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What Missed the Mark in 2012 & What to Plan for 2013

5 Dec, 2012 By: Sand Sinclair imageSource

Without question, 2012 is a year to remember. Amid the economic indicators reporting increased recovery in some markets, albeit slow, we endured political rhetoric that finally ended with a newly elected president, watched a Northeast megastorm slam miles of historical coastlines and adjacent cities, observed Occupy Wall Street and big bank shenanigans, as our own industry evolves at rapid speed as well. I say let’s close out this year expectant of better opportunities ahead, staying focused and armed with a “new plan” of attack - personal and business wise.

Odds are the office channel will rise above set-backs and market challenges to examine what we did right and what we could have done better in 2012. We’ll review our evolving business model as to what waned and what worked well according to plan. You did implement a strategic business plan, right? You’re planning to enhance it for increased market penetration, armed with new technologies, correct?

Well, to help clarify what worked, what didn’t, meant to ramp up your planning for 2013, imageSource asked notable industry leaders for their views to help sum up exiting this year in favor of the next. Asking for key indicators to share, Docuware USA President Greg Schloemer, Marco Director of Managed Services Trevor Akervik, Des Plaines Office Equipment President Chip Micelli, IBPI President Randy Horshok, Walters & Shutwell & MPSA President Greg Walters, Steven Enterprises VP of Service Ronelle Ingram, Industry Management Consultant David Ramos, and Bay Copy CEO Ray Berlanger all weigh in on the good, the bad, and the ugly –along with transformational methods for 2013. Have at it!

Question 1:

At the close of 2012, where did imaging resellers “miss the mark” most?   

Greg Schloemer, DocuWare - One area where most resellers could improve more is with existing accounts. The reseller sits on a huge gold mine of potential sales. They already have a relationship with loyal fans based on the initial installation. Why not put the time and energy into developing a program that encourages and rewards salespeople to generate expansion sales? One proven method is to have the department head of the existing installation invite other department heads in their organization to see how they’re able to be much more productive and efficient using a specific solution. People like to share that they are innovators and in this economy, who doesn’t want to be more productive and profitable?

Trevor Akervik, Marco - I don’t feel resellers put enough emphasis on realizing the resources necessary to implement an effective Managed IT Strategy. Companies can more effectively prospect and support clients in this target market (10-75 user environments) by utilizing specialists dedicated to MIT. It is well worth investing in a sales, service and implementation team focused on selling and supporting managed IT rather than utilizing existing managed print resources. Although there are significant upfront costs, dedicating the appropriate specialists at the different stages of the process makes all the difference in the customer experience, longevity of relationships, and overall success of the program.

Chip Miceli, DPOE - At the core of “missing the mark” is the failure of many in our industry to more fully embrace the concept of Managed Print Services. This has revolutionized our industry; and dealers who do not have a strong Managed Print Services program in place, do so at their own peril. However, it is also worth noting that one of the “next big things” in our industry will be the adoption of Managed Network (IT) systems as an integral part of the dealer’s offerings.

Randy Horshok, IBPI Posing the question to some IBPI members, we find that our business model is changing faster than we can adapt comfortably for most of us. MPS and MNS are still new to us and we have not wrapped our arms around these services with accurate costs to know how to price correctly. We are all over the board with regard to profitability. Continuing to move forward in the IT space will help our overall model; and we will get it right soon. I would not want to be just starting this integration process today as we would be way behind the curve. I believe that most dealers are talking the managed print and managed services game but really have not, for the most part, changed their business models to accommodate the changes that must be made in order to really grow in these areas.

From my view of the industry, it seems a lot of dealers are missing cost saving opportunities by sticking to an “OEM Toner & Parts Only” business model. And many dealers haven’t updated their financial model. 

Greg Walters, Walters & Shutwell/MPSA - I really don’t see any blatant areas of missed marks - except possibly believing in the false prophet of mobile print; there is demand for the software, I just don’t see output volume increases resulting. I think the biggest missed opportunity would be moving beyond ‘toner and service’ as deliverables.  MpS providers need to continuously move ahead on the adoption curve into growing, not shrinking, markets. Content management, workflow and business process optimization have always been the ‘next thing’ in MpS. We need to stop complaining and figure out how to participate in the transformation.

Ronelle Ingram, Steven Enterprises - In business as in one’s personal life, there is only a finite amount of time and money that is available to get things accomplished. Most of the time Perfect is not necessary for Profitability. Normally the cost to have 100% perfection, compared to 98%, is much greater than an additional 2% of time and effort. Perfection is very expensive and sometimes impossible. Most people and organizations cannot afford to pay the high cost of perfection in a world that readily accepts superior or pretty good. When it comes to most day to day requirements of your business, everything need not be perfect all the time. Focus on continual and close monitoring of critical data. These include governmental requirements (taxes, Human Resources documentation), your customer data base, intellectual properties, and in-house financial information. This mission critical information must be protected at all costs. Whatever your specialty is, manufacturing, distribution wholesale or retail sales, once you have isolated your mission critical information, continually protect, backup, closely monitor and test your security system. The rest of your business moving forward is more vital than being perfect. Saying “thank you for bringing that to my attention” and immediately fixing the situation will save a lot of time and expense...and of being flawless all the time. Be generous on warranty issues. Don’t get distracted by minutia. There is no need to boil the ocean to have a cup of fresh water.

David Ramos, Industry Management Consultant - Everyone wants to change their business platform to a services led platform.  You can’t do it without the correct strategy, the ability to implement the strategy, and the talent to execute it.  Talent! Find it, keep it, develop it and lead it.  The industry shouldn’t follow the cost-cutting crowd (those who cut not only “fat” but also “muscle”) when it comes to sales force development. Is it time to be selective with company investment? Yes, but only in areas that don’t touch the customer.  Sales touches the customer.  Invest in developing your sales people.

Ray Berlanger, Bay Copy - Image resellers ‘missed the mark’ if they failed to move their company to a services-led model. It’s not enough to simply sell ‘good hardware’ and to be able to maintain it. The future is in being able to help your clients solve business problems that they may not even know exist. Becoming a trusted advisor means that you can help your clients deploy and manage their office technology. Image resellers, to be successful, must reposition themselves as extensions of the client’s staff – and should show them how to use programs such as managed print services not only to control costs but to increase productivity.

Question 2:

What better options or technology adoption makes sense for resellers to consider in order to profit in 2013?

Greg Schloemer, DocuWare - For the reseller who has not yet selected a Document Management solution for resale or has not yet focused on making it a core part of their business, he has missed one of the most untapped markets by a long shot. According to AIIM, IDC, and other industry analysts, less than 15% of the SMB market has a solution. When you consider that there are over 600,000 companies that fit the 20-500 employee sized companies in the US that make up this SMB space, this is huge.

Couple the market potential with the revenue potential from the sale of the solution, the professional services, and the recurring revenue stream for maintenance & support that accompany a solution sale, the business model becomes very interesting. With that said, it is vital that the reseller’s choice in a solutions vendor be a smart one. Sample questions they should ask the vendor are: How long have they been providing solutions? How many installations do they have? How many languages and countries is the solution available in? What sales tools and programs are available to the reseller? Does the vendor have local sales representatives in the field making the resellers successful? Resellers should get references and do the research. There are enough vendors to choose from but it is important that the vendor they select has a proven success record.

Trevor Akervik, Marco - You can’t underestimate the impact of having focused Managed Services leadership backed by support from senior management. In our case, we created a Director of Managed Services position three years ago and without that focused effort and investment, we wouldn’t be as successful as we are today. This year we expanded that commitment by adding a dedicated sales manager, service manager and relationship manager, in addition to our client care staff. This is the first year our VP of Sales’ company-wide update each month started with our sales results and forecasts for Managed Services. It highlighted that Managed Services is an important part of our growth strategy and ongoing success of our company. It also showed our traditional sales and support team that it wasn’t something that was going to fade away. This continual leadership sales focus and investment have definitely been paying off for us.

Chip Micelli, DPOE - We have seen technological advances that will help drive the direction of our industry in 2013. One popular innovation is the Whiteboard which Sharp manufactures, allowing high-level conferencing between cities. With rising gasoline prices, this will become an even more attractive option. Another is the added technology on copiers and multifunction printers which allow for greater conservation, including a print preview, on-screen edit and other functions that reduce the amount of actual paper used to generate documents. We are also actively involved in seeing our industry become adopters of “apps,” or online applications for use in technology.

Randy Horshok, IBPI - Our software sales (document management and medical records) has really helped us boost our bottom line. I believe this will only grow and make our organization stronger, as well as increase margin on our hardware sales. By having print equipment, software and IT services, we are becoming a truly integrated supplier to our customers. I believe that if a dealer wants to become a reseller of something like managed services, it will be almost a necessity to have someone or a group of people dedicated to that area. Another alternative is to buy a VAR that is already doing these type products and maybe shorten that curve to become profitable. An obvious option is to become a member of a “Buying Group” like IBPI and find quality aftermarket products. The first thing to be done is get a solid financial model that matches up to the number of employees...many will have to “clean house” in order to do so; develop a plan to implement managed services. Next, dealers need to review the way they’re doing business, i.e. purchase everything possible from third party vendors to increase profit margins. Finally, implement a solid business plan which includes the Hanson Model and work it!

Greg Walters, Walters & Shutwell/MPSA - Soft services, like cloud and content management - independent of new hardware placements - represent the best opportunity for profit. Another area is internal cost reduction through the application of technology - let’s eat our own dog food.  All of our internal systems must be as lean as technologically possible - imaging, content management and workflow should be services we utilize as well as provide.

Ronelle Ingram, Steven Enterprises - The need to stay in business, in any economy, necessitates the courage to change.

Here are a few actions that will push the process forward.

  • Create new markets - evolution & revolution is necessary
  • Spend less time making current products better; create new products/services
  • Follow the technology – diversity is a necessity
  • Great mistakes are OK as long as you fail fast and move on
  • Always analyze and learn from your mistakes
  • Reward and recognize those who take risks
  • Not taking enough calculated risks is a great risk to the longevity of your company
  • Identify and understand what you do not do well and focus on fixing it
  • Be impatient when fixing things
  • Establish the journey, follow the path, comment on the success and failures
  • Keep the momentum moving forward
  • Impatience is a virtue
  • Sooner rather than perfect
  • Do not accept NO as your final answer
  • Become fit for the future journey
  • Momentum must be sustained
  • You do not need to hold the ball to add to the success of the team
  • To stay in business you must transform
  • Beware of complacency / push harder today
  • Question, challenge, experiment, engage

David Ramos, Industry Management Consultant - Implement software and hardware that will streamline tasks, reduce costs, or upgrade company performance. Too often companies in our industry tend to stick with what they have done from an internal business process for too long.  You know how often I speak with dealer principals that want to sell more professional services or software solutions that DON’T use those same solutions from their own portfolio in their own business processes?  Every single day! If you want to make your people more effective in selling the technology and better at selling business process optimization, start with your own.

Ray Belanger, Bay Copy - Resellers should become more holistic in their approach. They should staff their organizations with people that can engage at the “C” level. They need to develop processes and programs that help customers see the big picture, and to be able to identify bottlenecks as well as suggest good, credible solutions.

Our leaders have spoken. Utilize what works for you in 2013. Make it a happier New Year!


About the Author: Sand Sinclair

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