January is a great month for reflection and planning for the year ahead. Specific to managed print, there are a lot of different opinions on what the future holds. Industry pundits are quite happy to fill your head with their ideas of what office equipment dealers need to do to keep up with the changing times. I personally believe that the best opinions related to the future of managed print come from those whose livelihoods depend on it.
In this, our second Fireside Chat interview, I spent some time with Chris Mee, the Vice President of Sales for ImageOne. They are no strangers to growth and change. Recently, they completely renovated their offices, hired a bunch of new and bright minds, earned the CompTIA Managed Print Trustmark and were voted one of the “National Best and Brightest Companies to Work for in 2014.” As busy as things are at ImageOne Chris Mee still made some time to talk with us! Here is the interview:
West McDonald: Hi Chris, and thank you for taking the time to chat today! We’ve actually known each other for a lot of years. But for our readers could you give us a little background on the history of ImageOne.
Chris Mee: My pleasure West! We’ve been around for over 23 years. We started out as a toner re-manufacturing company. It didn’t take us long to discover that there were plenty of really good toner re-manufacturers. We decided after a few years to let other people make cartridges and to focus on providing exceptional service for managed print. Danka liked what we were doing and purchased ImageOne about 11 years ago. As we continued to evolve we decided to buy the company back and have focused on true Managed Print Services for the last 8 years. We were predominantly an HP shop but decided a few years back we needed a broader A3 reach. We now have solidified partnerships with both Konica Minolta, Lexmark and Xerox to ensure our customers have the best of all worlds.
West McDonald: That’s great to hear. Having a broad portfolio of expertise is important as most companies out there carry more than one OEM brand. I know you’ve been really busy the last year or so, can you talk a little about what you’ve been up to?
Chris Mee: Yes, we have been busy broadening our offering, but at the same time we have pulled our focus closer to the core in a lot of ways. A couple of years ago we had our hands in a lot of pots, probably too many. We were exploring new solution sets, getting our heads wrapped around our new OEM offerings, and training a bunch of new talent. We determined that we might have actually taken on too much, that we were in jeopardy of losing our focus a little bit. So in late 2013 we made a decision to refocus our efforts on developing core expertise. As a sales leader you have to be really careful about knowing the difference between diversification and distraction.
West McDonald: Yeah, there seems to be an industry-wide push on diversification and exploring business options outside of MPS.
Chris Mee: Lots of people are trying to sell dealers “shiny new objects”, that’s for sure. 3D printing, Managed IT services and a bunch of other stuff. Not that any of these things are bad, but we determined that we had to focus on making sure we are really good at a handful of solutions and delivering the BEST MPS. The last 12 months have been focused on this.
“Before our decision to refocus on our core strengths, we chased shiny objects like everybody else. We have stopped doing that because we know that, in order to be experts, you need to focus on a few important things.”
West McDonald: So you have tightened up your core offering. How has that been working for you?
Chris Mee: In the last 8 or 9 months we’ve seen a lot of great return on our efforts. Before our decision to refocus on our core strengths, we chased shiny objects like everybody else. We have stopped doing that because we know that, in order to be experts, you need to focus on a few important things. We’ve done that and it’s paying off.
West McDonald: Is it fair to say that there are some opportunities you decide to walk away from because they are outside your core of expertise?
Chris Mee: Exactly. We’ve gotten a lot better at knowing the kinds of customers we work best with and focus our efforts entirely on them.
West McDonald: Walking away from opportunities that aren’t a good fit isn’t always for sales reps to do, is it?
Chris Mee: It’s very difficult for them to do. But the increased win rates have proven to them that although it’s not easy to do, it’s the right thing to do.
West McDonald: We have the same philosophy at Print Audit. We narrowed down our offering to only 2 options: Premierand Accelerator. We’ve had people say “What you do isn’t for everybody” and we’ve gotten very good at responding with “You’re right!”
Chris Mee: And that answer is okay!
West McDonald: What does 2015 look like for you?
Chris Mee: We are exploring some additional solutions but really focused on getting better at what we know is core. One thing we’ve noticed is that the physical “Optimization” of print environments has kind of run its course. Most customers we talk to have a handle on that piece of the puzzle. What we focus on at ImageOne is workflow above and beyond the physical stuff. That’s where solutions like Print Audit 6 come into play. We are working with a host of other providers on the solution side to make printing easier and more efficient for our our customers. Our core message: We’ll manage 100% of your print infrastructure and help you to save even MORE money.
West McDonald: It sounds like you are saying that ImageOne is really focused on helping customers to print less and to print smarter. As a managed print provider isn’t that counter intuitive? Don’t you want people to print more?
Chris Mee: It is counter intuitive! More importantly, however, helping customer to print less and more effectively is what is right for our customers. It puts us in better alignment with our and their needs. We believe in this customer-centric philosophy so much we’re actually working solution driven cost savings right into our contracts. We are getting more business this way and our existing customers are staying with us longer because we are keeping their best interest at the core of what we do. We are seeing the results and it is a key differentiator for us in the market.
“Helping customer to print less and more effectively is what is right for our customers. It puts us in better alignment with our and their needs.”
West McDonald: It makes sense! Do what’s right for the customer and you get more of their business.
Chris Mee: We are also ensuring that we deliver quarterly reviews in a more consistent way. Most MPS providers don’t do that. By providing them with updated information on their print environment on a consistent basis they can make better decisions. They don’t always act on the information we give them but at least they are aware. They appreciate it and we are rewarded by healthy partnerships and more contract renewals.
West McDonald: Is 2015 the year of information?
Chris Mee: Absolutely. Customers, for the most part, now have a handle on their existing print environments. Our job is to show them that they aren’t finished yet, that there are additional layers and solutions that can make them more effective and to save additional dollars. Only good information can help them to do that. They might have saved 20% to 30% in their initial optimization but there is an additional 20% to 30% of savings that can only be enjoyed by focusing on workflow. Only good information can help them get there. They don’t have time to do all that research, and that’s okay, because we’ll do it for them.
Security is another big area that information collection can help them with. And customers are finally investing in the security of their print data. Are their devices and access to documents as secure as they should be? We can get them that information and provide tools and solutions for good print governance.
West McDonald: Print governance is a big theme at Print Audit as well. Secure release, embedded solutions and user-level printing data are finally being used at end-user locations en masse. In the past it was just vertical focuses like law firms and education. Are you seeing this now in broad-based businesses as well?
Chris Mee: We are seeing this more than ever and believe customers deserve it. Print governance is going to be huge in the coming years.
West McDonald: What is your take on volumes per user? If we focus on print governance aren’t we also focused on reducing volumes?
Chris Mee: Yes, volumes per user will decrease. And we will help that process because it helps our customers. With or without our help they are printing less anyway. Young office workers simply don’t print like their older counterparts. How and what people print is changing in a big way. Volumes per user WILL decrease so it is up to ImageOne to make sure we get a lot of new customers. That is our focus for sure. In order to do that we need to avoid chasing too many shiny new objects and get really good at helping customers with print governance.
West McDonald: The “Shiny New Object” syndrome is certainly alive and well in the managed print space. It sounds like ImageOne is doing a great job of avoiding distraction and doing whatever it takes to be the best at managed print.
Chris Mee: Yes. Make no mistake, we’re still looking at new areas like 3D printing and other things. We’re just not letting those things take our eye off the ball. Our results are proving that focus can be extremely effective to both revenues and profits
West McDonald: Chris, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! I know that ImageOne’s focus on core elements like print governance will make for strong growth in 2015 and beyond!