From Tragedy to Triumph, Automated Business Solutions Carves a Path Forward

Alan Albergaria was taking a pre-dinner stroll the evening of March 27, 2020. The previous two weeks had been hectic as businesses, including Automated Business Solutions (ABS), scrambled to get situated in the wake of the pandemic. Albergaria, the president and co-founder of the Warwick, Rhode Island, dealership, was worried about one of his employees, a service technician who had been diagnosed with COVID-19. During his walk, Albergaria called the tech to see how he was feeling and to ask if he needed anything.

The next morning, the phone rang in the home of Mike Ardry, who was then the general manager of ABS’ Connecticut branch. He was unable to answer in time, but the caller ID showed it was Nicole (Niki) Albergaria, Alan’s wife. It was 7 a.m. on a Saturday.

Ardry had an uneasy feeling as he called back. “Niki wouldn’t normally be calling me that early on a Saturday morning, so I kind of figured something was wrong,” he related.

Members of the ABS team show off the company’s 2023 Best Places to Work award. Shown from left are Lily Silveira, John Papa, Dave Aulisio and Jennifer Thomson

Her news was devastating. Only minutes into his stroll, Albergaria was struck and killed by a woman driving under the influence of alcohol. In an instant, the worlds of the Albergaria and ABS families were turned upside down.

His passing, combined with the pandemic, left ABS reeling. But the team also knew that Albergaria would want them to push forward, and that’s just what Ardry, Niki Albergaria and the company executives did. She took control as president, with Ardry handling the day-to-day operations. Co-founder Bobby Maceroni and Tom LaPorte, vice president of sales—and really the entire ABS squad—took their efforts to another level.

ABS employees donned a blue wristband. On one side was printed “strength” and the other “WWAD,” or “what would Alan do?”

As Ardry observed, “Failure was not an option.”


Albegaria and Maceroni founded ABS in 1992 with a simple yet impactful credo: to generate a foundation of trust, fairness and integrity—all pulled together by customer service. The dealership, with seven offices in four states, has grown into an $18 million performer that serves Connecticut and eastern Massachusetts in addition to its home state.

Perhaps the secret to ABS’ success is the wide net it casts from a product, service and manufacturer viewpoint. Its OEM lines include Canon, Kyocera, Sharp, HP and Lexmark with added strengths in postal/mailing/finishing equipment, wide-format gear, unified communications, scanners—virtually all manner of printing—in addition to managed print and managed IT (a growing business for the dealer). Even from a customer standpoint, ABS is vertically agnostic; it has education, local government and legal accounts as well as a national furniture enterprise client. Still, it’s not top heavy in any cluster of sectors.

ABS employees take a break during the 2021 Mothers Against Drunk Driving “Walk Like MADD” fundraising event

ABS continues to experience an upward revenue trend since the onset of the pandemic, and 2023 saw it achieve a high-water mark. Having multiple lines insulated the dealer from the supply chain issues that plagued much of the industry, and a blend of organic and M&A growth, in addition to the managed IT uptick, adds optimism for a repeat growth performance in 2024.

“It’s all due to our team,” noted Ardry, who became president in 2021. “We’re one of the few area dealers that can visit a client whose machine is down in the morning and have a loaner or replacement to them by the afternoon. A lot of our competitors can’t turn that quickly. Customer loyalty and customer service go a long way.”

ABS has been expanding within its 4,000-odd accounts through managed IT and unified communications. Customer trust plays no small role in services proliferation; the accrued faith provides confidence that ABS can replicate the same level of service they’ve become accustomed to, regardless of the offering.

Managed Magnificence

The dealer’s managed IT discipline is largely homespun, though acquisitions did play a role in its scaling. Ardry joined ABS in 2017 when Albergaria acquired his managed IT firm Office Equipment Center (OEC) and ABS simultaneously added a smaller IT specialist in Rhode Island. Ardry started as a service tech for OEC and acquired the company in 1988. The deals doubled the size of ABS’ managed IT offering.

Stephanie Thomson, Tim Logan, Tara Rachels, Roger Viveiros, Jennifer Thomson and Jimmy Lazarides represent ABS in the Chamber of Commerce Networking Games

Ardry actually worked with people from another company Albergaria had acquired, Network Imaging, so the familiarity and doing business in the same market made it an optimal fit. Though the company has made significant strides in its IT discipline, it’s a journey without a destination and currently accounts for 12% of ABS revenue. More importantly, it’s profitable.

“If you haven’t done IT before and you’re not going to acquire an IT company, you should hire a consultant to help you get started,” Ardry advised. “There are plenty of them out there. And it takes a full commitment; you can’t approach it with the philosophy, ‘I’m going to try it and see how it goes.’ That buy-in needs to be company-wide.”

The family atmosphere cultivated by Albergaria and continued with Ardry faced its toughest test during the pandemic, but ABS resisted the urge to go completely remote. The dealer followed the CDC guidelines, but even during the height of the pandemic, ABS was at least 75% on premises. The company nixed office-to-office visits to mitigate the COVID spread but remained open to completely support clients, who themselves needed help to set up remote capabilities for their team members.

ABS team members participate in the 2021 Jet Pull fundraiser in support of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society

Hiring in the post-pandemic era has been somewhat difficult, and like many dealers, ABS has ongoing sales rep vacancies for a few territories. Ardry would like to add some IT professionals, but on the whole, there hasn’t been a lot of turnover among the staff of 86. During the 2020-2021 time frame, a couple employees were offered other opportunities, but they soon returned. ABS has combed job fairs and the usual online employment platforms in search of new talent, and it offers an employee referral program through which current team members can earn up to $1,000 for new hires who remain for a specified period.

DIY Printing

In an effort to boost the sale of light production and wide/large format gear, ABS launched a marketing campaign called “Color in the Office.” The idea was to show a certain segment of clients, such as private schools, how they can bring in house jobs that were formerly farmed out to the commercial/print-for-pay realm and reap a financial savings in the process. Private schools are an ideal target as they require brochures and other marketing materials to bolster enrollment. ABS has an on-staff production specialist who can help clients develop their own in-house print shop that can produce an ROI over the long haul.

That wide breadth of products and services alluded to earlier (including light production) is crucial to having a larger slice of the client’s overall workflow environment, from document creation to storage and, finally, destruction. “We call ourselves the total office answer and that’s why we have all these offerings,” Ardry noted. “I’d say 90% of our sales conversations start out with the MFP, and we continuously look to grow within those accounts.”

Net-new business is equally desired, and ABS incentivizes as such, tying minimum takedowns into president’s club qualifications. “As we all know, you may lose 5% of your accounts through attrition during the course of the year, and you need to make up for it somehow,” he added.

ABS made a couple minor company acquisitions in 2022—two- and three-employee shops impacted by the pandemic—but was inactive on the M&A front in 2023. The company has made 16 acquisitions since its 1992 inception, but following Albergaria’s passing, ABS mostly focused on getting its newly revamped leadership and structure ironed out. However, Ardry anticipates making at least two deals in 2024, one of which is likely to be a managed IT specialist.

While the recent acquisitions were smaller, Ardry has vetted dealers in the $5 million range. The cultural fit is important: Ardry wants to onboard all employees when possible and have the former owners remain for at least three years.

Wheels in Motion

Ardry believes all the growth factors are in place for ABS—the dealer doesn’t need any more new products or OEM lines—and all that remains is the execution of the plan. Expansion through existing accounts, whether it’s managed services, VoIP, production gear or postal equipment, should yield the best opportunities.

He would also stack his technical service crew against any in the country. “We have many tenured techs and an aging service department like everyone else in the industry,” Ardry said. “It starts from the top down, and we have a fantastic director of service who is probably one of the smartest guys I’ve ever known in the industry.”

The 2023 president’s club trip took ABS qualifiers to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic

ABS has earned multiple Best Places to Work honors from the Providence Journal, which obtains information anonymously from team members. The company offers tuition reimbursement and scholarships for children of employees.

If he was an industry newcomer, Ardry would find ABS to be an ideal working environment. All in all, he loves the journey he’s experienced. Or at least most of it.

“I love what I do,” he noted. “I hate how I got here.”


As the fourth anniversary of his passing approaches, the spirit and resilience of Albergaria remains palpable. Loving, generous and caring, Albergaria would never give up on a troubled or struggling employee—a personal touch that’s nearly impossible for a chief executive at a large company to pull off. It’s not surprising that his final moments were spent checking on a team member’s well-being.

As is the case for any dealer or company, there are many untold tales of physical, mental and emotional struggles. During the course of 30 years, there were ABS members who reached a crossroads from a personal standpoint—teetering on the brink of making unwise decisions—only to be pulled from the brink due to Albergaria’s counsel.

“Alan coached and worked with them enough that they took the right turn instead of the wrong one,” Ardry noted. “The children of those employees are better for it, and their children’s children will be better off. His touch on people’s lives was generational.”

An ABS technician works his magic

What would Albergaria think of the extended ABS family he left behind? “I think he would be proud of where we are,” Ardry said. “Every once in a while, I can feel a little smack on the back side of my head and hear him saying, ‘What were you thinking when you did so and so.’ That was his fun side. I still look to him for guidance. We miss him every day.

“There aren’t a lot of companies our size that would survive losing their leader, especially when you throw in the pandemic and supply chain issues, as well as increases in lease rates and manufacturer prices,” he added. “I think Alan would look down and say, ‘Job well done.’ He loved this company and its people.”

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.