An Afternoon With Smile Business Products

Success in the public sector is no easy task, and if you are not a sizable organization, selling in to those environments becomes even more challenging. Recently Joe Reeves of Smile Business Products in Sacramento opened the doors to BPO Media, and I got the full tour — including a bus with a bar — while Reeves outlined the innovative products they sell.

Smile Business Products

Smile opened its doors
back in 1997, and since then has branched out from California, expanding their
operations into neighboring Nevada. In total, the company has 147 employees
spread out across eight locations: Sacramento, Lathrop, Walnut Creek, Salinas,
Napa, Chico, and Redding in California, plus a sales office in Reno, Nevada.

Smile front

Smile carries hardware and software from Sharp, Lexmark, Fujitsu, Panasonic and Samsung. The company also provides managed network services, printer, communications, document management, copy/print vending and maintenance services. In all, Smile does in excess of $30 million in revenue every year, according to Reeves.

Big deals

Smile has found success
in the public sector. Last year, the company was awarded a large contract to
provide copiers for the entire state of California. According to a press
release from Sharp, the deal runs for three years, in which Smile will be
responsible for upgrading and replacing existing equipment with color and
monochrome MFPs from Sharp. The deal also gives California’s agencies free
access to Sharp’s toner recycling program, which provides kits that can be used
to recycle cartridges, bottles, toner collection containers, and drum units.

The digs

To give you an idea of
just how much Smile has going on, it took Reeves 90 minutes to show me his
facilities. One of the first things Reeves showed me was one of the Sharp AQUOS BOARDs. The device’s 70-inch LCD panel
delivers 4K Ultra-HD resolution, and enables multiple users to annotate
documents at the same time. Reeves said that engineers are particularly fond of
the device. Typically, he’ll load a 4K, color blueprint and show engineers how
easy it is to change, annotate, and plot plans on the fly. “Every time
someone’s seen that, they want it,” he said.  

smil help desk

Next, Reeves showed me
where his dispatch team sits. “About one-third of our service calls are triaged
here,” said Reeves. Smile’s dispatch team is very efficient, averaging 12
minutes from pickup to remediation. Dispatchers are trained to ask the right
questions, like “would you like to speak with a NOC technician before we
dispatch someone to your location?” According to Reeves, about a third of the
time the problem can be solved from the network operations center (NOC), which
is a big time and money saver.     

Smile NOC

In the copier showroom
(and everywhere in the building, really), there was an interactive white board (IWB),
a large table, and copiers and MFPs, obviously. All of Smile’s showrooms are
identical, Reeves told me. Each IWB is loaded with sales collateral,
presentations, and demos, a helpful tool for sales reps to provide customers
with all the information they’d want to see.

Smile has a lot of hardware on hand. When business gets really brisk at Smile, they’ll have so much equipment coming in, that they’ll have to store overflow in a rented airplane hangar. At times, as many as 100 machines — accompanied by paper decks, finishers, and other accessories — might come in at a time. “There can be about 500 units. You’ve got to put them somewhere.”

Get on the bus

When you’ve been to as many events as I have, you grow to appreciate a booth with a bar. But even better than a booth with a bar, is a bus with a bar. And that’s exactly what Reeves showed me next. “Years ago, we used to take this to the conventions. Everybody had their booth, but we’d come in a bus,” said Reeves. While guests checked out copiers, they could jump on board for a quick martini (or two).

Nowadays, Smile incorporates their bus into their open houses to present solutions. Like everything else at Smile, the bus has its own IWB that is preloaded with marketing materials and videos, so sales reps can present and demonstrate software. For example, a sales rep can simulate a broken machine, call into the NOC where a technician can take control of the device remotely, identify the problem, and fix it.

The chameleon

Over the past 20 years, Smile has been able to adapt to the drastically changing office equipment market. They’ve evolved with the times, adding new technology and managed services to help their customers overcome the struggles of modern technology. They are also creative. I mean, come on – they built a bar and a lot of technology into a bus and use it as a mobile showroom. Bringing the demo to the end user, and offering liquid encouragement – that’s not a bad approach  to the trials and tribulations of digital transformation.

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Patricia Ames

Patricia Ames

Patricia Ames is senior analyst for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Ames has worked for prominent consulting firms including KPMG and has more than 10 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community.