Applying Lessons Learned from 2021 to Forge Path to Brighter Year

We’ve all heard the adage about life being a cruel teacher that gives you the test first, then teaches you the lesson. In that sense, it probably doesn’t matter that the test administered by 2021 included several elements that weren’t covered in previous instruction. Regardless, we suffered more than our share of lost points in the process, leaving us to smile through gritted teeth.

We could add a trite observation to the lessons learned from 2021 with the less-than-pithy “expect the unexpected.” That adds as little insight as it does consolation. Between supply chain babble and the conga line procession of exiting employees, the industry ironically reaped a reprieve from the talk of dwindling print volumes. The talk about building character won’t sit well here, either.

But as we usher in 2022, we must be optimistic in pushing forward and seek out the silver linings that could hopefully mitigate the boundless challenges that continue racing to the fore of business. With that in mind, we open our January State of the Industry report on trends and predictions for 2022 with a sampling of the views from our industry’s impact players on those teachable moments from 2021 that might yield the perspective we need to make the New Year a tad less onerous.

Roland Tolan

Roland Tolan, United Office Technologies Group: Try and embrace DX and expand offerings in the IT and unified communications area. Diversify the offering portfolio to make up for the decrease in clicks and focus on capitalizing on the remote workforce environment, which will grow exponentially next few years. I already see this change within my own account base and we are helping our clients to set up their remote employee offices with all the essentials and services of a regular office. More and more employers will want to reduce the massive brick-and-mortar office expenses as we move towards 2025 and beyond. The plan should include the capture of vertical markets through solutions that MFPs have to offer—hospitals, education and legal, to name a few. Add scanning and archiving solutions to portfolios and capitalize fast on these opportunities. Every competitor has MFPs, but you will find that only 25% of these are offered and installed with the solutions mentioned.

Adam Field

Adam Field, Kofax: Digital workflow transformation must continue to be a focus in the industry. Customers may have been somewhat understanding during a time when the world was hurting, businesses were shuttered, and our focus was on the health and safety of all. But as we come out of this pandemic, the leeway that customers gave will wane. They will soon again demand great, efficient experiences.

Automation will play a big role here as it cuts through the digital clutter while empowering employees to focus on items that are a value-add to the business. This also means 2022 business plans should focus on hiring employees with blended skillsets. Gone are the days of hiring technologists who know nothing about the business or product design, or the creative who knows nothing about how technology should be applied. The most valuable employees will be the ones who balance these skills to drive future vision.

Mike Marusic

Mike Marusic, Sharp: Diversification is key. Tomorrow’s office equipment dealer will be a true technology provider with the ability to cross multiple hardware and software offerings to solve their customers’ technology needs, and Sharp intends to be central to that offering. Many dealers also learned that having this IT-centric diversification also made hiring in this very difficult environment somewhat easier, as having a broad portfolio of solutions attracted more job seekers to their door.

Software will become increasingly important as a layer that makes these different, more diverse offerings easier for customers to adopt and leverage, and dealers will need to understand and offer some of these software-based solutions.

Joe Contreras

Joe Contreras, Epson: In regard to supply chain trends over the past couple of years, it is important that dealers communicate with OEM partners to better understand supply and demand situations and timelines, and ultimately, be able to educate and manage expectations with customers to help them plan ahead. The dealers nimble enough to manage through these circumstances, in partnership with the right suppliers, will emerge stronger. 

When planning out 2022, dealers should rationalize the range of solutions they have to offer. A dealer that provides a broad portfolio of print solutions, including those with low maintenance and intervention requirements, compelling TCO and outstanding service efficiency, is infinitely more valuable to customers as they plan for the future. Additionally, it’s recommended that dealers review page volume and service profitability for existing fleets. As opportunities arise to replace machines, they should consider solutions alternative to legacy MFPs that are sustainable and have a proven service advantage over laser products.

Erik Crane

Erik Crane, CPI Technologies: Dealers will need to be sure and have employee engagement/retention plans and dollars budgeted for these plans. Community outreach programs with volunteering opportunities or matching donations to charitable organizations are two ways to increase employee engagement. Once you find good people, retaining them is becoming more and more difficult to do. Helping employees and co-workers feel good about their job and employer could go a long way to keeping them at your business.  

Ken Staubitz

Ken Staubitz, Modern Office Methods: New revenue streams will be the key to success in 2022. Identifying your dealership’s talents and generating new business ideas to bring to market will increase new revenue and bottom-line profits. Be open to new ideas, look for those revenue streams that can be carried out by current staff and potentially sold to current clients in which you already have established relationships. 

AJ Baggott

AJ Baggott, RJ Young: Every dealer not preparing for increased hybrid/remote work both inside their dealerships and at their customers will be forced to be reactive versus proactive in delivering solutions. Further, the diversification of revenue streams and new profit centers will be critical to sustainability. Lastly, a business objective around internal automation of processes to become more efficient in light of personnel shortages is an absolute must.

Brad Cates

Brad Cates, Prosource: The past year has reinforced the importance of staying focused on the fundamentals of quality organizations: your values, customer experience, selling and servicing capabilities, culture and team. With this in mind, leaders should anchor their 2022 business plans in five key areas: culture, talent, growth, execution, and customer experience.

How will you set yourself apart to attract and retain talent to build the best team, especially when every other company is also competing for top talent? How will you continue to build your culture and create a positive environment that keeps your team engaged in your mission? How will you leverage your strengths to grow market share, and how will you adapt and innovate to drive growth in the future? And at the end of the day, how are you executing all of this to solve customer problems and deliver an unmatched experience?

These are tough questions, and the answers are not simple. But your plan should be. If you can’t describe why you’re here (purpose), what you stand for (values), where you’re going (goals/targets), and how you’re going to get there (strategies/plans) on one page and in three minutes or less, it’s too complicated.

At Prosource, we put this into action through our “Flight Plan.” Driven by our executive team, our Flight Plan maps out—on one page—the year’s strategies across those key areas, paired with actionable steps to achieve our goals.

Matteo Recanatini

Matteo Recanatini, Offix: Flexibility, adaptability, and knowledge. The flexibility to provide “solutions”, rather than products (“I’m selling you efficiency, ROI, more time to focus on your business, etc., rather than a box that makes copies, or performs a specific task”); adaptability to the changing needs of customers: 2020 and 2021 have been disruption years, between the pandemic and the logistics and chip-shortage challenges. 2021 saw a lot of companies still dazed and confused, and struggling to regain balance. Contingency plans must refocus resources to deliver new products and services that respond to actual needs, and a structure that allows the business to expand and contract based on demand. Knowledge means training sales staff on everything, from effective discovery to time management, to effective use of the CRM and product/solution understanding.

Todd Croteau

Todd Croteau, All Covered: Dealers should focus on finding new revenue opportunities by continuing to embrace digital transformation and uncovering new technologies and growth areas. Additional profit can be easily realized by selling more to your existing customers. Dealers need to educate their sales teams on alternative technologies and solutions in these new growth areas. Expanding managed IT, ECM, security and managed voice are all growth opportunities within the existing customer base. Start small; figure out what you can become an expert in and engage with your customers to sell it.

Dealers should also be armed to support the hybrid workforce to meet customers’ evolving needs for managed services, security, collaboration and more. They will need to take on a much more consultative role to identify each customer’s unique needs – which can vary by industry – and strategize the best technology options for each clients’ workforce.

Jim Coriddi

Jim Coriddi, Ricoh: Dealers will want to focus on building digital workplace offerings that meet evolving demand in various vertical markets, such as health care and education. Increasing knowledge around and comfortability with the nuances of specific vertical markets will help dealers more effectively meet customer needs in these areas.

Dealers will also want to consider expanding into new, rapidly growing areas to add value, increase customer reach and boost their profit potential. For example, wide-format technologies targeted at the sign and graphics market are a highly profitable adjacency to production printing. This market is expected to grow double digits over the next five years, making this is a great area for dealers to expand into, as it will enable them to diversify their portfolio of offerings. Also, by introducing adjacent solutions like wide-format to their current imaging portfolio, dealers can leverage their existing infrastructure to cross and upsell, while at the same time accessing new markets, customers, and lines of business. The ability to recruit and retain talent is also an important focus area for dealers to include in 2022 business planning, as many businesses and organizations faced staffing shortages due to the pandemic throughout 2021 and worker deficits are expected to continue well into the New Year.

Nick Capparelli

Nick Capparelli, LEAF: I think one of the most important factors for success in 2022 will be having a strong hybrid office strategy and the resources lined up to execute it. That can include any in-house resources you have in place to meet hybrid office needs from a products and services perspective, but the dealers who see the greatest success will be the ones who take the lead in solution development and design. Frankly, a lot of businesses are overwhelmed with everything involved in the shift to hybrid, so it’s a major selling point for dealers who can take some of the planning work off their plates and free up some bandwidth to focus on other growth needs. Most office technology dealers will also need to marshal support from third parties willing to collaborate in providing support for pieces of the hybrid puzzle that the dealer doesn’t offer directly, such as health and safety technology or office furnishings.

In addition, office technology dealers should be sure they’re partnered with a finance provider that can handle all the moving parts of these complex hybrid work solutions so the customer isn’t left juggling multiple agreements and payments every month. The whole point here is to make things as easy and affordable as possible for businesses that are overwhelmed with the shift. If you can do that, you’ll win opportunities in 2022 and put yourself in a strong position for long-term strength in the marketplace.

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.