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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Clouds of Misfortune Rolling in On The Winds of Change: Copier Industry Next to Fall?

12/2009 -

"It's the End of the World as We Know It."

"The Future Ain't What It Use to Be."

"Fail to study history, doomed to repeat it."

"See, I told you so."

"I shaved my legs for this?"

The other day, I read a post over at Callinan's blog, here. It's good, it's about changes in our industry.

And Ken Stewart has a pretty good grasp on the subject as well, go here, and see his newly re-minted theme - it's to die for!

I've run into a flurry of statements, lately, like these,

"...copier dealers need to change or die..."

"...MPS is not getting the return we expected..."

"...the best way to sell MPS is to start with changing people..."

" can we adopt MPS when one of the MPS goals is to reduce MIF..."

"...this will kill the industry..."
Callinan's post and observations are correct. I am not sure I agree with his allusion that the copier dealer is going to be in trouble if we all start providing real MPS.

I do think he is beginning to see that the copier industry is not in as much control of its destiny as it had once been.

For those who have been reading me for a bit now, and for those who are new, remember the name of this blog?

Here is a slice from Tom's article. Nestled inside a paragraph about how Tom's firm is better than some,

“… we aren’t a manufacturer trying to keep their factories churning out boxes and the trailing supplies and parts in an ever-decreasing space that already has significant overcapacity. We aren’t telling you to go out there and replace all of their “Brand A” printers with “Our brand” printers or MFDs.

We aren’t suggesting that you turn your sales force into change management consultants. That is a really tough sell that will be embraced by a small segment of the business population.

Let’s thank God for that because if everybody out there reduces their device count by 60% or 70% we had better find something else to sell…..and fast!”

I agree with Tom – if you are not the ones reducing your clients’ device count by 60% or 70%, start selling something else – FAST.

This sounds like he believes that if we go out to sell MPS intent on reducing the number of machines or the number of prints to reduce costs, we are shooting ourselves in the foot as an industry.

I know that Tom is not the only person who thinks this.

As a matter of fact, I faced this issue last year at the Lyra conference when folks read the company off my name tag - "...what do you mean Death of the you know what we all do here...?" 


I want clients. I want customers who will work with me and pay me.


And if reducing the number of copiers my client buys by 30% is the right thing to do, I will do it.

I don’t think of it as shooting myself in the foot, I think of it as shooting my competitors’ in the foot.

As MPS Professionals, our goal should be to partner with clients who recognize the significant savings and value resulting from a partnership; and we should get paid for this.

And it is my opinion, that if your intent is high, you can help prospects:
  1. Shift and reduce their current spend
  2. Reduce current spending by reducing the number of devices required
  3. Reduce the total number of prints
Nothing about upgrading old machines to new ones and nothing about a 1:1 fleet refresh.

Tom gets it.

What we are witnessing in our industry is a truly “transformational” stage – I have teased that someday, HP will not manufacture or sell printers.

Someday, when you call your help desk, an HP employee will guide you through setting your default to duplex. Someday, when you call your VMWare help desk, the employee on the other side of the line will collect his check from Xerox.

Do you think that's wrong?

A while back, some, including me, were looking toward HP to pick up a channel for their vaulted IPG - and what did Hurd do?

Instead of buying IKON for $1.6 billion, HP bought EDS for $14 billion.

EDS doesn't make a thing; EDS provides SERVICES.

And then there's Xerox.

Sure they've got ColorCube - but could the hot-wax machine have the same future as Edgeline someday ending up in K-Mart and Wall*Mart, spitting out Christmas photos?

Who did X spend its money on?

Oce? Nope. Canon? Nope again.

And did X dump more money into photocopier research? (See TheDeathOfXerography) Nope.

Xerox bought Affiliated Computer Services, for $6.4 billion. Again with the SERVICES.

Let me add to this outrage, someday Canon won’t make copiers anymore, and someday, all the smaller guys will be gone; no more Toshiba, Konica Minolta, Sharp, Kyocera, Mita, Panasonic, Oce – the world only needs so many copier manufacturers.


Think I’m off? Think this could never happen?

I grew up outside Detroit, I remember the malaise of the '70s. Do you remember when the “D” was the automobile capital of the world? The '70s were transitional for the auto industry, this new century, TRANSFORMATIONAL. Does anyone remember the Matador or AMC?

What other "niche" markets have gone through this sort of radical change?

Perhaps if we look at the past, we may see our future.

I recall a time when there was an INACOMP or MicroAge or ComputerLand or one of the thousands of independent computer dealers on every street corner.

Retail, and home user, customers would walk in the front, and B2B deliveries went out the back. We would scoff at the notion of WAL*MART someday selling PCs and could never imagine a home without an IBM PC.


When was the last time you saw a ComputerLand?

Something changed along the way; where the once were many, few remain. Maybe nobody saw the change coming, but they should have.

There are by some accounts 14,000 office equipment dealers in America today. How arrogant can we be to assume this won’t happen in OUR industry? It’s a basic economic reality.

We who are surviving are not sitting still. During this time, the strong are retooling, re-aligning, re-positioning – TRANSFORMING. (Hybrid Dealers anyone?).

- Those Who Stay, Will Be Champions -

It's the End of the year, the end of a decade. Time to let the old go, to fade away, to burn in the fire that is Time.

What should we let go of? What should we who stay, who stand, who sell - what should we leave in the dustpan of 2009?

For starters - how about all the antiquated copier beliefs?

The old thoughts of maximizing your profits over the needs and concerns of your clients. How about we forget about the old paradigms of service, MIF, and slamming gear by month's end?

Let's say we stop thinking of our clients as the competition and stop perpetuating tired and run-down sales stereotypes like the "Farmer and the Hunter".

Some say MPS is "struggling, and maybe failing" - I say we are going through the ultimate weeding out of the riff-raff, the chum. I say the challenges and missed expectations are due to the ignorance and stubbornness of a bygone era.

Your owners and principals and managers and "leaders" are starting to figure out that this "MPS thing" is difficult. It's challenging to get your head around and nearly impossible for you to visualize.

You believe your own delusions; you can never be wrong. And if you can't be wrong, then the fault must lie at the feet of all your "lazy salespeople".

What's worse is you owners, you titans of the office automation niche, you pay "yes-men" to feed your delusions - weekly.

How do hapless fools adjust to new opportunities or adversity?

  • You hire consultants stuck in the '80s.
  • You buy into magic MPS programs.
  • You send your salespeople to "MPS Sales School" taught by people who haven't sold in over a decade; who can't answer basic questions MPS reps face every day in the field - questions from prospects, not managers or Consultants.
  • You change the comp plan, in mid-stride.
  • You flood the want ads with MPS Sales Position openings - and you still can't define MPS outside of CPC.

See your future, be your future, right in the lumber yard, Danny.

It's a new decade and times are tough for the MPS Selling Professional - what are you going to do differently?

My suggestion - take care of yourself.

Improve yourself for you, not your boss.

If you truly believe in this crazy thing called MPS, seek out like-minded people. Make contact and rub elbows with others in MPS Professionals, your peers.

Find colleagues.

Get to know your customers beyond the revenue stream and understand why they went with an MPS Engagement.

And by looking out for yourself, I mean don't hook your wagon to a falling star.

The copier industry is in a contracting stage, the universe imploding.

Find MPS people who are really figuring it out and not simply rearranging the deckchairs. Look to those who have burned the ships behind them.

The Winds of Change are blowing, again.

Are you going to baton down the hatches, and fill your sails or would you rather stay ashore and draw on whiteboards?

Happy 2010.


  1. First, thanks for the mention. I also thought Tom's article to have some great insight, but I wrote about that already...

    You turned up the heat on that one, man! Welcome to the New Year, indeed. I'm beginning to hear rumblings of another downturn in the mid-part of 2010 with property specifically (residential first, then commercial). We shall see, but in the meantime change is afoot all around us.

    It is the way of things. The nimble and observant have already seized the opportunity; some have for years now, in fact. Others are waking up to the fresh smell of a new pot of coffee, and others stayed up too late last night and would prefer to sleep through until lunch, I'm sure.

    Truthfully, I am anxious and excited for what will come - but most of all I'm thankful to be part of an industry that has such an opportunity!

  2. Greg,
    I believe you are spot on and most of our data supports this. There are too many manufacturers in a declining space that needs a good pruning. I still talk to dealers that haven’t diversified from print, at all. As an industry we live in denial of what’s coming because its to painful to change. Keep preaching brother.......


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