Print Management Insider Blog

Want to Grow Your Office Equipment Business? You'd Better Start Liking Frogs

Posted by West McDonald on Aug 10, 2017 7:30:00 AM

iStock-153768983.jpgI just got back from a week off.  I wish I could tell you that I was on some grand adventure filled with excitement and unforgettable vistas, but alas, not the case.  I was home doing some renovations. Our upstairs bathroom was in desperate need of a do over and instead of hiring somebody to do it I thought I would tackle it myself.  I should state for the record that I’m not the handiest person in the world and this project included adding a new subfloor, plumbing alterations and ceramic tiling.  I knew it was going to be a long week.  A friend of mine who does renovations for a living was shocked that I was going to do it as he said that the bathroom is the hardest room in the house to tackle.  In hindsight I can say that he is 100% correct.

Bathrooms:  The hardest room in the house to do, but likely the most important one too.  A failed subfloor due to years of leaky pipes can be disastrous, if not downright dangerous.  It’s also a room we spend quite a bit of time in, for a variety of reasons, and it should be a good place to, I dunno, hang out.  But it is the hardest room in the house to do.  Who wants to do the hardest room in the house?  Nobody. Not even me.  A friend of mine shared an expression with me that I now use all the time: “Swallow The Frog!”  Essentially it means do the hardest things first, not last, or never.  Do them first.

Our office equipment and imaging businesses aren’t that much different from our houses.  In order to keep them humming we have to keep on top of the renovations.  Let me ask you this as a business owner:  What is your frog?  I’ll wait for you to think about it for a minute…

Okay, ready?  Were you thinking of declining pages per account?  Or is your frog lower revenues per page?  Or worse yet, the frog of disappearing margins?  Just like my bathroom reno, when it comes to modifying our businesses, the biggest and most bitter frog around is the need to change our business model.  The current cost per page model is riddled with warts, and it’s about ready to croak.  But it’s the only thing our sales teams know, it’s tied into our ERP, years of internal expertise with accounts payable and receivables, and we are comfortable tracking profits based on that model.  Ribbit. Ribbit. Ribbit.  Yes, that’s right, those are some big frogs.

As a business owner or executive, how do you swallow the frogs in the office equipment channel? Here are the 3 main options as I see it:

Do nothing: Short section here, just keep on truckin’.  Good luck!

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“Long Tail” growth through acquisition/amalgamation:  I’m not naming names here, but there are a few big office equipment companies out there, backed by equity finance groups,  that are buying smaller copier dealerships like crazy.  It’s not because office printing is growing.  It’s because it’s shrinking.  They are buying a whole bunch of smaller companies doing the same, and even though each of those companies are experiencing flat growth independently they gain viability through economies of scale.  You could be a leader at one of those companies right now.  You could also be a dealer looking/hoping to make your exit through being purchased by one of these bigger companies.  This is a classic “Long Tail” investment strategy.  The idea is pretty simple: Goods in declining demand or that aren’t very popular (like the printed pages and copiers, the least exciting part of any I.T. department’s day) have the potential to be MORE profitable through powers of scale.  If you are looking to grow or to sell, this model is one you should learn more about.  Never heard of a “Long Tail” strategy before? You can learn more about it HERE.  

Change the model:  If you’re like me, you’re not ready to throw in the towel quite yet.  For those of us that share this mindset, we can’t just keep doing things the way they’ve always been done.  We want to grow.  We need to adapt to changing market pressures and pay attention to the opportunities.  The opportunities are incredible, but only if we’re willing to swallow the frog.  One way to do this? Build an alternative to cost per page.  

But where to start?  The good news is that Print Audit, Clover Imaging Group, Supplies Network, Great America Leasing, and DOCassess have already done much of the heavy lifting. We call it Seat Based Billing for managed print.  It’s built on an XaaS (Everything as a Service) model. Deloitte said in a recent article:  “Everything-as-a-service (XaaS) is a strategic and operational blueprint that, within the next 18–24 months, will likely begin upending business and operational models, and redefining the fundamental goals of core modernization.”   You can read the rest of it here, it’s filled with some ideas around XaaS that you simply must check out.  As a Service models are the fastest growing business models on the planet right now.  You can join us in Las Vegas on Tuesday, August 15th, to learn about all the critical components for building your own SBB offering. We’ll cover assessments, pricing, contracts, financing options, back office considerations and a whole lot more.  You can register at www.sbbroadshow.com.  It’s a full day of executive learning that could provide you the model of the future.  

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First, hold on.  I can hear you now: “But you aren’t doing it, why are you asking us to swallow the frog?”  We’ve swallowed a couple of our own frogs, whole. We moved from a traditional software sales model to a SaasS model a few years ago, and it’s revolutionized our business.  More recently we purchased a document management company to ensure we can help our Premier members to profit from documents that are never printed.  Frogs galore!

Oh, back to where we started: My bathroom renovations.  It was a ton of work but I’m really glad that I tackled it on my own.  In hindsight, once I swallowed the frog and completed the work I discovered that I actually had a taste for frog legs!  And by the way, the finished room looks incredible, I surprised even myself with what I was capable of even though I had little experience.  Like renovating the most difficult room in the house,  I know that once you take the plunge and start working on an alternative business model for managed print that it could be the most important frog you’ve swallowed in a lot of years. You might even acquire a taste for it.  First do the subfloor.  It’s the foundation.  In the office equipment world the subfloor is our billing model.  We have it covered with nice tiles or carpet, but peel up a corner and you’ll know what I’m saying is true.  The world is changing fast and our traditional offerings are starting to suffer.

Will we see you in Las Vegas for the SBB Road Show? I hope we will, because if we’re willing to swallow the frog, the opportunity ahead of us is enormous.

Speaking of change, Kermit the Frog has made a few changes too. Enjoy a little Kermit the Frog from his interview with Ellen.  Classic!

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Topics: business strategy, Business Tips, Cost Per Page, Per Seat Billing, print audit, print management, print tracking, seat based billing, business growth

West McDonald

Written by West McDonald

West McDonald is Vice President of Business Development for Print Audit.

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