they’re willing to work with you to make it happen,” Hendy said. “Even when you’re late getting stuff into them, they still get it out on time.”

Madson said there have been some offers to purchase Workmates over the years, but the partners haven’t given them serious thought.

“We still enjoy what we’re doing,” she said.

• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at creed@nrtoday.com.

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The News-Review Updated Jan 28, 2013 12:28PM Published Feb 18, 2013 06:28PM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.