Sunday, March 29, 2015

Never Go Out of Style: Managed print Services Inside a VAR

"You come and pick me up, no headlights
A long drive,
Could end in burning flames or paradise..." - T. Swift 
Mps Practice Managers, sales people, BDMs, specialists, consultants, experts, evangelists, directors, principals, planning managers and vice-presidents - I got a question for you:

If you had the chance to build an MPS practice, today, from scratch, inside a VAR,  how would you do it?

Where would you start?  Building a team? Compensation plans?  Assessment tools and DCA's?

What's your visionary statement?  Would you put together another, two dimensional, old-skool, top-down, business plan?  Really?

What about legacy accounting systems, dispatch, vendor relationships, existing BDM mentality, corporate philosophy/culture,  probes, NOC, SLA's, BDR, MS and customer transformation off paper?  Can you lead or will past mistakes haunt like the phantoms of Macbeth?

Inside this turbulence,  I'm sure some ask,

"Why in the world would you ever come back to a dying niche to build anything?"

"I should just tell you to leave 'cause I
Know exactly where it leads but I
Watch us go 'round and 'round each time..."

Life moves fast, doesn't it?  One day you're in the mountains of Southern California, the next you and all your things are heading north to a place called Oconomowoc.  It is true, after a month of exploration(interviews), I've ventured north to work with a VAR, helping promote, evangelize and provide managed print services for our clients.  Welcome to my worldgalaxy, Universe.

There is a degree of 'deja-vu' - except for the weather, geography, timing, history, and personal landscape - I've been here before.  But there are just enough differentiators to keep this voyage on the good side of insanity.


Flashback, October, 2011 -

Over the past 4 years, I've helped people build or improve managed print services practices.  I've co-written, end-user print policies, where once there were none.  I've guided providers towards selling more MPS and MS.  I've helped end users(healthcare, water districts, etc.) manage OEM copier reps, software vendors and service providers while reducing prints, costs and number of devices.

In each engagement, I've played on their team, embedded into all facets of their business - from interviewing CEOs to writing proposals - I've lived on both sides of the table.  Hands on.  Customer facing.
"Cause you got that James Dean daydream look in your eye
And I got that red lip classic thing that you like..."
November, 2014 -

One day, late last year, a colleague and buddy asked me to help him put together a managed print services practice manager job description for his client - an IT VAR in Wisconsin.

While explaining the best qualities, I stopped and said,

"...this is great, but there isn't anybody who would fit all these requirements.  Tell me more about this opportunity..."

Discussions led to interviews, to face to face trips followed by an offer letter.  Like Ulysses and the Trojan Wars, one more Odyssey awaits.  I've taken a position directed to create a sustainable DocMan/MPS practice.
"And when we go crashing down, we come back every time
'Cause we never go out of style
We never go out of style..."
What Now?

A myriad experiences have collected between now and the last time I was in an office.  From Southern California to Davidson, NC, Washington D.C. to South Beach, Sydney to Belgrade - this collective knowledge converts into wisdom directing me along the path to nirvana.

But you and I know the challenges, don't we?
  • Will ownership be 100% onboard?
  • Will the company culture adapt to a services based argument?
  • Will the BDMs embrace or reject MPS?
  • Can I put together a team of vendors who support me and my clients move off paper?
  • On and on and on...
It is my belief that MPS embraces ALL facets of managing information and CAN lead organizations into a services based, recurring revenue business model.  I also believe organizations which the universal movement off paper, while managing existing print environments, are the real 'trusted advisors'.
"And when we go crashing down, we come back every time
'Cause we never go out of style
We shall see.  I'm in for the long term, the challenges and success.  Here's to never going out of style...
You got that long hair, slicked back, white t-shirt
And I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt (tight little skirt)
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time

'Cause we never go out of style
We never go out of style..."

"Why does he love her so much?  I mean what is it about her?"
"I don't know. I don't think I've ever known.  I think sometimes you get it right the first time, and then it defines your life, it becomes who you are." - Hank Moody

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Building an MpS Practice: LA to Oconomowoc

By David Cameron; CEO, Cameron Consulting Group, March 27th, 2012

Greg Walters is a well-known blogger, rebel, truth-seeker, and now a consultant in the managed services field for print and IT.

This article focuses on his leadership and—at times—exasperating experiences in building an MPS practice inside a large West Coast VAR. Adding managed print services (MPS) was an uneasy fit that didn’t demonstrate its value until after Walters took over. As the MPS practice grew more than $1 million, the plan shifted and the practice was folded into the much larger managed services group to leverage common processes and resources. It is an open question whether the MPS practice will retain its edgy personality and strong growth rate as it goes mainstream as part of the VAR services portfolio.

Greg Walters took over the immature managed print services practice at SIGMAnet (the VAR) in January 2010. It was a very chaotic period when the business was dealing with the collapse of the financial giants and the loss of two key customers, Countrywide and IndyMac. This forced a major restructuring of the business and loss of personnel. Walters felt lucky to still have a job when SIGMAnet’s owner gave him the ultimatum “to either show me how this practice can make money in the next 30 days or shut it down.” The gauntlet had been laid down.

Walters joined SIGMAnet from IKON in 2007 as an MPS specialist and to support the new HP Edgeline product line. The new MPS practice experienced start-up problems and was slow at ramping up revenue for the first several years. After personnel cuts, by early 2010 Walters was the only member left in the MPS practice. This quickly became a very personal challenge.

It was an unexpected opportunity, but Walters was ready for it. He instinctively knew what to do based on his experience and training. He got cash flow moving, reset customer expectations, and began to work furiously to restart the MPS practice. It was 30 days of insane activity.

He got the job done and put the MPS practice on a positive path, but the process left a trail of broken glass. With the business in jeopardy, he did what he felt was necessary to improve sales and cash flow. When the warehouse was holding up a large shipment ($150,000 of products and consumables) he aggressively escalated the issue and forced the products to be released. This upset the executive team.

The VAR side of the business didn’t understand MPS and wasn’t sure what to make of this upstart practice leader.

One brilliant move was to educate the owner about the significant financial benefits of MPS. It boiled down to comparing the following:
  1. toner sales over time to an account at a gross profit (GP) of 8-10 percent; and
  2. lower recurring revenue at a GP greater than 40 percent for an MPS contract.
The difference in profit to the bottom line was astounding. This, combined with a demonstrated improvement in cash flow over several months, convinced the owner that this business was worthy of attention.

A key obstacle to restarting MPS sales was overcoming the internal resistance of the sales team—the business development managers (BDMs). The previous MPS sales professionals had old-school copier backgrounds that didn’t fit well in a relationship-based, consultative sales environment. “They didn’t listen, and pushed product,” says Walters, and this greatly irritated customers. The MPS group had been kicked off of more than one account because of these tactics, and the BDMs saw its members as a liability and wanted little to do with them. It took special care and handling by Walters to convince the BDMs that the new MPS team was different and could have a positive impact on the customer base. He worked one-on-one with the top sales leaders to turn around their thinking.

Over time, Walters proved that he had the capability to drive the business forward. He rebuilt customer relationships, drove billings, and delivered results that demonstrated the value of MPS to the business. The owner developed confidence in this previously unproven practice and personally introduced Walters to the rest of the executive team. The greater challenge of getting the MPS practice accepted as an equal part of the VAR business was yet to play out.


The MPS practice, although profitable for the first time in 2010, was a small part of the VAR’s business. Annual revenue had more than doubled, and page volume per device was relatively high, at more than 2,900 pages per month. The Edgelines pumped out a lot of volume. The practice had its own P&L because of its unusual business model, which captured the growth and profitability results.

The strong revenue growth, shown in Figure 1, is remarkable and was driven by Walters’ sales leadership. MPS sales were built on net new customers who did not have a prior relationship with the VAR. The five-year growth pattern is not unusual and is similar to that of other large VARs, like Compugen, which also had a long latency period prior to substantial growth. In this case, it took a dramatic change in leadership to realize the potential business impact of MPS.

The steep sales growth continued in 2011. The additional volume was partly a result of cross-selling MPS into existing VAR accounts. MPS success inside the VAR was not defined so much by the strong revenue growth, but rather by the exceptional profitability that added a double-digit net margin to the bottom line.

The exceptional profitability of MPS did contribute to a surprising level of gross profit (GP).

This undoubtedly caught management’s attention. Infrastructure sales also contributed to the bottom line through marketing development funds and back-end rebates. The impact of MPS on the business was especially important when considering long-term trends of shrinking equipment margins.

The growing financial impact of MPS on the VAR’s business drove the need for integration of the print services business. However, MPS presented significant challenges to the convergence of processes and systems because of the unique business model, sales approach, and IT management tools it uses to track and report business results.


Photizo Group first discussed the notion of MPS/managed IT services convergence in 2010. The MPS adoption model was changed to include Stage 4 (S4) convergence.

This model reflected how the market was already beginning to change. The VAR’s goals in 2011 were to integrate MPS with the much larger managed services practice group that included an NOC system-monitoring and reporting service, help desk, unified communications, staff augmentation, mobility, and MPS. The objective of the model is to drive internal efficiencies by leveraging common processes and resources.

Common Processes and Resources

Sales: Common services talk track by BDMs, part of services portfolio, supported by specialists for each practice area, including MPS. The downside is that there are no MPS-specific commission goals or gates and there is currently no MPS specialist.

NOC: Common process for remote network monitoring and management, expanded to include PrintSolv™ screen for printer/copier issues and alerts.

Dispatch: Common service for directing service technician activity for PCs and printers; most accounts’ repairs for PCs and workstations are optional, whereas printer issues involve on-site technician activity; loss of one MPS trained person.

Help desk: Common process to handle end-user issues, depending on account SLAs and contract. Conduct low-level triage and, if needed, engage service.
Service: Printer technicians are cross-trained for on-site PC/network diagnosis and inspection; however, the converse is not true.

Back-office systems: Contracts and billing are still separate for now.

There is currently no customer satisfaction measurement or process in place.

The advantage of an integrated approach (i.e., common processes and shared resources) is higher technician utilization, staff consolidation, and related cost improvements. More subtly, the objective of such an approach is to provide the customer with a more efficient service response with fewer handoffs, which results in easier, faster, more complete service across the organization. Also, the VAR has reduced the chance for competitors to directly engage with the customer for printer management.

The disadvantages of this approach include pressure on the VAR to retain trained and qualified printer staff and technicians to assure competent delivery of services. The differences between the business model and sales approach also have to be thoroughly understood across the management team. This can result in a loss of customer satisfaction for a large account where printer management is a small part.


Walters deserves much credit for creating a viable and highly profitable MPS practice inside a large VAR. This practice has developed largely in isolation from the rest of the VAR’s business because management has been hesitant to recognize the value MPS has brought to its customers and to the business. This is the environment that Walters thrived in while driving a small team to deliver strong revenue growth and excellent customer service. It is an amazing turnaround from the chaotic period of business restructuring when MPS was on the ropes.

The VAR has begun integrating MPS with the rest of its services portfolio. This includes a common sales talk track, remote monitoring through the NOC, and other common processes and shared resources. However, the question remains open regarding how far to go. There are still no sales goals or gates for driving MPS, which is different from all other services.

Although the S4 convergence is largely complete, it is too early to call it a success. Too many parts are in motion. The value of the MPS practice to the business must be decided, and if it is to be sustained it must be given a full place at the table in terms of sales goals, objectives, and the resources to support it fully.

Build a SuperTeam for Managed Print Services - 2013

First posted, 2013, here.

I’ve spoken to many successful managed print services providers over the past few months who have said that commitment is the key to success in MPS.

As a foundational step, I agree.

Yet to fully achieve that, organizations need a team of MPS specialists, which may either be created outright or grown organically out of necessity. Today, I outline six basic players in a successful MPS SuperTeam:

“The Hub” – This person is all-knowing, all-seeing. She understands vendor relations, sales, dispatch, warranty, invoicing, meter reads, monitoring, technicians—and can manage them all. She handles customers, runs the books and knows CRM inside and out. She works within the rules, but is not afraid to stretch them.

“The Face” – This is the internal MPS evangelist. A true believer, he sees the value of MPS in his world and in the customers’ realm. He typically does not “throw all the services against the wall” in an effort to see what sticks. He can carry an MPS conversation almost up to business process outsourcing and knows how to gracefully bring in The Knight.

“The Knight” – This team member knows more about MPS than anyone else. He understands the corporate MPS vision because he helped create it and continues to support it. The Knight could sell MPS on his own and one day just might. But he is a team player and knows his position on the field. When the practice makes money, presents a 48 percent GP/19 percent in Net Income, he credits everyone else. When the practice burns a slow, terrible, painful death he alone takes responsibility and the long walk.

“The Master Mechanic” – The ultimate technician; a tech’s tech. He knows how to handle EVERYTHING and keep the promises made by The Face. Experienced, tested and seasoned, this person is customer-centric, not afraid to learn the new technology and can dissect an old Konica blindfolded. The “Master Mechanic” can show a rookie how to install fusers or remove misfeeds. He is the rare technician. We all know one.

“The Majordomo” – This person is part of executive management and an MPS believer. He understands the impact of MPS on the entire organization in all areas: gross profit, service revenue and customer retention. This person will sell internally and run interference when ownership wants to “improve” the MPS process or assimilate the practice into the “bigger picture.” He’s a straight shooter who knows what battles to fight and how to address the King.

“The King” – This is the one person who can defy logic. It is his vision that “your” practice supports. If he feels MPS no longer fits the vision, you’re out. No matter the margin, market, or how much blood you’ve put in, it is his decision. He can say “yes” or “no” all on his own.

In my opinion, these are the primary positions. You will certainly have more than one tech, and you will engage a team of salespeople; possibly midlevel management, department heads and fellow practice managers. Your team is the core of the practice.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Managed print services in 2017: PSO is the New Mps

"Pro-actively optimize devices and processes associated with presenting information in the form of documents, regardless of medium." - GRW
If you understand the above definition, you quickly see the traditional MPS definition as stunted, restrictive.

I submit to you, the active MPS practitioner, a vision, philosophy, strategy and tactic that will expand your horizon beyond toner and service.  Print Server Optimization(PSO).

Stated simply, PSO delves into:
  • End user data - you remember them, right?
  • Less network traffic - compression, encryption and the like...
  • Mobile print - like anyone really prints reams from their phone/tablet/LT
  • Secure/pull/follow you print - 'nuf said
  • Optimized print driver management - look into this...
  • Fewer print servers - NO NOT A UNIVERSAL PRINT DRIVER
  • Easy to execute, end-user installations - with maps n stuff that show what printers are available
  • and more...
I double-dog-dare you...I TRIPLE DOG DARE call your best IT contact(you have one of those, right?) and ask him how he feels about managing print servers.

Go ahead, ask.  Ask him what happens when a print server blinks out.  Ask him how long it takes to manage all the print drivers on his network and if the automatic configuration of printers would be a good thing.

Here's a delicious suggestion, find a prospect with a print policy designed by your competitor(you have one of those, right?) and ask him why they didn't include print server optimization.

Go ahead. Ask.

I've gotten behind a few programs in the last seven years or so, this one - the reduction of print servers - I see as the next big wave to hit not just our niche, but the entire technology landscape.  Why not get into the movement today and leverage the talk track into a deeper IT relationship?

Would you like to know more?

This is a wave we can celebrate.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

ITEX 2015: Copierville is a Fireball

"Everything dies baby that's a fact
But maybe everything that dies someday comes back" - BS
"Mr. Worldwide to infinity
You know the roof on fire..." - Pit
This year's ITEX show was one of the more interesting versions.   Fewer attendees?  I don't know the numbers, but maybe.

Was business conducted?  Yes.  Was the location right?  Yes.  Did the sessions stir thought and impart ideas? Yes.

Was it obvious that Managed print services as an offering, is waning. Yup.

This time around, I was fortunate to help the good people at ITEX  document the show through video.  If you were there, you probably some guy walking around with a mic and a video guys in tow - asking all the 'tough' questions.

I talked with many and worked the floor an entire day - booth to booth, person to person - and in those travels, I was able to glean some interesting thoughts and hear directly how some in the industry feel the niche is transforming.

Change is constant, here are some of my observations
  1. Less toner focus but the big guys are marketing.
  2. IT services providers are solid with an entire row dedicated to managed services
  3. New Hardware announcements and products were on parade but it just doesn't matter and that's a good thing.  Consumers of devices care less about logo's and ink versus toner than we.  

The ubiquity of Managed print services is about as exciting as wallpaper.

If you're truly ready to venture out into the IT realm, Mps is your gateway. Connectivity, conversations with IT departments and relieving them of a headache issue, are all part and parcel of a visionary Mps.

Companies like PrintFleet(Artificial Intelligence), Print Audit(Per Seat billing), MWAi(real, copier based accounting systems) and AVG(flexible, proven, managed services offering) offers opportunities beyond the pubescent toner and machine management.

There are dealers making the visionary decisions and moving beyond OEM, MPS, and quotas
"We love the show, this is our second time and we are definitely coming back next year..."
Every show attracts criticism - it is a tradition. This year, the negative observations say less about show content, venue and PowerHours and more about the niche.  Our relatively small industry is contracting not expanding - the most revered and longest running conference(Itex) is reflecting these changes, not projecting: another Sign.

Itex will be back next year at the same venue, but will copiers survive beyond 2016? Sure, of course.  At this very moment, somebody, somewhere is manufacturing and selling buggy whips.

Monday, March 16, 2015

ITEX 2015: "Mount Gay"

The best conversations occur after the show, around a bar, cold, adult beverage in hand.  This year, the drink of choice, pour moi, was the historic Mojito.

The best Mojito's were made with Mount Gay rum - and yes, when ordering, "Mount Gay" should be said with gusto.  Mucho Gusto, my friend.
"I may not always drink rum, but when I do, its Mount Gay..." - B.R.
What copier-goodness conversations flowed as we climbed Mount Gay?


Print servers -
I've been ringing this bell for a while now:  Mps should include all the devices and process involved with moving information within and between organizations regardless of medium.

Print servers have long been the bane of many IT Directors - so why don't we help them control, managed and optimize their print server fleet?

I know a great company that has a very lucrative dealer program.  Contact me and I will get you connected.

Decreasing toner sales, cores and companies -  Dive a million dumpsters and you'll surface empty handed.  Cores are hard to find.  Are you surprised or simply choosing to ignore another sign?

True to every other evaporating industry, consolidation of the largest players foretell the end. That's what we talked about - the big toner remans getting together, colliding cultures, marketing talk tracks and managed print services programs.  Big Bang.

The passing of an niche - 
Around the bar, we all agreed that managed print services as it was and as it once was to be, is dead. The reasons are too many but paramount in its demise are the OEMs and their disingenuous talk tracks about savings and optimization.

We all see customers reducing the number of devices, both A3 and A4, as more optimize 'in-house' without manufactures.

As Itex 2015 fades in the rearview, I think the lesson taken home is more about smaller, focused, dealerships than big, broad, hardware mass marketing.

To be celebrated, not feared.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Defining the Indefinable - Managed Print Services


After five years of managed print services, one would imagine a standard set of MPS rules would rise out of the fog.  And yet there is still debate over what exactly MPS stands for — not the acronym, but the vision and real value of managed print services.

I remember the great device-to-technician-ratio discussion of 2008.

Copier dealers had a well-established “rule” that had been developed and honed for decades, but it didn’t apply in MPS. There are a number of “rules” associated with toner yields as well, but have they made you money, or did they cost the last MPS manager his job? With this in mind, it is easier to see guidelines take shape rather than hard and fast rules. Benchmarks are almost the same situation. MPS benchmarks are difficult to establish, and best practices simply hold us back.

At the 2012 Lyra Imaging Symposium, vendor scorecards showed that profits are down. A majority of the industry OEMs have been utilizing the same rules since 1979. Today, they find themselves 41 percent behind Q4 2007 numbers. Stunning, isn’t it? What’s it called when one plays by the same rules expecting different results?

Roll in the evolution of less print: From 1991 to 2001, printing paper shipments increased 27 percent, but from 2000 to 2009, they decreased 27 percent; it is not that difficult to see.

MPS contributes to shrinking print and copy volumes, which in turn reduce the prospects’ need to buy OEM toner, parts and machines, resulting in fewer printed pages, fewer printers, fewer copiers and fewer virgin cores.

This has been and remains the biggest Catch-22 with MPS — the one issue OEMs can’t seem to get their minds around quickly enough: MPS contributes to the reduction of machines in the field, yet every single OEM has an MPS program in hopes of reducing the other OEMs’ machines in the field. Suicidal? No. Madness? Indeed. Transformative? Absolutely.

MPS moves fast

Time is accelerating as well. Yesterday’s enterprise was about print, copy, 60-month leases, CPC contracts, locking customers in, flexing, selling more capabilities for the same price, auto-renewals and built-in obsolescence — and that was less than 36 months ago.

Less than a year ago, World Expo presented the concept of managed print services to a hungry audience. We were re-exposed to the MPS basics of toner, service, remote monitoring and cost-per-image billing. Back then, discussing VARs and managed network services (MNS) was fresh and new.

Today, if you don’t know that MNS is nothing more than managed services, you’re two years behind. If you don’t understand the connection between managed print services and managed services, stop reading right now and pick up your edition of MAD magazine; enjoy the bliss.

Technology evolves faster than we comprehend. It took a decade for everyone in America to have a car, a phone and indoor plumbing. In only 12 months, back in 2010, Apple sold 14.8 million tablets and then matched that entire year in one quarter on the way to 40 million units in 2011 — which already seems a decade ago.

All this is converging and accelerating into the future at a dizzying pace. There is barely enough time to breathe, let alone establish a set of rules. The good news is there are guidelines, natural laws that — when recognized — can help us keep our bearings as we boldly move through this unexplored space. Consider the following a few suggested guideposts along your MPS journey and business transformation.

1. Be aware

The first rule is simple: Know who you are, your world and your place in it. Self-awareness is the foundation of all change. For example, if you are strong when it comes to delivering toner, use this as a foundation to grow on.

When you look at your client base and see a vertical, use that information as an additive to your business personality and value proposition. Take the deep dive and perform an assessment of your entire business operation.

Are you flexible, open and adaptable enough to look at how you have been running your business and then change it?

Caution is recommended here; there are just a few full-scale business assessments in our industry. “Full-scale” refers to every facet of your business: finance, sales, inventory, infrastructure, partnerships — everything. This is different than the standard “How are you selling?” and “How does your service desk work?” evaluations.

This transformation from copiers to MPS to managed services is a magnifying glass. If your current systems are flawed, adding a new process will turn cracks into crevasses.

Also, get to know your customer’s environment outside of printing. Look at the workflows, recognizing choke points and other areas for improvement from a business perspective — not a toner, services or print perspective. Are they looking to move to IP phones or tablets? Check to see if they are outsourcing their IT support today and how much they pay. Do they feel the money is well-spent? Do your customers use Twitter? Do they write or read blogs? Be aware of your world and the world around you. Open your eyes.

2. Be adaptable

The days of churn and burn are nearly at an end; this option is a dead end, but that doesn’t mean doom and gloom. The opportunities and directions are endless, but flexibility in all phases is necessary to survive and thrive. Compensation, for instance, has been reasonably stable over the decades. Can you look at paying for performance differently? Are you flexible, open and adaptable enough to look at how you have been running your business and then change it? For instance, if you are under the traditional toner supply model with notifications coming directly to you, consider and be open to a different model. If you see more documents heading toward screens instead of paper, would you consider reselling or partnering with a tablets OEM? Adapt or die.

3. Be a partner

The tough times are making everybody re-evaluate their position in the ecosystem, and the best way to survive is to gather together with like-minded people. Partnerships open up your services portfolio; good partnerships bring with them even more connections and synergy. Isolation leads to desperation. Partner with your clients, toner provider(s), OEMs and fellow employees. If HP can work with third-party toner suppliers, why can’t you partner with a managed services provider? Or better yet, how hard can it be to become a tablet reseller? Today, it is all about partnerships and teams. Build a team that includes players from all over — from network infrastructure experts, software application specialists, property managers, bankers and shop owners. Full press your personal network and choose those you deem worthy.

4. Be lean

Tough decisions are coming, if they haven’t already. The economy is making a rebound unlike any other time in history, and the recovery will not include a spike in manufacturing jobs or employment. Look to reduce your overhead.

Do you really require a demo floor? Really? No, really? It may look nice, but ... really? Is it a stipulation of your dealer agreement? If so, throw that Lyra chart in front of them and push back. Nobody holds inventory anymore, so why are you? How tight are you on trunk stock and warranty exchanges? How many service calls have you made over the past 12 months on your fleet of laser/cartridge-based devices compared to your traditional copiers? Do you need so many technicians? Do you need three dispatchers? How many people in accounting?

I am not recommending you fire everyone in sight. I am recommending you look at the costs that could be reduced or shifted over to some of your partners and possibly move traditional infrastructure talent into your sales team. For example, in my practice, I did not want to stock toner, take orders or coordinate the shipment of and maintain an inventory of toner cartridges. I did not want to — nor did I believe I should have to — bear the overhead cost. I evaluated every single fulfillment program out at the time from front to back. I looked at their process and the infrastructure the value-add provided and talked with the people on the ground.

I made the shift and demanded much from my new, integral partner — from delivery and customer relations to report generation. When I found somebody I could work with, that company became a full-fledged member of my team. It worked and reduced my overhead immensely. Lean, agile, clear.

5. Be a leader

If you’re employed at a dealership that promotes MPS but the guy at the top doesn’t know the difference between remote monitoring and remote machine management, quit. It’s time for executive management and ownership to climb down off the ivory tower and get dirty. The good ones will; the leaders already have.

If you are ownership, get out and explain to your team how you’re going to move the company forward, and then do it — every day. Reach out into the trenches, deliver equipment, make sales presentations and take service calls.

If you’re in sales, put together your plan for success and present it to your fellow team members on Monday morning. Don’t ask your manager if you can; tell him that you are. If you get push-back, quit.

Now is the time — if you decide to stay in this industry — to ride out the storm. Let it all hang out. It won’t be easy; there will be doubters and naysayers. Stay the course. If the system is gamed against you, get out.

Leadership comes from all levels, and vision leads to profit. It’s not the other way around.

6. Be open

Educate yourself about everything other than print. You probably know more than you need to about copying. What about telephony and tablets? What about asset management and PC support? Rack versus blades? Would you be surprised to find out that some customers who utilize managed services are happy to simply receive a phone call telling them that one of their servers is broken? A phone call.

Do you know how naïve you sound when you say you’re in MNS versus managed services? What’s your level of comfort with RMM or the difference between copier service SLAs and managed services SLAs? Why are you compensating copier service differently than MPS engagements? Plug into some new LinkedIn groups or subscribe to print magazines from outside the industry. Tweet, for goodness’ sake. Be open to new ideas. Get to know whatever it is you need to know.

7. Be defiant

Test everything every day. Your processes can always be better, your costs reduced. Take a page out of Six Sigma or any one of the hundreds of business books, scale it down and apply the lessons to your everyday business process. Make quarterly reviews mean something internally. And if you ever hear the phrase, “This is how we always do it,” refer back to that Lyra chart.

Transformation is continuous, and your improvement should be too. The number of imaging providers will decrease by half or more. Copiers are not what they used to be. Be ready for anything by challenging everything. MPS is bigger than toner and service, so you need to be ready to shift and move at the drop of a hat. What was done in the past simply does not apply today, so challenge the existing.

8. Be basic

Think about the days when you knew nothing about copiers or toner. Remember how it was to make it up as you went — how you demonstrated over jammed originals, around faulty color and through spilled toner? Call up the days when there were no rules in toner — or copier — sales. What did you have? A phone, the Yellow Pages, Rolodex and some ideas? A pager? What the heck is a pager? How did you survive?

I hate to say it, but get some of the grind work done; that means calls and marketing — in the trenches. Because like never before in history, we — providers and prospects — are on the same page. The field is level. It comes down to two people making something happen — a basic relationship built on solid intent.

9. Be the ruler

This is simple: Comparing yourself to others is a standard approach, but I suggest you look inside before looking to others. They’re simply guidelines; the only comparison that really matters is internal. Gartner, IDC, Canon, Ricoh, HP, Xerox, Toshiba, Konica Minolta, Sharp, OKI Data, Kyocera, Lexmark, IBM, Cisco, Apple — they all have their rules. With few exceptions, their rules are not serving us very well. Don’t ignore their musings; just be open and dubious. Make your rules, Your Rules. And then live by them.

Stand or fall

This is the big one. The above recommendations are simply that: suggestions. I’ve seen dealerships, OEMs and general business models over the past 24 years grow, stumble, recover and fade. I’ve watched IBM transform and Compaq assimilated. I was the first generation of VARs born in the 1980s and destroyed in the 1990s. I’ve helped dealerships grow and evolve and watched others crash, burn and be born again under a new moniker.

Change is eternal, transformation unavoidable. And like the Matrix, this has all happened before. Right now, the wolf is at our door. We are simply collateral in the big shift from slow, paper-based transfer of knowledge to instantaneous, screen-based modes of communication. While digital content is set to grow 18 times over, print is dying.

Now is the time to make a stand, to burn the ships at the shore or dust off that exit strategy you designed. If you look at the rules and don’t see a happy ending, get out. Save yourself. Give your employees the opportunity to grow beyond your little dealership. But if you do decide to stay and circle the wagons, get your rules set, and then ride with them.

Ride like the wind.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Stealth Sale: Print Server Elimination. Why don't you understand?

Managed print services was suppose to be about helping clients reduce the number devices and printed documents, saving them "30%".

Although clients are indeed reducing their numbers, it's had little to do with our hardware quotas; their reducing all by themselves.

  1. Eliminate headache and costs - ask your IT how much time they spend managing print servers.  I dare you.  I can tell you, they hate it.
  2. Acquire end-user, print behavior patterns - DCA's collect machine data, server elimination software organically collects user data.  Figure it out.
  3. Raise the level of conversation - stop talking about toner, but if you must discuss hardware, why not discuss print servers.
Like 'plastics' in the 50's and 60's, print server elimination is the next big thing. But like our stealth bomber few see it coming.

Can you?  Need help?  Reach out to me.

The B2 flying towards the Rose Bowl, 2015

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If I Had a Heart: Drop the "Print" from Managed print services. The World According to Greg

March 2015 

Heartbreak and glory - the times are changing universally. One turn in my personal metamorphosis is stepping down as President of the Managed Print Services Association.

My involvement with the MPSA started at the very beginning, back when a room full of folks voted to form the association at  Photizo 1.  I am honored to have served and proud of all the accomplishments we've achieved - it has been a great time.

Congratulations to the new Managed Print Services Associations executive board:
President: Kevin DeYoung, Qualpath - owner, managed print services visionary, leader
Vice President: Doug Bies, Canon USA - new, passionate, cutting edge philosophy
Secretary: Sarah Henderson, West Point Products/Clover Technologies - stalwart, foundational, dedicated
Treasurer: Lou Stricklin, Muratec America - solid, fresh, tactician
Today, as I exit the Oval Office,  relegated to a Board of Director, I am free from the yoke of compliance, broken are the shackles of other's stunted and spun opinion, open to express my opinions based on observed behavior, not Survey Monkey or the corporate drawer statement.

I am unencumbered by concerns about how a potential sponsor or customer might feel. 

Free to ignore conversations geared around the ROI of donating $10,000.00 for a corporate membership.  

We were not lying when we said your ROI is measured by your contribution to the industry, not shelf space, or tossing our membership into your sales funnel.

The shackles of self-censorship have fallen away...


My managed print services observations or better yet:

The World According to Greg

Managed print services is Dead and the OEMs killed it -

That's what I said.  

It was called 'managed print services' not 'managing printers & service'.  Leveraging the 'services' model to increase MIF is disingenuous and prospects see right through the scam.

Customers do not care -

Speaking of customers, they don't give a rip about toner remanufacturing process.  They don't care about the seven steps of xerography, and their eyes gloss when you speak of ink vs. toner; color vs. B/W or mobile print.  Stop doing that.

Find something else to talk about - say business-oriented, like employee morale, the impact of BYOD and managing print servers.

My advice to the incoming MPSA Executive Board - 
  1. Change the definition of managed print services and the direction of the MPSA.  Move away from toner, printer, and hardware - to a "Managed Services Association".  Expand the horizons, and blow the minds of millions.
  2. Do not fall victim to the procedure, meeting paralysis, Roberts Rules of Order planning on how to do something without ever doing anything.
  3. Once a member proclaims, "...that's not the way I operate..." they've volunteered.  The association, like our industry, is at the crossroads.  Like times in the past, both glory and ruination await.

Ideas are bulletproof -

Not only is the world on a path to less paper, but the new world is also populated with self-healing devices - no need for as many service technicians.

Managing services for your clients is the future.  This core idea is unflappable in a turbulent sea of rhetoric, incorrect research, and marketing-talk.

The world of MPS, like life,  holds promise and doom - fortune, glory, and tragedy.  False promises? Yes.  Self-interest? Of course.

When haven't we experienced both?

To make a move, a real move, we've got to take that leap of faith...again and again, and again.  Heartbreak, then Glory.  Glory, then heartbreak.

Always.  All ways.

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Sunday, March 8, 2015

"Managed Print Services? Never heard of it. I sell machines and disaster recovery..."

pariah |pəˈrīə|
1 an outcast: they were treated as social pariahs.
2 historical a member of a low caste in southern India.
It wasn't long ago, the darling of the dance, managed print services, was filled with wonder and promise. Like Carrie's senior prom, that bucket of toner came crashing down spoiling mood and prom dress alike.

Yes, it is true - managed print services has become the industry pariah - oh how the mighty have fallen. Supplanted by help desk, email, and disaster recovery the lowly printer has left the stage.

Managed print services has ended up meaning little more than service and toner delivery leveraged to lock customers in, expand shelf space and drop more machines in field. But that wasn't what MPS should have been.

It had the potential for so, so much more but we couldn't handle it.  True mps is huge, expansive and all inclusive; a concept including printers and wireless routers, scanning, digital workflow, and the paperless life.

Too Big for Most People's Mind -

They invited managed print to the prom, put her on stage. Then, in a pre-planned scheme, they attempted to shame and belittle.  Unlike Carrie's story, the devious ones here understood the overwhelming power of a new business model.  Instead of simply embarrassing the concept, the sought to destroy it.  They've succeeded.


"...And the raven was called sin..."

The prom is over.  But there is always another dance, another Carrie.

Let's try something that isn't tied to OEM hardware. Indeed, let's start proposing and selling ideas that ROMOVE hardware from the equation(one possibility derived from mps). The scary truth is your prospects and customers are doing it right now, with or without you.

Would you like to learn more about how your business could move away from OEM driven quotas?

Reach out to me.