Industry Peer Groups: We All Benefit When We Share Ideas

Hello! And thanks to ENX Magazine for asking me to contribute this blog. It’s a great opportunity that ENX provides dealers when we have a chance to correspond and share our experiences and industry viewpoints. I’ve had the opportunity to write articles for a few of our industry magazines and websites over the years, and I’m always grateful when asked to do so.

I have found, throughout my years in our industry, that when we dealers get to share our thoughts, ideas and best practices, it benefits us all. That is what I hope to do in these blogs – to talk about our industry and share my experiences and thoughts. Equally as important, I want to learn from all of you as well.

By way of introduction, I’m the owner and CEO of Bay Copy, located in Rockland, MA, about 25 miles southeast of Boston. Our company is a second-generation family business, started by my dad in 1972 under the name Bay State Business Products. I worked in the business part-time as a kid, went to college, got my MBA and then worked a few years outside of the business in IT sales.  I’ve been in the industry for more than 36 years now and have served as president for 25-plus years following my father’s retirement. Today, we sell and service Konica Minolta, Toshiba, Muratec and Lexmark equipment, and are strong advocates of managed print solutions. We serve the Greater Boston market and, although our clients come from a wide range of industries, we focus much of our effort on the health care and financial industries.

We’re not the biggest dealer by any means. Nor has our journey been mistake-free. We would probably all agree, as business owners, that we can look back and ask ourselves “What might I have done differently in that situation?” Whether it’s creating that new position and going for a new hire, taking a chance on a new product line, or how we market our businesses and put ourselves “out there,” we can all learn from each other.

Our industry has changed considerably. There’s a great deal of consolidation, with smaller companies being acquired by larger ones and more aggressive competition from direct manufacturers in certain geographic markets. And of course, the shift toward managed print services (MPS) and Managed IT services has once again transformed the industry. Each of these issues and others will create challenges for us to address and solve.

I have been part of this industry for over three decades and believe now, as I did when I first began, that it’s a great industry to be in. There is maturity in the industry, but there is also opportunity. As dealers, we need to be nimble enough to adapt to the changing needs of our customers.

One of the greatest ways I have found to accomplish this goal is to have a strong network of other dealers in an industry peer-to-peer group. I am a founding member and former president of the Select Dealer Group, a trade association of dealers from across the United States (and one from Australia) who meet three times a year in different cities. We discuss issues that affect us as dealers and issues of importance to our industry, and we benchmark our financial performance.

Think of the advantages of talking with someone who works in your industry but is not a competitive threat to you. You can discuss, in a non-threatening environment, whether it’s worth investing in a new sales manager, what recruiting techniques have worked and which haven’t, what type of marketing has worked best in your industry, and if you are maximizing the use of your team of technicians. Also, do Chamber of Commerce trade shows work for attracting new customers? How do you stand strong against a manufacturer who is selling direct in your market? Which types of social media platforms are the most effective? From the simple to the more complex questions and issues, it’s invaluable to have a resource of individuals you can meet with and, in the in-between times, contact via email or phone. If you have colleagues in the industry who aren’t competitors, reach out to them. Or, if anyone may be interested in more information about Select Dealer Group, please email me, and I’ll be sure to get in touch.

And, don’t overlook the contests and competitions that our industry offers. One of them is the “Elite Dealer” which is promoted through this magazine. We’ve won the award 19 years in a row, and it’s great for our local promotional materials. It gives us the opportunity each year to do a self-evaluation as we complete the application. What are we doing well? What can we do better? What are we doing differently? Industry recognition and industry connection are both vital to staying abreast of a changing industry.

Thanks for reading…and please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or thoughts. See you next time.

Ray Belanger
About the Author
Ray Belanger is the owner and CEO of Bay Copy, a second-generation family dealership in Rockland, MA, that sells and services Konica Minolta, Toshiba, Muratec and Lexmark equipment. Bay Copy serves a variety of industries, with a concentration in the health care and financial industries.