More of the Challenges Facing the Independent Dealer Community

Challenges AheadEach year we ask our Elite Dealers to identify the biggest challenges facing their dealerships and to share their strategies for overcoming those challenges. Some of those challenges are unique to that dealership or a given market while others are challenges that industry wide challenges.

In our final installment, the dealer community shares some of the hurdles that made 2015 a challenge and how they overcame those hurdles.

“The growing challenge Systel continues to face is direct manufacturer competition driving down end user equipment pricing. Our major account bids and large customer renewals are at 50-75 percent lower than they were five years ago. It’s very tough or near impossible to see any margins on equipment alone for major accounts and large bids.” Systel Business Equipment Co.,
Fayetteville, NC

“One of our biggest challenges is finding the smartest, most strategic way of adding alternative and additional streams of revenue. Everyone in this industry knows how vital it is to expand outside hardware sales, but with so many options (solutions, Managed Print, Managed Network, even new hardware avenues such as 3D printers), it is challenging to know how to best narrow our focus and find what’s really the best fit for our market. With all the options out there it can also be difficult to keep our product knowledge completely up to date-such as with solutions, we keep finding out about more and more options out there by different vendors.

“To combat this, we are sending our reps to additional training and all of our new reps will begin with solution-based training. We’ve also received great help from Konica Minolta, who has provided assistance to us as well as helped arrange training with solution-based OEM support reps. These reps will be providing in-office training to our sales team very soon. We know this will help us both expand our knowledge and narrow our focus, which in turn will help us hit the target of what our customers need and help our revenue continue to grow.” Consolidated Copier Services, McDonough, GA

“The biggest challenge that Marco currently faces is bringing our other service offerings to our acquired markets that mainly focus solely on a single service. For example, when we purchase a copier company, our challenge is to integrate our other business IT services in that market and find and develop the right leadership to execute on our technology services business model. In an effort to meet this challenge, we are focused on hiring and developing the appropriate people for the acquired markets and training them through our talent management and mentoring program.” Marco, Inc., St. Cloud, MN

“The most significant internal challenge facing our company would be the ongoing development and education of our sales professionals. As the external market forces continue to shape our business environment (mobility, cloud, social media and big data), our sales consultants need to meet these changes head on in order to maintain their position as trusted advisors to our customers. As well, the opportunities in the Managed IT space are significant and building our business to keep up with these changes is an on-going challenge.” Gordon Flesch Company, Madison, WI

“Our biggest challenge continues to be staffing. There are plenty of people that would love to be a part of what we are doing, the challenge is connecting. In order to meet the challenge we are adding a recruiter that will be focused on sharing our message with the outcome of bringing candidates to our hiring managers.” Coordinated Business Systems, Burnsville, MN

“Our biggest challenge right now is finding sales people who fit with our team. We find it very important to have teams of people who are highly competitive, but also realize we are all on the same team at the end of the day and we need each other to succeed. To meet the challenge we are changing up how we do our hiring process. We are not looking for people right out of school anymore unless they have certain qualities. We have found that people right out of college are going to change jobs three or four times before they stick with something. We are looking more for the people who have made those changes already and are ready to settle down and have a career, not a job.” Vision Office Systems, Charlotte, NC

“The biggest challenge facing our business in 2015 has been smoothing out the processes behind our IT offering and optimizing it to become a more profitable segment of our business. Blue Technologies acquired wholly-owned subsidiary Smart Solutions Inc. – renamed Blue Technologies Smart Solutions (BTSS) – to add additional IT and document management capabilities to our team. In 2014, we focused on fully integrating the company by merging cultures, updating internal processes, leadership, and department structures.

“However once fully running in 2015, we realized we needed to better understand the IT segment of our business to offer a top-notch, comprehensive product that 1) delivers the highest level of customer satisfaction guaranteed under our Commitment to Excellence – EVERY DAY pledge while 2) being profitable.

“Blue has taken several key measures to enhance this segment:

  • Director of Sales Keith Stump took over managing sales for BTSS as well as Blue Technologies, furthering a single, cohesive strategy across the company.
  • Leadership sought out and leveraged additional learning opportunities to better understand the managed IT services model and how to optimize our IT offering, such as the CDA conference and insight from other CDA members, and coaching by Riordan and Associates.
  • We have invested resources and bodies to merge our hardware and IT service desks into a single help desk, streamlining service for our customers to ensure we’re delivering on our Commitment to Excellence – EVERY DAY pledge to the highest degree. Customers can now request service for any solution segment via a single phone number or “request service” web form, with routing happening to the proper constituents on Blue’s end.

“These moves have met with great success – resulting in a cohesive, unified business vision across our organization. We’ve ramped up our Managed IT Services offering under this vision to be a profitable segment of Blue’s business. And we expect to see further growth in 2016.” Blue Technologies, Cleveland, OH

“The most difficult aspect of the business is finding qualified team members who fit the industry needs and also the culture of our company for today and the future. To handle this issue our HR department has modified how we reach out to applicants to include career fairs, various avenues for career openings. We are continually updating processes, including training, on-boarding and retention as well as enhancing the company’s culture through various in-house activities and volunteering in the community.” Century Business Products, Sioux Falls, SD

“It is always a challenge to take a sales team that was accustomed to selling traditional printing and imaging hardware, services, and supplies, and developing the skill set and know-how to uncover opportunities that exist within the IT and Managed Services and ECM areas-for current and new customers. Moreover, a shift in business management style needed to take place, as Stratix Systems could no longer effectively operate under the wraps of a ‘traditional copier dealership.’ Hence, company leadership brought in experienced, high-level managerial talent from outside the printing and imaging industry.

“Introducing proven leaders, who have an appropriate skill set and come from an IT and Managed Services and ECM VAR culture, helped facilitate the establishment, development, growth and success of these respective business units.” Stratix Systems, Wyomissing, PA

“Our biggest challenge in our market is recruiting quality employees. We presently have 3.2 percent unemployment making hard to find people.”Corporate Business Systems, Madison, WI

“The most important challenge for our company over the past five years, in a difficult economy, has been continued growth and profitability. Every business, large or small, needs to continuously analyze their business model. Are we providing what our clients want?  How do we become more valuable as partners to our clients so that we are not just hardware providers?  Are our employees learning and growing?  Is what we do adding to the bottom line for the health of our company?

“These are challenging times, but it is critical to keep your eye on the ball. Our employees help us do just that. Understanding what the client’s needs are and how EBS/VBS can deliver Fast Forward Document Solutions is how we continue to grow and stay profitable.” Edwards Business Systems & Virginia Business Systems, Bethlehem, PA

Our biggest challenge is competition from dealers who are competing solely on price. Time and time again we get into a customer and are talking with them and they say that “Dealer #2” has a lower price so they are leaning towards them. So our challenge is to change how the customer is looking at how to buy a copier, and that a low price does not mean a high value.

“To do this we have started to do direct model to model comparisons between the Konica Minolta machines we offer and whatever brand of equipment is being proposed to the customer by our competition. These comparisons focus on the quality and true value that our equipment brings. This can be seen mainly in the life of the consumables and volume based parts such as fusers and drums. We find that our competition will have double or triple the scheduled service calls to replace fusers and drums, and up to five times as many toner replacements. Then after the comparisons of supplies and parts, we look at the performance of the devices by looking at their test scores on BLI. This then paints a better picture for the customer on what they are truly paying for.

“In our model to model comparison when the competitor tries to sell best price, they actually play into our analysis. We recently had a situation where our retail price was around $10,000 and we were selling the system for $7,000, for comparison the competitor had a retail price of $7,000 and was selling their system for $6,000. So the client was thinking they could get a similar system for $1,000 less than ours, a typical price decision. When we explained price versus value, it was clear that the competitor, given an equal discount should have had a sale price of $4,900. This combined with a head to head comparison showed the client that the two systems were vastly different and also that the competitor was in fact not giving them a very aggressive price.

“Even though we still might not win every account after we present these comparisons, we are still winning some, and with time we expect to do so more and more. We may even get a customer’s business who decided to buy on price at first, then after experiencing the cheaper machine, realized the value was not there.” Martin Group, Lake Geneva, WI

“With the massive growth in our national coverage model, creating clear and concise expectations for implementation and roll outs have been fun to manage. We’re currently utilizing best practices and on-point process improvement to make each implementation better than the last. We’ve designated a dedicated team to assist with change management which has smoothed the transition for our customers, and a nice value add to FlexPrint’s management services.” FlexPrint, Inc.

“The biggest challenge is to constantly find new ways to bring added value to the customer. We are constantly improve our standard services, and to bring additional new ways to provide more services to our current clientele. We have been successful not always playing by the industry’s “traditional way of doing things,” and we don’t see that changing now.” Image Matters, Knoxville, TN

“In today’s ever changing technology environment one of our biggest challenges is staying relevant and constantly delivering value to our customers in a crowded field of competitors. To do so [we are] continuing to evaluate and adopt innovative offerings for our clients, educate our sales professionals to continue to be solutions consultants, and be diligent and committed to the service excellence that we are known for and not take our eyes off the prize.”Advanced Imaging Solutions (AIS), Las Vegas, NV

“We continue to expand our portfolio of products and services to ensure we proactively address the changing needs of businesses as technology evolves. With 51 years under our belt, we encounter area businesses that have known us or partnered with us for decades. This can lead to misconceptions around Advance’s offerings available to their businesses.

“In order to better educate our customers and prospects on our diverse offerings and the benefits to their businesses, we utilize a number of strategies. Outside of the advertising and marketing outlined above, we also arm our sales team with the tools they need to understand businesses in every industry and provide them with solutions to address their unique and complex needs. We do not believe in a one size fits all mentality so we approach each business with the goal of truly understanding their challenges, existing workflows, and organizational needs so that we can provide a holistic solution that addresses those elements. In addition to our in-depth discovery process for prospects, we also execute business reviews for our existing customers to make sure we are always aware of the goals and challenges of the organization. During this process, we also create awareness around additional offerings that can address their unique needs.” Advance Business Systems, Cockeysville, MD

“The biggest challenge we are facing at the moment is getting our new IT company up and running. We started it in August 2014 and have been trying to get it up and profitable. We have been told by various companies that it does take a year or so to start making profit on it, so we are hopeful towards the project and efforts, and speaking with various dealers outside of Florida for tips, and advice on what the next steps should be.” Barlop Business Systems, Miami, FL

“Manufacturers and mega dealers creating branch operations in our “C” market is our biggest challenge. [We are meeting the challenge by] increasing our service offerings to include support for not only copiers, but all network appliances including telephones, cameras and mobile devices. Software solutions is on the horizon but we are still building out the IT group.” ABC Office Equipment, Spokane Valley, WA

“Continuing to find ways to provide objective, independent, all-encompassing solutions to clients. This may often involve a combination of products from a variety of manufacturers, recognizing that one solution (one office product) may not be the right one for every client. To combat this, and to offer more variety to clients, Bay Copy has expanded its offerings to include Toshiba, which joins their other product lines including Konica Minolta, Lexmark and Muratec.  Bay Copy has also invested in training for its technicians in the Toshiba product lines.”Bay Copy, Rockland, MA

“The challenge that we are currently facing is due to our rapid growth (27% YOY) and retaining/recruiting talent as rapidly as we’re growing. In order to meet this challenge, we have hired two full-time recruiters, as well as rebranding all of our recruitment marketing messaging to ‘Champions Wanted.’ We have created a dedicated marketing team exclusively for our recruiting. This includes a specific landing page for this campaign, along with our Impact video documentary series that will be sporadically distributed throughout the year.

“We have begun to implement new tactics for recruitment, such as offline guerilla marketing, a mixture of online channels (social media, text recruitment, online surveys etc) and a new applicant tracking system. Our guerilla marketing tactics include our campus ambassador, internship program, and University sales program corporate sponsorships. One of our most recent initiatives in sponsoring a university sales program involved a sales competition between the students. We compiled a sales pitch for them, and essentially students had to ‘sell’ Impact and our solutions. Each of the participating students received an Impact branded ‘padfolio,’ and winners were given special recognition. This was a great opportunity to meet students in a professional environment and see how they would be in a real life sales pitch. By connecting with university students prior to graduation we are able to find promising candidates and prepare them for a job at Impact Networking. These approaches have so far led us to amazing talent and have proven to be the best way to attract and engage new leads.”

“Strong candidates are then invited to our ‘Meet the Firm’ networking event where they are able to experience our company culture along with mingling with C-level and top employees. In order to retain the talent we acquire, we ensure consistent training, an award winning culture and transparent company plans.

“To accommodate our growth, we have added sales teams, remodeled/ opened new branches throughout the Midwest, and also invested in infrastructure (new ERP, e-automate, Compass CRM, Network Upgrade), which has allowed us to scale business processes, automate/eliminate manual processes and onboard talent.” Impact Networking, Waukegan, IL

“Transitioning from a “box” seller to a “solutions” provider is a constant challenge. One of the biggest challenges is modifying solution sales to fit into the equipment dealer’s traditional aftermarket of recurring revenue. Usually a solution sale does not involve much if any recurring revenue stream but that is why we became a Print Audit Premier Dealer in 2015. Print Audit’s slogan for its Premier Dealers is “Win Customers – Keep Customers – Build Recurring Revenue.” Print Audit 6 is a solution sale which does not end with the sale. Print Audit 6 offers clients the ability to monitor and manage their print fleets but also gives them the options to manage user print behavior via Rules Based Printing, Recover Print Expenses and enable Secure and Follow-Me Printing. And each of these options is sold as an annual license or recurring revenue stream. We are still working out the kinks to this model but we can already predict that this is an important direction for our future business plans.”Woodhull, LLC, Springboro, OH

“The biggest challenge today is keeping up the ever-changing technology; as it is for all of us, whether personally or in our work.” Eakes Office Solutions, Grand Island, NE

“Recruiting and keeping high quality sales professionals who are skilled and experienced enough to be able to not only sell, but consult on each of our highly technical business solutions. To help with this, each new recruit goes through professional selling skills training and each current employee goes through product training & new product launch trainings as they get introduced to our sales repertoire.” SolutionOne, Omaha, NE

“The biggest challenge is the competition selling the lowest payment instead of value added solution selling. Basically this creates a race to the bottom. My partner and I have been in this industry for over 50 years combined and we were trained that the shortest lease cycle possible is the way to run your business. This model allows the customer to update their equipment with a faster cycle and to the dealer you are getting the unit out of the field before it starts needing a lot of expensive repairs, parts and pm’s.

“With all of the turnover in our industry, it seems that the lower 50 percent of the reps that come and go in our field just go right to a 60-month lease term because of price and to move a box to make quota. Then they leave the industry. The customer is then handled by numerous sales people who really don’t care about the customer and the customer doesn’t have the advantage of having a great relationship with their vendor. We have had clients since our first year in the field as rookie sales reps to this day, some spanning 25-30 years. Premium Digital Office Solutions explains our story to our potential clients to try to make them realize how important their business partnership is to us. We feel this is what differentiates us from our competition.” Premium Digital Office Solutions, Pine Brook, NJ

“We have several challenges that are the result of industry dynamics and significant growth within our dealership. To fuel Centric’s growth and maintain staffing for all five Centric offices we have hired four full-time recruiters. Their job is to locate, recruit, screen and interview the best candidates in our marketplace. We have reduced our dependency on employment agencies, hired better candidates that match our culture and reduced turnover. The recruiters staff all open positions in sales, service, operations and accounting at Centric. It is always hard to find great people but our in house process has done a terrific job in staffing our company.

“An industry challenge facing us today is the declining page production in the office environment as a result of businesses migrating to digital workflow. To offset the decline in the office environment, Centric has invested heavily in expanding our production business. Therefore, although many of our customers are producing less pages, our overall number of pages serviced in increasing due to our success in capturing the pages produced in the production environment.

“Another significant challenge is rapid changes in technology. The ever-changing technology in our industry requires ongoing training of personnel throughout all facets of the organization.

  • Centric has engaged industry consultants to conduct employee training for effective Management, selling Managed Print Services, selling Managed Document Services and using financial benchmarks for the new industry model.
  • The senior management team regularly attends industry seminars to stay current with industry trends.

 “The biggest challenge in the industry is the ongoing margin pressure; primarily the result of incongruous marketplace pricing from the direct manufacturers sales offices. To conquer this challenge, Centric has focused on adding value to every transaction. We focus on the benefits of dealing with a local company that has the ability to be responsive and solve problems locally with all management, parts, supplies, billing and administration close to our customers. We are large enough to compete and handle all of the customer’s requirements but small enough to care and be an active member of the local business community who generously contributes to the community. It is a value proposition that clients value in the mid-Atlantic region.” Centric Business Systems, Owing Mills, MD

“The biggest challenge is to continue to find ways to grow the business given that MFP revenues are flat across the country. That’s why we have dedicated significant resources to other revenue streams including MPS, MNS and mailing equipment.” Northern Business Machines, Burlington, MA

“Ultimately CBE must continue to grow revenue and profitability. Every day brings a new challenge. Creatively in solution selling is an ongoing experiment. Knowledge, training, learning, questioning, open mindedness and a little bit of luck are necessary to keep the forward momentum. Every CBE employee searches for a better way to fulfill our client’s expectations.

“Acquiring new customers is always easier, and more profitable, when we can provide a solution that the competition has not even thought of offering. This requires our sales and technical staff to continually grow their industry knowledge and be aware of industry offerings and trends. CBE must be able to quickly, seamlessly and economically provide a way to integrate the newest and most appropriate products into our client’s offices.” Cell Business Equipment (CBE), Irvine, CA

“Fraser’s biggest challenge remains recruiting quality sales people. While we have made some great inroads on this challenge, we continue to work diligently to improve the quality of recruiting within our sales force. Our internal recruiting team (General Sales Manager, Human Resources Manager, Branch Sales Managers) have implemented a rigorous process of selection and review. Working with technologies such as Linkedin we have seen success from our ongoing efforts.

“While recruiting remains our biggest challenge, we believe that quality is better than quantity when it comes to our sales force. Fraser is extremely proud to have a tenured sales staff and experienced service representatives, and we continue to have multiple internal promotions that allow us to create internal career paths for our strongest employees and help us to retain their strong leadership.” Fraser Advanced Information Systems, West Reading, PA

“Our biggest challenge is getting sales reps that have been with us for over 15 years in some cases to think differently and adapt to the ever changing marketplace. To help combat this challenge, Nauticon is providing biweekly training seminars for the reps to become more adept at understanding customer needs and how they can be addressed with solutions. The results have been fantastic. We exceeded $1.2 million in software sales in 2014.”Nauticon Imaging Systems, Gaithersburg, MD

“Oil prices have been our biggest challenge. Houston’s economy in large part depends upon a strong oil and gas community. With the large decline in oil prices we have had to find new ways to save our customers money. One of the biggest growth areas has been MPS because of the need to find additional savings. Also, we have had to grow business in other verticals such as healthcare and finance.”  Stargel Office Solutions, Houston, TX

“When you read all of the industry articles we all have the same issues, eroding margins, pressure from direct sales organizations try to squeeze out the dealers, finding good people, and so on and so on. Our challenges have nothing to do with external pressures but are all focused on how we continue to evolve our own culture, mixing the new young talent with long tenured employees, offering the right products at the right time, and developing a higher expertise level than our clients expect. We tend to be well ahead of the curve with new programs and products so slowing down until there is greater market acceptance is always a challenge. We are facing that challenge by educating our employees so they all have the confidence knowing they are the best at what they do. Hopefully through it all they always embrace that our clients always come first and our employees are a close second.” ACT Group, Cromwell, CT

“Growth can be simplified as keeping your current customers and going out and finding new ones. However, it isn’t easy to keep current customers. We have to bring our A game every day since there are always competitors knocking on our client’s door promising something ‘new and improved,’ a cheaper price, better service, etc. Our task is to insulate our customers from those pitches by performing day in and day out and tangibly showing them they’re already getting the best value.” Applied Imaging, Grand Rapids, MI

“Our approach to meet that challenge is twofold: 1.) Surround ourselves with highly successful IT businesses and learn as much as possible from them, and 2.) Challenge even the best in the industry to identify opportunities for innovation and new, better ways to serve clients.” Fisher’s Technology, Boise, ID 

“We solved one potential issue by going cloud based with all our systems. This not only increased the productivity of staff, but also increased security. However, the biggest issue we find is getting the right staff. All too often we have hired staff who say they subscribe to our philosophy but fall short. When we get good staff we look after them and that’s the key to keeping them. Upstream Office Solutions, Tampa, FL 

“The never ending challenge is finding the right people for consulting. We consistently recruit from about 12 Universities to fill the pipeline of sales consultants. We provide a comprehensive training program that is four months when they are first hired. The training covers everything from how businesses work to how to sell and everything in between.” ImageNet Consulting, Oklahoma City, OK 

“The biggest challenge ASI has recently faced is the continued commoditization of our traditional office product and maintenance offerings. With commoditization came increased pressure on hardware margins and an increasingly competitive cost-per-page (i.e. the race to zero). But rather than giving into these forces, ASI focused internally on being more efficient at what we do, and externally on bringing greater value to our customers. By taking a consultative approach – MDOM (Measure, Design, Optimize and Manage), ASI assesses the customer’s business, technical and physical environments and is able to provide a comprehensive deliverable complete with actionable items for their consideration.

“Additionally, identifying our Managed Services offering to the market has required that we adopt a best practices system to help solidify our offerings. To assist ASI with that strategy, we have joined forces with Service Leadership, Inc. ( an organization that measures best practices and designs specific models to achieve best-in-class profitability for service models in the managed service space.  The focus is designed to identify client’s technology offering (Tech Stack) and measure all components of your business to achieve the highest Operational Maturity Level (OML) in your market.

“With the additional of the VCIO (Virtual CIO), we are able to predict future technology challenges and design technology outcomes that are very proactive for clients. The VCIO is responsible for conducting all BTR’s for current ASI customers ensuring that the technology stack is consistent with the customers business goals.” ASI Business Solutions, Dallas, TX

“As with all copier dealers we recognize that industry wide meter clicks are declining and margins continue to fall. We have been able to avoid this by an increase in our market share. To offset this we have established a Furniture/Supply division so our customers may purchase everything they need for their offices through one source with one check. Managed Network Services is another program that we are offering to our customers as an added and ongoing revenue source.” Allen Business Machines (ABM), Fort Wayne, IN

“The challenge that we face year after year is staying up-to-date and adapting to our continuous growth. We need to continually update processes, programs, and offerings in order to stay relevant. This can be a challenge when you have been in business for 50 years. We rely heavily on the programs and processes we have in place. To change and/or update is extremely difficult. We have come across many road blocks with updating our backend processes but the changes are necessary.

“Most recently, in an effort to create a better and more efficient customer experience, TGI has upgraded to a new business management software system, ECi e-automate. We are confident that our new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system will allow us to better track, store, manage and interpret information. E-automate software is developed specifically for businesses that sell and service technology to manage their daily business processes such as accounting, contracts, inventory, purchasing, sales, service and more, saving time, money and manpower.

“All of TGI’s business functions now seamlessly integrate into one interface which provides insight allowing for better decision-making, faster. This will enable TGI to provide the most effective level of communication and service to our customers. Our top priority has always been and continues to be customer satisfaction. The challenges we face internally to provide the best customer service possible is has all been a part of our development to emerge as an Elite Dealer.” TGI, Brooklyn, NY 

“Transitioning to a solutions led organization is a large challenge most dealers face. Specifically recruiting a new sales talent that has an aptitude for solutions sales and training current sales teams to lead with solutions is the biggest challenge in this transition. Currently, we retain specialist in each market to assist sales representatives in spotting opportunities in these areas and helping meet the customer’s needs. Long-term, we will employ a training program to assist all sales teams in structured learning of the integrated solutions model.” RJ Young, Nashville, TN 

“Hiring sales staff in general continues to be challenging. We have refocused our HR manager, she will now only be doing recruiting and training.” Offix, LLC, Gainesville, VA 

“With our company now considered a full service office technology provider, it is challenging finding employees that are up to speed with the technologies we provide and the fast pace needed for service. We are continually trying to hire as fast as we can, while providing training for our current employees so that everyone can understand all of the new programs we offer. While exponential growth is a good problem to have, it can lead to internal challenges that continually need to be addressed. We have hired a new HR manger, Carmella Sieckmann, to help us continue to hire the right talent, while managing our current team.” Copier Fax Business Technologies, Buffalo, NY 

“Our biggest challenge is to continually grow our business in an industry that seems to overlook the core component of client value. It’s important as we move into more information technology solutions and services that the industry understands that when we commoditize these services, we hurt the entire industry not just individual dealers. “Our vision for 2020 will put us at $50 million and all our efforts are focused towards achieving that goal along with maintaining strong relationships with our clients. We will continue to expand and perfect our lines of business from Managed IT, Facilities Management, and print management and MFPs. The ability to cross sell within our product lines of businesses will distinguish our company from all others in our marketplace. We know we can be the one provider our clients can trust for all their business and technology needs.” Usherwood Office Technology, Syracuse, NY 

“As always, our biggest challenge is finding new talent to expand our organization.” OneDOC Managed Print Services, LLC, Oklahoma City, OK 

“The biggest challenge we are currently facing is entering a new market without acquiring a company. We opened two offices in Louisville and Lexington in 2014. To meet the challenge, we partnered with a vendor to help accelerate growth. [We are in the midst of a] disruptive marketing campaign that promises print costs reduction of 25 percent or Prosource will write [the customer] a check for the difference.” Prosource, Cincinnati, OH 

“IT services. We are presently hiring a second salesperson to call upon our customer base using the information we have gathered during our integration process. We know if the customer uses an outside service, or if they have an IT department and how capable that department is. We also have user and device knowledge as well as additional information that will make it easier for us to make sales appointments.” Commonwealth Digital Office Systems, Sterling, VA 

“Finding qualified resources to expand our Managed Print Services and IT services initiatives.” Ohio Business Machines (OBM), Holland, OH 

“Adapting and learning new technologies as fast as they come out.” On Demand, Inc., Houston, TX 

“Our biggest challenge is continuing to recruit and onboard elite people. Due to our growth (an average of 35 percent YOY), we need more employees to support and continue this growth. We have met this challenge by growing our internal recruiting team, creating a detailed on-boarding process, and enhancing the training programs for each department. It is our elite team of employees that are a significant component in our success equation. We are proud and protective of our 14 percent turnover rate in an industry that averages 50 percent.” Access Systems, Waukee, IA 

“Increased competition from manufacturers and businesses seeking to cut costs during recessionary times. DPOE has strengthened its service department to accommodate the wishes of customers who may wish to hold on longer to equipment. In so doing, DPOE has further specialized by incorporating Managed Services (IT) into its menu of offerings. DPOE can now provide IT support literally across the nation. Additionally, DPOE has extended its reach into archiving and offering video boards and conferencing capabilities.” Des Plaines Office Equipment, Elk Grove Village, IL

“Our greatest challenge is organizing and managing our scheduling processes more efficiently to meet the demand for technology. To tackle this obstacle, we continually develop new processes and procedures to meet our 2015 corporate goals, which focus on reliability, security, and relationship.” Team Office Technologies, Youngstown, OH

“Sustaining profit margins is the primary challenge facing United Imaging. We are offsetting this obstacle by bundling products and services within customer installations.” United Imaging, Woodland Hills, CA

“Increased competition and declining aftermarket margins [are our biggest challenges]. More and more, we are seeing bid results and competitive quotes that are not sustainable for any successful service provider to offer. This is largely occurring in large accounts in the GEM marketplace as well as some SMB business. Last year we started an initiative to add 10 additional sales people with the purpose of re-focusing on SMB business and establishing stronger and healthier relationships with our customers. By explaining the nature of our business, the quality of the services we provide and increasing customer attention we have been able to maintain current relationships and establish new relationships without always having to be the lowest price.” Word Processing Services, Inc., Hagerstown, MD

“Cross selling all Atlantic services within existing accounts [is our biggest challenge]. These services include imaging, document management, professional services, Managed Services, MPS, and network connect contracts. Another challenge has been the creation of sales rep territory reports, which provide a summary document of all customers and the services Atlantic Tomorrow’s Office is currently providing. The document identifies the areas of opportunity. In addition, the report identifies accounts that didn’t have FM Audit installed. These reports identify immediate MPS opportunities and competitive units currently installed.” Atlantic Tomorrow’s Office, New York, NY

“The biggest challenge is finding good hard working people that you can depend on to work on their own and be responsible. It’s like diamonds in the rough.” Advanced Business Solutions, St. John’s, FL

“Our biggest challenge is one many dealers face which is how to stay ahead of the curve on technology solutions as the document workflow environment is constantly evolving. To remain a provider of leading edge technology we have invested in our Managed Network Services division and are diversifying our portfolio of offerings to include a broader expanse of both software and hardware. [This will allow us to] become document workflow consultants who can provide solutions for all aspects of a document lifecycle in addition to IT services to reduce current IT staff burdens and help companies advance their current IT infrastructure. United Business Technologies, McLean, VA

“The story that makes us stand out also causes us the biggest challenge. Our horizontal story that covers multiple business units with multiple layers has brought with it a need for connected, purpose built systems. As the management team works to ‘future-scape’ our business, we have invested heavily financially and with human resources and are implementing SAP Business One ERP with MWA Intelligence. Initially, we are incorporating add-ons that will move our data to FORZA and LISA for our imaging teams to provide an industry specific solution. Over time, this will encompass our CRM’s, all financial systems and quoting systems for an open-architected investment that will allow flexibility for our continuing change.” Perry proTECH, Lima, OH

“Our biggest challenge has been attracting and hiring talented, caring people that want to work hard and make a difference for their company. To meet this challenge we’re developing a better understanding of our need by reaching out to people in the communities and companies we serve. In turn, they are finding people that they believe would be a good fit for us and are bringing us together. This so far has been our best source for finding and hiring new people.” Rhyme, Portage, WI

“The biggest challenge currently facing our business is hiring professional, goal-orientated sales people. In the last year we have increased our monthly incentives, offering everything from large flat screen smart TV’s to double quota bonuses in an effort to encourage and reward our performers. And although every opportunity, including ongoing training and certifications, is provided to the sales team, those who choose not to perform are quickly eliminated so that the managers can focus on the performers. Our owner’s mantra for success has always been ‘Maintain a Positive Mental Attitude,’ ‘Work Hard,’ and ‘Don’t Quit!’ Anyone who applies these three simple principles can and will be successful.” Copy Concepts, Fort Myers, FL

“Managing growth continues to be our biggest struggle. Our service department continues to work hard to support the dramatic increases in equipment placements while continuing to deliver excellent customer service.” 4 the Office, Pittstown, PA

Our biggest challenge is getting the word out to people about who we are and what we can do. Our business is not remotely comparable to our local competitors, and even further removed from the manufacturers. We are better by provable facts, but when you get lumped in with your competitors, it is a great challenge to not only differentiate yourself, but rise above the chatter. The other challenge is teaching the difference between low price and value.” Yuma Office Equipment, Yuma, AZ

“Turnover in sales personnel continues to be an area of concern for MOM. We continually seek opportunities to improve sales force retention rates. We’ve made some headway in this area over the last few years by implementing processes that start in the interview stage and continue throughout an associate’s tenure. “New sales associates go through MOM’s “Fast Start” 100 Day orientation program to get up to speed quickly and gain a solid understanding of the industry and MOM’s products and services. The program outlines ‘The MOM Way’ of selling, teaches them what tools they have to help them sell, what they are selling, time management, how to deal with objections from clients, how to focus on the benefits of working with MOM, steps to improve value, and how to practice their selling skills. This new 100-day process has shown great results with the new hires in terms of immediate sales and confidence in their selling ability. We know that our employees are our most valuable assets, and we strive to set them up for success.

“These programs and processes continue have had a positive impact on sales force retention because our new reps are seeing results with their sales. “Growth is also a challenge for our dealership as it probably is for many. The economy contributed to difficult growth, but the challenge is much greater. With less business opportunities everyone is trying to grab a bigger piece of the pie, and the pie is smaller. Competitors are trying to commoditize the industry and customers want more in the way of service. The answer to the challenge lies in what the customers are telling us. Yes, price is important, but the customers are not going to spend money just for the sake of spending money, they want solutions that solve their business challenges, and they want providers who have the expertise and commitment to help them implement these solutions. Partnering with the right suppliers and hiring and maintaining quality employees are the cornerstones to building a successful growth model.” Modern Office Methods, Cincinnati, OH

“We continue to expand our portfolio of products and services to ensure we proactively address the changing needs of businesses as technology evolves. With 51 years under our belt we encounter area business that have known us or partnered with us for decades. This can lead to misconceptions around Advance’s offerings available to their businesses.

“In order to better educate our customers and prospects on our diverse offerings and the benefits to their businesses, we use a number of strategies. Outside of advertising and marketing, we also arm our sales team with the tools they need to understand businesses in every industry and provide them with solutions to address their unique and complex needs. We do not believe in a one size fits all mentality so we approach each business with the goal of truly understanding their challenges, existing workflows, and organizational needs so that we can provide a holistic solution that addresses those elements. In addition to our in-depth discovery process for prospects, we also execute business reviews for our existing customers to make sure we are always aware of the goals and challenges of the organization. During this process, we also create awareness around additional offerings that can address their unique needs.” Advance Business Systems, Cockeysville, MD

“With the merger of Donnellon McCarthy and ABS Business Products, a company faces the challenges of combining two different organizational philosophies into a seamless organization. We are well on our way to doing so while performing as efficiently and productively with 100 percent customer satisfaction as the ultimate goal.” Donnellon McCarthy/ABS Business Products, Cincinnati, OH

“Recruiting the best people possible; Owner, Tom Beeles spends a lot of time ensuring we hire top employees. Once we hire those people we make sure they are given the continuous tools and training to be successful.” Allied Business Solutions, Boise, ID

“The nature of business continues to shift from hardware to software and solutions. We must keep up with customers’ needs as there continues to be constant changes in the marketplace while maintaining our continued growth goals. We keep up with changing technology by attending training courses offered by the manufactures as well as providing in-house training. We’re also shifting our focus and adapting our business model to incorporate the changes in the industry.” Business Copier Solutions, Poway, CA

“Copy Products’ primary challenge is overcoming the loss of top-line revenue caused by the declining prices of MFP and printer hardware. Like many other dealers, we have diversified into other offerings like MPS and document/workflow management solutions. We have also entered the digital signage and 3D printing space while offering products many of its competition does not.” Copy Products, Springfield, MO

“Fast growth through acquisition requires internal organizational changes. We have a plan in place to meet these new requirements as we grow, but it will be a challenge to stay on top of it and manage the growth. We are ready and eager to take this next step.” DEX Imaging, Inc., Tampa, FL

“The biggest challenge DNT currently faces is to continually evolve the portfolio of value-added offerings to its customers while ensuring high-quality performance is maintained for existing services. In addition to imaging/scanning services and document destruction services, DNT also now provides managed IT services to customers. Thoroughly integrating these offerings with MPS and the traditional equipment sales and service model has provided synergies across all divisions. As these other differentiated offerings have become more prominent components of DNT’s annual revenues, investment in people, technology, and infrastructure has been crucial. Over the past several months, DNT has completely renovated its main office, including its demo and showroom, and significantly upgraded its technology infrastructure. With these investments, DNT ensures it provides continuous value to its customers and positions itself to harness the current growth momentum for continued expansion in this highly competitive industry. Document & Network Technologies, Inc., Fenton, MO

“Hiring talent to keep up with the growth and changing demands of business technology customers, particularly in our technical and IT areas.” EO Johnson, Wausau, WI

“The greatest challenge facing Imagine is recruiting and hiring top-notch equipment and solutions sales staff.” Imagine Solutions for Business, Portland, OR

“Imagine Technology Group’s obvious challenge is hiring the right employees. The less obvious challenge is finding ways we can take its loyal customer base while continuing to offer them solutions to make their businesses more successful. We strive to remained focused internally and not forget that our goal is simple – to exceed the customer’s expectations.” Imagine Technology Group, Phoenix, AZ

“As we expand, getting quality leadership in all of our locations to ensure that we grow smartly, but also have the pride of doing things the Kelley way. For this reason, all hiring we have been doing has been very thorough, and the process has proven to be challenging, mostly in the amount of time it takes to find the right people.” Kelley Imaging Systems, Kent, WA

“Our challenge is always to remain innovative in the industry and a step ahead of what our clients want and need, while maintaining a positive workplace culture. The strategic course of the business is constantly being assessed and new opportunities to provide increased value are always sought. Not only do we look to provide innovative solutions, but we understand the key is to execute those opportunities effectively. “We continually want to ensure that our employees know what opportunities for training, development and advancement are available to them. We currently offer a two-year Management Training Program for our managers and are considering expanding that offer of training to those who have an interest in possibly moving into a management position in the future. As our workforce and revenue numbers have continued to grow it is important to stay focused on retaining good workers and true to our business model. Another area of challenge is fine-tuning and growing our IT Solutions business, particularly the Managed Services portion of that business unit. We are hiring good people, refining processes, and executing on a solid business plan.” Loffler Companies, Bloomington, MN

“While much of our competition focuses on pricing to promote business and gain clients, Mid Ohio is more of a values- driven company. One of our greatest challenges as an organization is maintaining the value we offer our partners. As such, we are constantly adding value to the community while providing local companies compelling reasons to partner with us. We also stress the importance of maintaining and creating close relationships and many area companies acknowledge and appreciate this mindset. While we do lose business due to price, our customer retention rate is 96 percent. We attribute this success to manner in which we conduct business as well as how our representatives care for our customers.” Mid Ohio Strategic Technologies, Columbus, OH

“With a 30 percent year-over-year increase in revenue, MBS is experiencing growing pains as hiring the right people to service the company’s expansion has been a challenge. Because of the importance of hiring the best personnel possible, MBS has invested in additional recruiting services, which has aided in adding top-shelf people to the company’s leadership team.” Millennium Business Systems, Livonia, MI

“Sustaining profitability is one of the greatest challenges facing Southwest Copy Systems. Our representatives are observing manufacturers’ sales providing unacceptable pricing models that can’t be supported by local dealers. They are also noticing this trend since manufacturer’s sales operations don’t have systems in place to provide the level of service a local or private provider can offer. This strategy by manufacturers has helped Southwest Copy Systems become even stronger and more focused. We are already experiencing success by reengaging with previous clients. Most of these clients are returning for one main reason: better service and support.” Southwest Copy Systems, Albuquerque, NM

“The transition from print to electronic capture [is our biggest challenge]. [To meet this challenge,] we’re increasing our knowledge and market position by partnering with leading software solution providers to take to market. We’re also exploring partnerships with IT Services companies to bring a turnkey solution to clients, gaining more of their business through this offering.” Stone’s Office Equipment, Richmond, VA

Scott Cullen
About the Author
Scott Cullen has been writing about the office technology industry since 1986. He can be reached at