Jose Lopez, President of Barlop Business Systems, discusses how his small family owned dealership stands out in the competitive Miami market.
If you’re going to do something you might as well do it well and that’s what Jose Lopez, president of Barlop Business Systems, has been doing ever since he began his career in the office equipment industry 44 years ago. Lopez started with Saxon Industries in 1972 and worked his way up to national parts manager. After Saxon went Chapter 11 in the early 1980’s and sold its various divisions, including service and parts to a Fairfield, New Jersey based company, Lopez moved to the new organization, traveling between New Jersey and Miami. Encouraged by his wife, who would later play a significant role in his future dealership, the Lopez family settled in Miami where Jose founded Barlop Business Systems in 1983.
Today, Barlop Business Systems has 35 employees and even though it’s still considered a small dealership, it’s never stopped making a big impact in the market, and was recognized last year as a 2015 Elite Dealer by this publication.
Lopez isn’t afraid to take chances whether it’s creating his own leasing business or altering Barlop’s go-to-market approach. Barlop has enjoyed 249 percent, that’s right, 249 percent growth in its home-grown leasing business. Since 2013, the dealership has been leading with its solutions offerings. This approach has seen Barlop’s solutions revenues triple during this period. For the record, Barlop’s solutions providers include Nuance (Equitrac, NSi), Ademero, Print Audit, EFI, RSA, MarcomCentral, and Objectif Lune.
Barlop has also made the transition into offering Managed Print Services, Managed Network Services, Document Management and Workflow solutions, and Business Process Optimization as well as production print. To ensure its success in these areas and build a new market brand, Barlop is leveraging social networking and e-mail marketing. The intent is to position the dealership as a client-focused, solutions-driven company. It has also revamped its sales processes and hired a dedicated solutions specialist to help sales reps evaluate document processes. In addition, Barlop has been hiring sales professionals with an IT and technology background.
Late last year I connected with Jose Lopez to get a better idea of how a small family business can remain relevant in the highly competitive Miami market for more than 30 years.
How was business last year?
Lopez: We did about $2 million more in sales in 2015 than 2014.
What do you attribute that to?
Lopez: Managed Print Services and solutions. We lead with solutions. We do a lot of government bids and we’ve doubled that business as well.
I also increased my sales force, not in volume, but in the quality of personnel.
What segments of the business are doing well for you?
Lopez: Solutions. We try not to just sell a copy machine anymore, but offer solutions to solve [the customer’s] pain.
What solutions are you doing well with?
Lopez: Ademero’s Document Management and Nuance NSi. Ricoh has quite a bit of solutions.
What segments of the business would you like to see improve?
Lopez: Managed Network Services. We need to do it, but I know we can to do better.
What’s that going to take?
Lopez: I’m trying to hire more technical people for my sales force that can sell network solutions. We need to get people who know more [about IT solutions] into the door with the customers.
Are you using a third-party Managed Network Solutions provider or doing it yourself?
Lopez: We just started working with N-Able.
How would you describe your customers?
Lopez: Small and medium size businesses. We have a handful of national and international companies as well.
Who do you consider your primary competition?
Lopez: Miami is a very competitive area. Canon and Ricoh are the two lines we compete against the most.
You sell Ricoh, Samsung, and OKI Data, how are each of those OEMs a good fit for Barlop?
Lopez: Ricoh is our flagship line. We used to be a Gestetner dealer before Ricoh bought them. Ricoh has a full line. We sell more Ricoh than anything else. I use OKI mostly for their A4 products. I like their products. We were offered Samsung and they’re taking off with their new line. They’re going to be a big player very soon. I like their printers as well and that’s what we need for MPS.
Tell me about Barlop Leasing, which has been growing at an amazing rate. What was the inspiration for getting into the leasing business?
Lopez: We started Barlop Leasing in 2008 when the economy got bad and the banks were tight with the approvals. I had a lot of customers who had been with me for many years and I knew what kind of customers they were. I started working with the customers I knew and [our leasing business] just developed and grew from there.
Was it a difficult thing to do?
Lopez: Getting money, yes. But it’s worked out. I did a lot of used equipment and ran the papers myself, and for good customers I’d put in new equipment as well. I’m cautious; I don’t go crazy and have to be sure it’s not going to backfire. I’ve been lucky so far.
You’ve been focusing on becoming a solutions and services-led company, how challenging was that and what steps did you take to do that?
Lopez: Our goal is to be a consultant. We want our sales reps to listen to the customer and understand their business. To do that we need to offer a solution that can help that customer [solve their problems]. Sales reps must be trained to find opportunities. And it requires a comp plan that’s based on selling a complete package—equipment, service and solutions. Our sales reps’ comp plan is better when they sell a solution than if they just sell equipment and service. That’s motivated them to go out and sell a solution.
One of the biggest things that’s helped us during the last three years is becoming a Pro Dealer Group member and interacting with other dealers and coming up with ideas.
You also offer production print, how’s that going?
Lopez: We’re doing it. We’re trying to focus on churches and copy centers of large businesses rather than commercial printers. We’ve been most successful with the Ricoh 5100. Production isn’t our biggest business. Again, our biggest is Managed Print Services. That’s where we see the most growth.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
Lopez: Boating and fishing. We have a house in the Keys and I go there with my wife, my daughters, and the grandkids.
What’s the one thing you’re best at that might impress your employees, customers, or dealer friends?
Lopez: I don’t know if I’m good at anything, but I’m consistent. I’m not going to do one thing one way one day and another way the next day. I love selling. I’m not supposed to go out and sell anymore, but I create good relationships with my customers. Many have become friends. And I still do a lot of business with a handshake.
Any plans to take it easy after all the time you’ve put into the business?
You’ve really turned this into a family business, haven’t you?
Lopez: My three daughters have been working with me ever since they graduated from university. Each has their own position. One is a good networker and handles outside retail. People know her and she’s good at developing sound relationships. My middle one is involved with in-house operations for supplies and Managed Print, and my youngest is the comptroller. My wife used to work with me. She retired a long time ago. She was the backbone of the business. Now, in the house she has the last word and in the business I’m the one with the last word.
After being in the business for all these years, what’s the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you first started?
Lopez: I should have interacted more with other dealers and helped with the benchmarking. I started doing that three years ago when I joined Pro Dealer Group. It has helped change my business.
What can we expect to see from Barlop in 2016?
Lopez: Our Managed Network Services business will increase and we’ll continue to raise our profile as a solutions-driven company.