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Imaging channel owners are entrepreneurs. Why is that both good and bad?

Do you know what makes entrepreneurs like you and I different? It’s the voices inside our heads. Sure, everyone hears voices. You know, that feeling in your gut giving you the “go for it” or “hold back” message? We often ignore one voice more than normal: the one that tells us to rethink things. Not proceed. Avoid the risk. The “You’re not serious?” voice. If you are in the imaging channel, it’s time to listen to that voice.

In 2003, I hired a developer to research the firmware that ran printers. I had a hunch. Since printers were now mostly networked, they had to adhere to common network protocols. And since many developers like standards, I felt that maybe I could pull some information from the printers on a network. My hunch was correct. The developer, however, STRONGLY advised me not to proceed with the project and develop a software that could do this. He reasoned that while it was possible, it was a lot of work. Some manufacturers put the information in different places, some networks were different, and it was just a complicated process that once you start, won’t ever end. In short, he spoke to me in the “You’re not serious?” voice.

That was fantastic news! I explained to him that if his response were that it was easy, I wouldn’t be able to extract value from customers. If it were easy, people could do it themselves. That is the story of the product that became PrintFleet—the world’s first multi-vendor remote monitoring software for printers. 

We used the same logic when I built MPSToolbox. I saw an opportunity to create what was complicated for the imaging industry: build an e-commerce platform that all resellers could use. The amount of work involved for one company to build a site and use it only for themself, was not realistic. But, if we could build something that would service hundreds of customers? Game on.

Since Covid hit, and in fairness, even before then, I’ve had many heart-to-heart conversations with business owners, and importantly, with entrepreneurs from outside of our industry. When I explain that most of my customers are B2B resellers that sell and service large printers and photocopy machines into small and medium businesses in North America, I get ‘the look’. You know that look, it's the one where people don’t want to hurt your feelings, but the look asks “You’re not serious?” They know what many in our industry refuse to admit:

Office printing is an industry in decline. Companies that focus on office printing will work harder every year to sell less, and will therefore generate less earnings, as remaining players fight over slices of a rapidly decreasing pie.

You need to listen to that voice now. Investors, employees and eventually customers will not flock to a business that keeps shouting why it is important over the evidence that screams differently. This is not an opinion, it's where we are in 2020.

Here’s why listening to this voice is good news: OEMs, distributors, industry pundits, finance companies are all in denial. But, shhhhh. Don’t tell them about why they shouldn’t be in denial. You are like the little kid watching the parade go by that suddenly realizes the emperor has no clothes. The difference is, you don’t shout it out.

What do you do?

Take stock. You recognize that you have something incredibly valuable. What is that thing? 

A massive local customer base. You likely have more contracts with local businesses than any other business in your region

You have already done the hardest thing in sales. You have the customers. Standalone B2B print resellers are going to die a painful, certain death. You must reorient your business to sell these beautiful customers more than just print. Technology products can be financed. They can be purchased or financed online, and your customers can make the leap to online e-commerce with you. They are already online. It's time to listen to that other voice. 

Yes, I am serious. 

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