Adieu to 2019: Final Thoughts on Dealer Challenges as New Year Begins

Call us sappy or sentimental, as while the calendar has turned the page, we wanted to squeeze in a handful of final thoughts as to what our Elite Dealers view as their primary challenges. After all, it may be a New Year, but our problems travel well and have a way of ignoring the calendar, the clock and anything else, for that matter.

Besides, January is a long month, and we’ll have plenty of time to provide insight into the New Year, along with trends and predictions. For now, we’ll spend a little more time vacuuming up the tree needles and collecting the empty bottles from the kitchen island. Enjoy these final insights on the issues that confront your fellow dealers.

Customer poaching is certainly nothing new, and even as dealers evolve their offerings, the penchant for a little gamesmanship will probably always be with us. Take Electronic Office Systems of Fairfield, New Jersey, which has 75 bona fide competitors in a hotly-contested New York metro market. Low-balling by competitors is a fact of business life. Fortunately, undercutting rarely (if ever) proves to be a viable, long-term strategy.

“Over our last 36 years, we have seen many competitors selling at their cost or below their cost as a sales and marketing strategy,” the dealer reported. “Every two to three years, we provide our sales reps with a list of the companies that have put themselves out of business being the low-cost provider.”

Evolve to Accommodate

Those speculators who got into the property leasing and renting market have enjoyed success in recent years, as businesses continue to outgrow their accommodations. For Docugraphics of Charleston, South Carolina, a lack of space has been a challenge.

“We are running out of warehouse and workspace to keep up with the volume and are planning to find new digs to lay the groundwork for further growth,” the dealer related.

The challenges brought on by growth have caused Access Systems of Waukee, Iowa, to evolve its executive leadership structure. CEO Shane Sloan is refocusing his efforts from day-to-day operations to concentrate on the firm’s strategies toward achieving its goal of $100 million in sales. A pair of vice presidents, Jay Agard and Jon Joynt, have been promoted. Agard is now president of operations while Joynt took over as president of sales.

“Together, they will work to improve processes and lead Access Systems to the next level,” the dealer noted.

Managed IT Path

Few would contest that opportunities exist in the managed IT space, as dealers grapple with the question of building out a platform, buying into an existing IT provider or selling programs offered by a number of third-party specialists. Having success in the space, however, has not been a cakewalk for many who have tried and failed. We have two examples of dealers that are looking at the managed IT proposition through different lenses.

“We are entering new markets like managed IT services as we diversify our revenues,” Benchmark Business Solutions of Lubbock, Texas, reported. “This must be done carefully and strategically. We are mindful to partner with brands we feel are at taking the lead with industry technology.”

Having the proper resources, particularly human talent, is one of the keys in the estimation of CPI Technologies of Springfield, Missouri. “Continuing to hire the bright minds that can help lead us into the future is something every dealer must be focused on every day,” the dealer reported.

Indeed, there are lessons to be learned for all dealers as the venture into new (or, for them, different) technologies. Southwest Copy Systems of Albuquerque, New Mexico, is well-versed on the subject of copiers and printers, and invests much time into learning and implementing new offerings. The dealer has heard tales of many competitors jumping in feet first without having a firm grounding on the fundamentals—a business faux pas.

“We have very strict vetting of our offerings and make sure that any of the products or service offerings we bring to our clients have been fully tested. We have the highest level of training in place before they are sold,” the dealer reported. “This is very important. If you bring on new products before you are proficient and an expert on the solution or offering you bring to a client, it can affect the other core offerings you have to offer.”

Marketing Sourcing

Developing a consistent and effective marketing strategy has been a critical quest for CopyLady of Fort Meyers, Florida. Since President and CEO Cynthia Duff has been a member of the local Rotary Club for the past 20 years, the dealer sought perspective from the organization in finding its point person. It proved to be a fortuitous move.

“We found a quality team member to hire as the company’s marketing director with the right marketing and public relations skills, temperament and personality to fit the company’s culture of ‘service above self,’” CopyLady reported.

Lastly, Donnellon McCarthy Enterprises of Cincinnati notes the ongoing drive to the bottom for cost-per-copy rates, which it notes can dip as low as .003 on black-and-white copies and .03 for color on competitive deals. It’s a scenario that is as unsustainable as it is unprofitable. “With this type of pricing, it is very difficult to maintain service profit margins that are close to what industry models suggest,” the dealer noted. “We continue to look to alternative sources of revenue, such as MPS and MNS, as ways to increase the bottom line.”

Erik Cagle
About the Author
Erik Cagle is the editorial director of ENX Magazine. He is an author, writer and editor who spent 18 years covering the commercial printing industry.