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Monday, November 23, 2015

Past 48 months - "I never meant to break my own promises..."


Four years ago, if you told me I would be in Oconomowoc, Wi, helping a VAR go national and rediscovering the future of office print - I would have slugged you in the head.

Well, this is PRECISELY the situation I find myself in.  In a land of fried cheese, beer, and cities named after Indians.


Through the hoopla, laughter, and tears, when I look back to 2011, I can't help but shake my head, roll my eyes and ask,

"What in the Seven Hells just happened?"

Monday, November 9, 2015

#DOTC The Book Lives On

It's been so long, I had forgotten about this little paperback - thank the copier gods for old buddies to remind me of past lives.

I don't care if he read it, the picture is worth cases of book sales.

The book is available on iBooks, which is cool and Amazon, of course:

Believe me, I'm not retiring on this and I don't necessarily believe it is all that good.  But, the seal has been broken.  I've got enough content bouncing around to fill a large volume with funny,  real world sales and copier stunts.

The next book will be much better.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Shades of Greg: 2016. The Year of The Flood


Mergers, acquisitions, sell-outs and less paper.

2016 will see the beginning of the End.

More signs.  The tipping point is in your rearview mirror, if this is news to you, it's too late.

  • Today, Xerox may be running out of ink with quarter after quarter of declining technology business. They've also decided to scrap the wax.
  • Lexmark, after years of building a portfolio of MPS contracts is finally ready to sell out.
  • HP, the thickest of the thick, is splitting into two. HPG, (HP Inc.) can now move quicker and turn their profits into R/D for print.  Will this five billion dollar start-up be the last print vendor standing? Can the old Printelligent model work?  Mother Blue has been adding vans almost as fast as she's laid off employees.  She has an impressive array of services, and a behemoth of a team ready to take the argument to the streets - direct.
  • Samsung may gobble up Nuance, enhancing a practically non-existent MpS program.
  • The independent channel continues to shrink and evolve.  Just this week, Loffler joined the Xerox dealer channel and Marco cashes in, selling to an equity firm.
  • On top of all this, the American Forest & Paper Association released their yearly report stating, " printing-writing paper shipments were down 4% in September as compared to September 2014."  The same report a year earlier sited a 7% drop from 2013 to 2014.
Taken individually, the list has one dimension.

But observed from a distance, and just to the side, these points reveal a multi-dimensional reality: The deluge is here.

Knee deep in a receding surf for the last 18 months the final Wave is coming.  If you haven't sold or gotten out the only choice you have is to hunker down and hope for the best.

So what does it mean?

The End is just the beginning...ask yourself this one question,

"If office print disappeared tomorrow, what would I be doing the day after?"

Whatever answer you come to, you are absolutely correct.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Shades of Greg: 2015 "Top100 Summit" & The Death of Managed print Services

"Live a life less ordinary
Live a life extraordinary with me
Live a life less sedentary
Live a life evolutionary with me..."

These thoughts are my personal critique of an industry, not an individual.

Weeks ago, over one hundred leading MpS providers congealed in Park City, Utah to discuss the future of MpS.  It was a great educational and entertaining event - recommended.

This event was one of the best I've attended in years - only the MWAi show from last year, stands above.  West put together a great agenda and was able to recruit a diverse set of industry luminaries.

Here's a quick list of observations from The Top 100 - "MpS is Changing" conference:
  • The venue: Superb.
  • Event organization: Stellar.
  • Promotion: Unparalleled.
  • Presenters: Both gargantuan and irrelevant.
  • Content: Both significant and forgettable.
  • Off-line conversations: The best in over a decade.
For a detailed tracking of the event, talks, and feedback, see Ken's, Art's, West's, and Andy's most accurate reports.

The video, recorded, edited, and presented on-site, nearly live, is one of the best promotional pieces in the niche.  It was organic and fun. See it here.

Enough of us patting each other on the back, like we’re all buds. Here's a two word summary of the show:

"Points Missed."  

It has been said our niche moves at the speed of an HP Series II - I don't agree with that 100% of the time, but after this conference, I'm having second thoughts.

I've stewed on this for what seems years - why do so many still believe in the old models?  Why don't they see what others see?

In a juxtaposition with the best content I've witnessed,  the audience comments were befuddling.  I sat there, shaking my head, not at the presenters(mostly) but frustrated over the 1970 mentality of the audience. Still!

Here it is.  A list of call-outs from my perspective:

"Automatic Toner Fulfillment": 2007 called...

"If you sell hammers, everything looks like a nail" so, if you sell re-man toner, all the world is an empty printer, right?


Getting toner to the right desk at the right time is something we've cut our teeth on, back in 2007. Staples delivers more toner to more desks, on time, "automatically" than anybody else and they use people. Automation for automation's sake is not visionary.

The fact that we are looking at ATF as a new advantage, in 2015, is trite - Clients expect every MpS program can 'get toner to the user' as a mundane function.

There is no such thing as "MNS": Really. 

This irks me on a personal basis.  Nobody in real IT refers to anything as managed network services; it is simply managed services. Whenever we say "MNS", we look like wanna-be, IT knuckleheads. If you're IT contacts don't flinch or roll their eyes every time you say "MNS" they are being polite.

Stop it.

Epson Bags of Ink: Not disruption, turbulence.

This is the BIG miss of the show.

When the Epson dude referred to his ink bags as "disruptive", I think most in the room assumed it was we doing the disrupting.

Immediately, calls of, "how can I make money the old fashion way, when I sell the machine and lifetime ink all upfront?"

The answer is, "you can't make money the old-fashioned way..."

But here's the miss: we won't be using ink-bags to disrupt, this disrupts Managed print Services.

It's the other way around: bags-o-ink AND "Instant Ink"(DOTC, 2011) will move the channel closer to irrelevancy.  Not because wet-toner is better than dry-toner - the iceberg here is "Lifetime Supply".  Buy a printer and never purchase toner or ink again.  All the costs, revenue, and profit are upfront.  An offering, so simple a monkey could sell it.

The 'lifetime' model will remove MpS from the lexicon because there is no need for a relationship.

Those MPS consultants and OEM programs that stress toner as "the most important component" of MpS have led us down the primrose path.

This one issue, redefined as "MpS" is slipping from the dealer channel into the hands of surviving mother-ships.

"Toner" is not a relationship and the biggest reason OEMs say they need an independent dealer channel is to maintain the relationship.  Well. The relationship is getting thinner every month.

Think about it, the 'lifetime ink' business model eliminates:

  • Meter reads  - no billing
  • Monthly billings - see above
  • Deliveries - UPS
  • Phone orders - machines phone home
  • Service calls - these things don't break
  • Quarterly reviews - why?
  • Contracts
  • Independent Dealers
  • Etc.
If I were getting into managed print services today, I would become an Epson reseller and push those guys to start releasing model after model, ASAP, before HP kicks their super-duper, closed loop MpS machine into gear.

I mentioned this during the Q&A, and nobody understood what I was saying.



Watch Epson.  Watch HP MPS.

In The End: It's Not Me, It's You

I've seen great things in our niche.  I've seen companies make the leap, shun the old ways, and thrive.

I've also seen organizations espouse the future, make cosmetic changes and fail - the road back to 1991 is littered with used-up MPS Directors.  Settling into the old ways of selling copiers, hiring sales managers from yesterday's enterprise, 'trapping customers', paying salespeople a pittance yet expecting them to be professionals, and forcing equipment quotas on their customers - is the easy thing to do.

These types fade away or get swallowed by a bigger dealer.

I've been ringing the bell for years - "MPS is the gateway to something bigger than toner and copiers...".  I evangelized the new ways only to see big equipment manufacturers hijack and kill innovation, searching for more shelf space and stickier schemes.

It is the way of things.

But it doesn't need to be your way.  Many have made the shift, pivoting off the copier and into fertile markets.  It isn't easy to break free the ordinary ways, but it's got to be done.

Conferences that break the mold, separate the future from the past are few and far between - this Top 100 is one of the less ordinary get-togethers.  If you were there, you are one of the less ordinary people and nowadays, the Life Less Ordinary is the life evolutionary...

Let's go.

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Greg Walters, Incorporated