Every year the industry has its dealer recognitions, and it's an excellent time for the channel's actors to check out what their peers are doing, how they are improving, and what new exciting things they are up to. This year I was looking forward to the ENX publication which profiles many of the channel's dealers. I was very interested in what the dealer community would share about the worst year in the industry's history.
Wow, what a surprise when the magazine hit the streets. (I will discuss how all the industry's magazines' lack digital capabilities in another article.)
If I had not actually been handed the magazine by the mailman last week. I would have thought I was reading last year's issue. Other than the occasional pictures of people wearing a mask and the mentioning of PPE. There seems to be a trend in ignoring some critical realities of a quickly changing marketplace.
I was expecting to read how dealers are innovating their customer interactions to include e-commerce. A reality still not discussed.
One would have thought we would hear how dealers began to pivot in order to address customers' realities in wanting to buy through digital landscape.
Obviously, I am not suggesting that dealers compete with Amazon. I continue to suggest that dealers have platforms in place, allowing their customers to engage in commerce without the intervention of human annoyance. Sometimes and sometimes is growing fast, customers prefer it that way.
As I read about the dealers who loaded up on PPE, I thought it would have been so awesome if their customers knew where they could go and select PPE from a trusted source and click buy now. Dealers selling PPE with push economy processess seems so dysfunctional. Customers don't need demos and in person meetings to buy mask, hand sanitizer, and yes even the printer and its supplies for their house.
The dealers must get past their enormous egos, believing that without holding their customers' hands their customers are doomed.
The capabilities of e-commerce are much more than what the naysayers continue chatting or the ridiculous stories some recite about how a customer bought a printer online and now has to pay a dollar a page or some other insane description of a one-off.
My friends' one-offs don't drive an industry's success or its failures. One-offs are the distractions which those fighting change always seek to reinforce their procrastination in moving towards progress.
The document imaging channel is going through the most significant challenge to its pre covid existence, a challenge that will cause massive consolidation and unprecedented changes to all aspects of the industry's core deliverable print.
Yet, according to nearly every dealer profiled, things are just great MPS, and production print has a great future. Do the industry's actors really believe MPS, production print, and overselling A3 delivered as it was in 1990 will maintain them in the comforts of that 1990 business model? I sure as hell hope not!
I have become accustomed to the ignoring of realties from many in the industry. However, when the car runs off the road because the driver ignored the warning signs to prevent the crash. I would say, "They got what they saw coming because they ignored what they saw."
Over the last ten months, the digital world consumed what was left of the analog world. The tremendous growth of innovative companies is unprecedented. Organizations such as Zoom, DocuSign, Shopify, Microsoft 365, all other cloud platforms, and yes, even our friends at Amazon blew away all expectations. In contrast, the print sector has found itself needing to continue lowering the expectations of its stakeholders.
Over the last year, there have been over 500 acquisitions in the IT space. The document imaging channel has had basically zero acquisition activity. Keeping in mind asset sales are not an indication of investment excitement.
Now we see private equity both building on and exiting the investment in the IT sector, taking their assets public, or selling them off to an end game. The document imaging channel must prepare for some of the possible acquisitions as private equity folks like Thoma Bravo seek to exit some of the many investments they have made. Also, keep in mind the acquisition activity of behemoths like Salesforce and Google.
Within Thoma Bravo's portfolio are organizations that could impact the aspirations of many dealers. Especially those who continue NOT taking MIT (Managed IT Services) seriously or are mismanaging their MIT service deliverables.
It was refreshing to hear that many dealers have grown in MIT. However, percentage growths can be deceiving; after all, in many cases, the dealer had nearly any MIT activity in past years.
I would suggest that dealers focus on the percentage of both revenue and operating profit your MIT services contributes to the organization's whole. It can be distracting listening to some of the grand declarations of MIT's success without reality applied.
My friends, the industry is going to consolidate, the OEMs are going to realign their distribution. Unfortunately, this realignment will not fair well for smaller dealers and those dealers who cause a competitive threat to the realigned OEM or the OEMs' new distribution partner.
It's time for dealers to stop investing in the business model of overselling A3, chasing the insanity of production print, prematurely upgrading leases, and fighting the realities of office print declines.
Dealers must look around, and without prejudice, to what, they find sacred and adjust to the truths they see.
"When an industry seeks its own comfort over that of those they serve, they will succumb to obsolescence."
The opportunities dealers had as little as five years ago have already changed. Dealers must stop procrastinating, the broadening of their deliverable, and manage those diversifications as if their survival depends on it - because it does.
"Status Quo is the killer of all that will be invented."
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