Ted LeBlanc has more than earned the right to claim exalted status, having logged an illustrious career in the office technology world that spans four decades and includes stints with some of the most recognized names in the industry, including Panasonic, Sharp, Konica Minolta and (for the past 11 years) Toshiba America Business Solutions (TABS).
Ah, but the vice president, U.S. dealer sales for TABS isn’t having any of that. He doesn’t want a statue erected in his honor; look up the word “pretentious” and check out all the antonyms—genuine, honest and modest. They fit LeBlanc to a T. He is an everyman in every sense of the word, but the term belies his accomplishments and leadership skills.
Perhaps what makes LeBlanc so relatable is the fact that he’s interacted with people at every level of an operation, internally and externally—sales, service, software, dealers, branches, admin, marketing and, of course, the highest executive levels. His enthusiasm for all walks of life is nothing short of infectious, and his love of the industry during the 40-year run is unwavering.
“It has been fun every day, and no two days are alike,” said LeBlanc, a 2018 ENX Magazine Difference Maker. “If anybody gets bored with this job, there’s something wrong with them. I love it.”
LeBlanc’s backstory is one of opportunity and chance. After attending Georgetown University, he became a general manager for a restaurant and saloon in Washington, D.C. There was a core of regulars who were employed by Xerox, and he would chat with the patrons about copy machines. Soon, the idea of joining the industry was more than a passing fancy. And it’s a good thing; LeBlanc’s father was prodding him to leverage his education. So when an ad for a sales rep with a Maryland/D.C.-based dealership appeared in the Washington Post, he jumped at the opportunity.
LeBlanc got off to a slow start with the dealer, but quickly found his footing and was chosen to lead one of its offices. But when LeBlanc approached the owner about buying into the business, he was met with a terse “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass, we don’t need you.” That proved to be a minority opinion—LeBlanc would soon run the Panafax D.C. office for Panasonic/Visual Sciences of America, which offered the newest technology, called a fax machine. He later opened the Panafax Chicago office.
After being recruited by then-Konica Royal, he logged 15 years with the organization, running its dealer direct operations, along with Mexico and Canada oversight. He would later rejoin Panasonic as president before going to Sharp as director of dealer relations. LeBlanc joined Toshiba in 2007.
As an interesting postscript, the dealer who showed LeBlanc the door 12 years earlier reached out to him in the early 1990s. The dealer had been canceled by his vendors and wanted to know if he could carry the Konica line. After much soul-searching, LeBlanc gave the green light. That company is now a thriving dealership.
“I learned the value of never saying never, and understanding things can change,” LeBlanc remarked.
With LeBlanc, what you see is what you get. “Folks I work with see me as a straight shooter, someone who is not overly impressed with himself, but willing to lend a hand,” he said. “I’ll answer any question you ask. Right now, the best thing I have to offer is my years of experience. I’ve been there and done that in a lot of places.”
Blueprints for Success
Those many stops have yielded ample nuggets of wisdom that LeBlanc carries with him to this day. Former Panafax executive John Morrison, now retired, provided an excellent template for cultivating relationships, particularly at the B2B level, which included garnering trust and loyalty from the customer. Ronald Moore was another early influencer at Konica who helped bridge the gap with corporate executives, while former Global Imaging Systems President and CEO Tom Johnson provided perspective on doing business as an individual and forging partnerships.
“Tom said there were two ways of looking at business,” LeBlanc noted. “For one, if you would not write down what you’re doing and put it on the refrigerator of your house for everybody to see, then don’t do it. Anything you do in business today somehow, and in some way, can come back to haunt you.
“The second thing is the dinner test. He negotiated with a lot of companies on potential acquisitions, but regardless of what the numbers said, if a prospect could not pass the dinner test, he wouldn’t buy that dealer. You have to follow your instincts and do what your conscience pushes you toward. I take people at face value. I’m not naïve, but then again, I think the best approach is from an instinctual standpoint. If it doesn’t feel right, then don’t do it.”
This past year has been a successful one for Toshiba, as it has added 12 new dealers to its roster at a time when competition has become particularly fierce. This growth is essential to counter-balance the consolidation taking place in the dealer ranks, and LeBlanc feels tasked with ensuring clients find it easy to do business with Toshiba and appreciate the OEM’s straightforward approach.
Gaining Mind Share
LeBlanc notes the company is tracking at eight percent multifunction printer sales growth for the year and hopes to continue raising the bar well into 2019 and beyond. “The only way to meet and exceed our goals is to out-work the competition,” he said. “We compete for mindset every day. Dealers have choices, so we have to show ourselves to be the better choice. We want to outgrow competitors within a given dealership.”
It’s been an exciting year for LeBlanc personally as well. One of his two sons—he also has a daughter—walked down the aisle this year (“he married a wonderful woman”). LeBlanc enjoys golfing, when he has the opportunity and is into exercising and yoga. He also loves traveling, and a dealer group trip to South Africa was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
LeBlanc is engaged to Patti Pape, a TV advertising representative for CBS. But when the wedding bells will be ringing is still up for debate.
“Since we both travel so much, we haven’t pinned down a date,” he mused. “But if I don’t pull the trigger soon, she may pull the trigger on me…and not in a good way.”