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Thursday, January 31, 2013

What if Nobody Buys MFD's ?

The day MemJet rolled out their program over at the MPSA was a good day. It seemed many years since there was something new and exciting to talk about that had anything to do with hardware.

Sure, all the standard OEMs have released new models and refreshed their offerings - but they are all more of the same - well, I guess in the case of A4 to A3, LESS of the same thing. Xerography has been around for a hundred years, melting plastic on paper is mundane and even a really cool technology like melting wax onto paper has lost its novelty.

I know, I know, MemJet is simply a fast inkjet.

 They're fresh and for now, their machine is smoking fast and like no other. One more thing about MemJet - they are opening a channel specifically for and exclusively of, managed print services providers. The good folks at Memjet feel they can negate the lack of brand recognition by pairing with more sophisticated and relationship based, MpS selling professionals; dare I say, 'trusted advisors'. Resellers who have honed their skill beyond the box, earned client trust and are comfortable presenting on value, not brand.


A few days later, we listened to Xerox earnings call.

The rest here...

Monday, January 28, 2013

Why Don't You Pay Reps Residuals on Service Contracts?

"It is time to pay sales people commission on copier service agreements.  It is time to combine all volume under one agreement, on a single invoice and pay the sales person residuals for the life of the engagement."

January, 2013

One of the first rules of managed print services is consolidating the decision making process for printers with the process for copiers, bringing IT and Purchasing(or facilities) together.  This usually meant getting the copier decision out of the hands of purchasing or facilities and into the realm of IT.

It was a big deal at the time and a qualification of a real managed print services opportunity - if we can't speak to the person in charge of both copiers and printers, we did not move forward.  On the other hand, once we befriend an IT director, one of our guiding principles was to shift the copier decision process into IT.  If the device was connected to the network, it should fall under management of the IT department.

It was a good idea and contributed to most every successful managed print services engagement.

But a funny thing happened on the way to managed print services nirvana - in an effort to fully understand managed print services, we, on the provider side,  chopped up all the elements of the ecosystem. We saw managed network services as separate from managed services(?).  We decided to propose MpS for printers and continue writing separate service agreements for copiers.

We dumbed down managed print services offering "advanced toner delivery services" in its stead. The printer & toner guys laid claim to MpS defining it as "printer service and supplies on a cost per image billing" sliding right into their existing model.

And the copier folks were just fine with this approach, they didn't want to change either. They didn't need to adjust the way they leased and serviced copiers, or tamper with decades old billing and invoicing policies.  No need to upset the apple cart here - service departments have been running just fine - fueled by 36 to 72 months of predictable and untouchable service revenue.

It doesn't stop here.

Read the rest...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Managed print Services: Choking on Our Own Words...

Unknown source: "I'm glad this happened..."

January 2013, edited 2016

Think about it - in terms of the imaging, printing, and copying industry...and now throw in the Information Technology (IT) industry...

How many technology webinars...are you invited to?  Do 1900 dealers need 500 webinars?

How many managed print services training classes...even come close to connecting with your reality in the field?

How many managed print services programs...teach their views, contradicting or repeating what you already know and may even do already? 

How many conferences, shows...Blah, blah to the blah....does the industry need?  Check out the VAR Guys' top 100 shows for 2013:  Technology Event Calendar: Top 100 Channel Partner Conferences

Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses.  - Plato

Leaders are able to discern what's sustainable and valuable from the past and what's not.  It is the will of leaders to align, focus, and build cadence while releasing expectations, and tendencies to copy, compare and compete with others.  Those behaviors are survival, reptilian and short-term ways of the past; weak and unsustainable in an increasingly innovative world.

True story.  There is a guy in the industry that serves as a leader by copying others.  He copies ideas, conversations, presentations, websites, and even locations for training with hopes of being more than he is.  We'd like to thank him for being so ostentatious in his copying.  He's helped us in some sort of backward way.

Have you ever seen a copy come out better than the original?  No.

It's time for the death of copiers all around.  Not just the machines, but how we behave, lead, act, and do.  We're tasting a bit of our own medicine, and becoming uncomfortable.  It's time to kill and experience the death of the...mundane.  No more webinars, training classes, programs, conferences, and shows pushed out to the masses.  We'll work one to one or one to a few.

Intimate.  Creative.  Productive.

Here's the rub -

If you are a company that hosts trade shows, your revenue streams may include charging attendees and presenters - all fine and dandy.  But how transparent, let alone honest, are you if you sell tickets to an 'educational' session, that ends up being nothing more than a paid 90-minute commercial?

 "That's the way it's always been done..." is not your core value, is it?

If you're a research company, one would think you would make a living conducting research and presenting findings.  Then why host trade shows and train salespeople?  Aren't you selling content and hosting symposiums?

Associations should derive revenue in an effort to support the improvement of their members, not chase big OEM "sponsorship".

If you're an industry publication, should you pay for content, charge for the opportunity to submit content, or take all the content you can, for free, and charge for advertising?

There's nothing unusual about any of these models, but they've become mundane; tedious, and fatiguing.

Think deeply -  trades shows,  white papers, copier training, MpS Seminars, and buzz are examples of us talking to ourselves.


I've been working with end-users, and IT departments in various industries, helping them reign in costs, evaluate vendors and enhance the productivity of their IT services.

This gives us a great view of ourselves through the eyes of your customers.  We've reviewed proposals from large MpS/MDS providers as well as some of the best-known IT/VARs.

We're not only listening to the presentations, but we're also hearing the "backstory".  And they're not pretty.  It's embarrassing.

Our industry is in a "turnaround" period, reversing, backpedaling, and on a downward turn - if anyone tells you differently, they're lying not only to you but to themselves as well.

People made this niche great.

You do know teaching people how to increase a 'share of wallet' is not sustainable, right?

Join us.

Monday, January 14, 2013

HP is Not IBM

This isn't to say that Gerstner couldn't save HP - what he accomplished back in the 90's is a case study in turnarounds.  It's simply not the same environment today as it was in 1993.

There are, however, some spooky similarities between HP of today, and the IBM Gerstner inherited.

When Gerstner took over, IBM had just experienced an 8 Billion dollar loss - at that point, this was the largest corporate loss in history - their stock was down 6%.  Many pundits strongly recommended breaking IBM up into  "Baby Blues" - the breaking up of Big Blue, into little divisions and selling them off - being the only way IBM could survive.

IBM was the largest, most profitable computer hardware manufacturer of the day enjoying 40% margin on hardware. At the time, selling services was completely alien and new not just to IBM, but to an industry.

And that industry was dying.   These words from Business Week, 1992 -

"As the monolithic mainframe gives way, the industry breaks into leaner, faster, smaller parts...

It sure looks like an industry on the skids. The signs are everywhere and grow more painful every day: Worldwide leader IBM Corp. is shedding 40,000 workers this year, for a total of 100,000 since 1985. No. 2 Digital Equipment Corp. ousts its founder, after taking $3.1 billion in charges over two years to cut 18,000 jobs and vacate 165 facilities. Wang Laboratories Inc. files for Chapter 11 protection. France's Groupe Bull lays off 8,000 workers and closes 8 of 13 factories; Italy's Olivetti downsizes by 20%; Siemens Nixdorf plans to lose 6,000 workers. And the list goes on."

Gerstner incorporated a great deal of strategies, most remember and point to a few key unusual approaches that, today, are part of every company's 'come-back plan':

Get the rest on Walters & Shutwell...

Arnold.  1993 Movie -

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tips on starting your Consultancy.

Those once vaulted 'cruise ships' of our industry are shedding employees by the ten's of thousands. Indeed, the channel is shrinking as well.

Some think of this as a sad occurrence. Indeed, the passing of any institution is a time for reflection.  But we look at this as a great emancipation: the release of so many from bondage.

A great majority, will head back into the nearest stockade in search of comfort and "stability" others will venture out, adventurous and filled with wonderlust.  Nationally, one of every 15 employees, or 6.5 percent of the nation's work force, are self-employed.

So here you are - anxious, excited and ready to call all your ex-clients.

But what now?  Do you use the old laptop or spring for a new device?  What about a CRM, presentation tools or web presentations?  Email?

In the old days, all one needed was business cards, a phone number and some shoe leather - not today.

Never before have the rest here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

How Do We Monetize Workflow?


As far back as 1999, assessments and workflow studies were performed as a way to determine exactly where our machines fit best. They were part of a hardware play. The “study” – or assessment – became embedded into all of our sales cycles. Indeed, some sales managers used "number of assessments" as a funnel metric.

OEM training courses included feature benefits, product specification and demo scripts. The more advanced selling courses incorporated a needs assessment and cost/benefit proposal training, and for the time, those courses were pretty well received.

We attended class after class, espousing various pain points, exposing methods and techniques designed to increase your share of their wallet. Because the assessments were nothing more than a component of the selling process, we never expected to be paid for those efforts. If walking around for a few days, interviewing workers, jotting down serial numbers and printing usage reports falls under the normal responsibilities of a copier rep, why would we charge for this service?

Why? Because it is the future

I think points about volumes falling, machine installs stalling and OEMs suffering don't need to be made here. Facts are stubborn things. Print is going to fade, and if you're not planning for it now, if not years ago, your dealership will end. So, unless you are looking to cash in and live on the beach somewhere (which isn't such a bad idea), you've got to be looking beyond the horizon, and right now, realizing revenue by performing workflow services is an attractive alternative.

There are as many strategies for shifting away from boxes and over to systems/processes as there are businesses.

Let's take a look at two:

The Extreme Makeover:

* Repurpose large sections of your service department. In addition to cross-training from copier to printer (or printer to copier), invest in additional technical certifications. I would look to CompTIA.

* Uptrain your selling team. The most important area to shift is your selling team. Move away from traditional industry sales techniques. Look outside our niche.

* Reduce internal costs. Assess and optimize your own internal processes to the bone, reducing wasted time and dollars along the way.

* Position into the cloud (SaaS, HaaS, IaaS, PaaS). The field of cloud providers is ever increasing. Engage in it.

This is a radical, deep-diving, ever-expanding, "burn the ships on the beach" approach and is not for everybody. The thing is, it is better to plan disruption than to be a victim of disruption.

Hearts and Minds:

* Redesign your company value proposition. Look at your business differently and articulate the new you.

* Redesign and rebuild your compensation model to include all recurring revenue, without hardware gates. Don’t destroy innovation. Open your mind to alternative compensation models.

* Repurpose large sections of your service department. In addition to cross-training from copier to printer (or printer to copier), invest in additional technical certifications. I would look to CompTIA.

* Uptrain your selling team. The most important area to shift is your selling team. Move away from traditional industry sales techniques. Look outside our niche.

* Partner with cloud service providers (SaaS, HaaS, IaaS, PaaS). The field of cloud providers is ever increasing. Engage in it.

This approach is just as complicated – and in fact, includes some of the same steps – but it engages at a slower, more thoughtful pace and is less of a shock to the system.

Having been through the "Extreme" example, I am a fan of the "burn the ships on the beach" approach, yet I believe a combination of both approaches is ultimately best. Engage as a consultant, not a copier/MpS salesperson. This requires new talent in the field, and at first, it might mean your selling staff will actually engage as billable experts.

The goals, from a tactical standpoint

When looking to monetize workflow, our goals are reasonably simple:

1. Bill for time – before beginning an assessment or close for the project
2. Bill over time – engage at a monthly rate over a period of time, similar to a retainer.

The BIG difference

In a simple phrase, the difference between revenue from product and revenue through EDM/workflow is that the latter is recurrent versus a project-based, one-time revenue. It’s all been said before: We need to move our model from equipment- to subscription-based. But getting through a plethora of variables and determining cost models over time, which are unlike hardware-plus-service pricing structures, is difficult.

Gaining revenue from workflow is more akin to business consulting, and not many of our dealerships are set up like consulting firms. Consulting firms sustain themselves on project-based revenue billable through a statement of work and a master service agreement; this does not typically generate a great deal of revenue over time – certainly not at the levels we've come to expect from a fleet of 30,000 devices, for instance.

Barriers to entry

"The strengths of the past can hold us back." Can we reverse the mentality?

Well, here we are, in 2013. Margins and the number of devices sold are shrinking, and we're hearing a lot about “workflow” and document management.

Once again, the question comes down to this:

How do we provide these services and gain revenue? This quandary is especially poignant because, for nearly two decades, we trained an army of people not to bill for "presales" functions. This is to say, performing workflow was something we've done for free as part of the selling process. How can we change now?

Indeed, early during the latest managed print services movement, there were grumblings of how to charge for assessments. There seemed to be some traction, but the effort soon died. I credit this to our overwhelming insecurities and death-grip hold of the copier-dealer mentality: “We aren't worthy to charge for services, and we still believe in OEM quotas.”

This structure worked for decades, feeding families, employing thousands and supporting business expansion all over the globe. But those days are gone. How long can we ride the remaining 60-month service agreements?

It's time to change.

Posted on 01/04/2013

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Greg Walters, Incorporated