Over the last couple weeks, the Imaging Channel (copy, print equipment resellers) are being awakened by what could be the loudest alarm clock to date. I myself have sounded in, along with many others. As I look back over the last week or so and read the comments, and in some cases witness the lack of comments. I can’t help but wonder how those pioneers back in the early days would be responding.
Back, in the beginning, the pioneers who sold the 3M product, the famous VQC, which I am sure stood for “Very Quick Copier” with its roll of thermal paper hanging off the side. See 3M was not in the copier business they were in the coated paper business. The VQC with thermal transfer technology burned copies on coated paper. This process was the means for getting the copy the customer wanted. The customer didn’t care how they got it, or what kind of paper it came on. I argue it’s the same today, the customer just wants the copy or print and pretty soon they won’t need the copy, or the print.
“It’s about customer wants which are determined by needs that give birth and bring change to products, services and industries.”
Imagine with me the conversation these pioneers would have had in their time.
A couple 3M dealers talking about how fantastic the revenue stream is on their roll paper sales. Talking about how they might open a new territory after seeing an ad in Life Magazine. These pioneers were true entrepreneurs. So as these pioneers talked about the greatness of the present, down at the end of the bar sat a new guy looking sharp, with a big smile. This guy wasn’t part of the conversation, however, he would soon DISRUPT IT. This new guy worked for Xerox, a new company built for the purpose of giving the customer a new and better means for getting copies. The new guy said the Xerox could copy on plain paper, he then said the world of thermal roll paper was going to die! He went on to say how Xerox will own the market! After all who would possible print on roll thermal paper if they had a better way? This Xerox guy told these pioneers of the industry they founded, soon they would lose their customers to the new way. This new guy told these pioneers that their customers’ loyalty and relationships would not win over plain paper and if they thought so they were just plain stupid.
Well, these pioneers were not stupid. They didn’t argue about how to stay in the past. Instead, they decided to go get the future and, bring it to their present. These pioneers collaborated with organizations they didn’t even know the day before. These pioneers went and built a plain paper copier of their own. They did this completely understanding it would totally destroy their roll paper annuity. Which was the life blood of their business model. They knew and understood just because they started the copy industry, they had no power over the industry changing. They also knew they had the wherewithal to be a formidable competitor, and they were.
So to the point of my title. What would these pioneers do today? What would they recognize as grave as plain paper was to the roll paper annuity - threating todays annuity? Who’s the new guy today with an imagination that would spark theirs to restructure their entire deliverable? Who are the companies they did not know yesterday they would make friends with today? One thing I would bet on these pioneers of the past would never let emotions which cause the comfort of status quo, to ever win against their continuous fight for relevance.
The industry must summon the entrepreneurial spirits of the past and create a new future. Some of the leaders today have, some want to, and others won’t. Those three behaviors are what changes industries.
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