DEALER OF THE YEAR - Thermocopy Blazes the Way to Success15 May, 2006 By: Alicia Ellis imageSource
DEALER OF THE YEAR - Thermocopy Blazes the Way to Success
Consider: a dealership that has embraced the idea of the
total solutions provider and has found creative ways to break into new markets
while maintaining existing customers, keeping the core values that are
essential to business.
Such is the case of Thermocopy - and the reason why a panel
of judges chose Thermocopy to be imageSource
magazine’s first Perfect Image “Dealer of the Year” award winner. Through a neutral
blind judging process conducted by industry leaders and dealers that rated companies
in seven different categories, Thermocopy’s consistently high ratings in each
category made Thermocopy the clear winner and a model for a growing industry
that must look beyond the box and to the future of document technology.
“Thermocopy’s forward thinking ideas about driving business
and growing solutions, combined with dedication to their company and the community,
encompasses everything we try to teach dealers in the pages of imageSource each month,” said Imaging
Network President, Marc Spring. “Our unbiased
panel of judges chose a great company, with dedicated staff and all of the
necessary qualities to succeed in business.”
At an awards ceremony held during the 6th annual Imaging
Technology Education & Exposition (ITEX) show, Thermocopy president Steve
Sumner and CFO/Executive Director of Sales & Marketing, J. Mark DeNicola,
were thrilled to accept imageSource’s
Perfect Image Award.
“Winning this award means so much,” said Sumner. “Being
recognized by the industry at its premier event, the ITEX show, is truly an
honor. We’ve worked very hard over the past several years to develop our
strategies and embrace a solutions-based business. This award serves to further
exemplify our commitment to providing our customers with the best in sales,
service and solutions.”
Founded in 1964 by Randall Sumner, Thermocopy, headquartered
in Knoxville, Tennessee,
has been transformed over the past few years by Steve Sumner who took over in
1995 with the idea to take Thermocopy to the next level. After successfully
creating a full-service design studio in 1998, Clarityworks, it was time to branch
out from a box-driven dealer into a full-service operator capable of not only
installation and service, but software, networking and document management.
Like many dealerships, however, touting your copier
dealership as a solutions provider did not come easy. While Thermocopy
dominated the market in copier sales in its territory, businesses looking for
software and solutions had a hard time looking beyond the Thermocopy name.
“Our biggest challenge during the past several years has
been to find an effective mechanism to penetrate accounts through the ever more
controlling IT departments of our clients and
prospects,” said Sumner. “The name Thermocopy was synonymous with copiers and,
like most office equipment companies, did not have any validity or credibility
in the eyes of IT department heads.”
In order to solve the problem with IT department
heads, without changing the company name which was so important to its product
line and reputation in the industry, Thermocopy implemented a balanced growth
and profit strategy.
They created a semi-autonomous division called Centriworks
in 2004 which was designed to not only support the core business of office
equipment sales and service, but provide comprehensive software applications to
help companies increase their productivity through better document and digital
“Centriworks is able to hold relatively higher margins than
our core business, thus improving profitability,” said Sumner. “We also are now
representing two major manufacturers. This enables us to infill the weaknesses
of each line with the strengths of the other, thus enabling us to provide the
best solution for the client.”
Their product line includes "Digital Content
Management" systems as well as the blueprinting of information flow
through an organization, whatever the format the information takes. The
division is staffed by local professionals with excellent reputations with area
IT companies and brings validity to Thermocopy’s efforts to penetrate accounts
through the IT departments. Through prior
experiences/contacts and current successes, they give Thermocopy a platform to
work through to the sale of information management solutions. Their ability to
be brand non-specific has brought incremental business to Thermocopy.
Both Thermocopy and Centriworks maintain their own
highly-skilled sales staff. One is dedicated to selling office equipment and
solutions and the other to selling solutions to existing customers and
customers outside of Thermocopy’s client base. Centriworks IT staff can support
Thermocopy sales representatives with an objective view of the document flow
through the organization with the internally developed Image Output Assessment.
“Salespeople have accounts that they work on separately, jointly
with split commissions, or pass off to either company depending on the needs of
the client,” said Sumner. “The Centriworks name also allows the Centriworks
sales staff to approach customers who are not currently customers of Thermocopy.
The synergy between the two sales groups has been excellent. Incremental
business from this group amounted to over $600,000 last year and direct
business was more than $400,000.”
Thermocopy did away with geographic sales territories,
opening the doors to a little more competition and revenue generating opportunities.
“We believe in motivation toward company objectives not by full scale changing
of pay plans, but through the use of targeted quarterly
contests that can be implemented without an act of God,” said Sumner.
As an example, Thermocopy implemented a simple sales contest
that was based on the total number of new customers acquired during that quarter.
Each of the top three sales reps were given a piece of equipment that allowed them
to sell and keep all of the profit. The sales rep that was awarded first place
acquired nine new customers for the company. It was a tight contest with lots
of buzz through the last day of the quarter.
Overall, a total of 41 new clients were obtained.
Education & Advertising Go Hand in Hand
“Educating our employees and our customers is the key to continued
success,” said Sumner who, with DeNicola’s help, has developed educational
programs that rival the OEMs.
Internally, all sales reps for Centriworks are required to
be CDIA+Certified. All Centriworks and Thermocopy reps must attend an intensive
30 day in-house formal training program and ongoing training throughout their
employment. There is also an in-house trainer for service technicians.
External communication with existing and potential
customers, however, is where Thermocopy excels. “We have implemented an
educational program that enables us to touch our customer base on a regular
basis,” said Sumner. “This program is open to current clients and provides
training that they would not normally receive during a key operator session
after the sale.”
The formal program called "Thermocopy University"
is conducted at Thermocopy’s on-site training facility over a two hour period
(lunch is provided) and utilizes the client's mix of equipment. They have the
option to attend as many times as they like and to send as many employees as
they would like. After the sale, clients receive a credit card that has all of
the pertinent information of how and where to enroll. In addition, clients are
contacted on a regular basis via their sales rep or emails to keep them abreast
of the program and opportunities to learn.
“Our marketing and advertising is focused on Thermocopy
being the industry leader in East Tennessee,” said DeNicola. “As a leader, we
take seriously our responsibility to educate the general public about the
latest technology available to them.”
As part of the education
process, Thermocopy developed “The Techwatch Minute” which educated the public
on the history of the copier from the first patented process to the newest
digital technology available.
“We ran the Techwatch minute as sixty-second radio spots and
directed the general public to our website for the full article,”
said DeNicola. “We also developed a tag line for our business: ‘Information
Managed’ as we are managers of information, whatever form the information
To go a step further in differentiating itself from the
competition, DeNicola and Sumner developed the Centriworks “Lunch and
Learns" informational program. Open to both clients and the general
public, “Lunch and Learns” are formal programs conducted by Centriworks IT
professionals and provide non-brand specific information concerning leading
edge IT topics including website content management, electronic filing, and
scanning documents to e-mail, file and fax.
“Our commitment to the community and to education has led to
strong business partnerships,” said DeNicola
who developed seminars for both the healthcare and legal professions. “The last
healthcare seminar for CEUs was attended by 45 healthcare professionals.”
A website for each of Thermocopy’s companies serve as an
informational resource to potential and existing customers. Although separate,
each website links to the others and has the same general look and provides a
plethora of detailed information about products and services in addition to success
stories, educational opportunities and contact information.
Through its educational programs, Thermocopy has become a
leader among businesses, but it’s through its philanthropic endeavors that
Thermocopy has become a leader in the community.
“We are involved in many community activities,” said Sumner who
is the proud sponsor of the “Labor of Love” tennis event which benefits the
East Tennessee Baptist Hospital Foundation. “Last year with our support, this
event netted almost $100,000 for the foundation and has been recognized by the
Southern Tennis Association as the "Charitable Event of the Year."
Thermocopy and its employees also support the Thompson
Cancer Center's "Race for the Cure" in both cash donations and
volunteers with the largest number of participants
in the race of any company at last year’s event. They are also a major sponsor of
the Boys and Girls Clubs of East Tennessee through cash donations, equipment
and volunteer hours.
In addition, Thermocopy is a sponsor of the Tennessee
Theatre and its restoration efforts, numerous golf tournaments and the
Knoxville Chamber Partnership and Business
Showcase. “We are committed to this community and to its ultimate success,”
said Sumner. “We live here, we work here and we play here.”
And it is exactly these sentiments that make Thermocopy the
Perfect Image of what a Dealer of the Year award winner should be. Commitment
to business; commitment to growth; commitment to employees and commitment to
the community are the fundamentals of success.