This guest blog was contributed by Scott Cullen | 9/13/13

If you were starting your career today, would you consider a position in the imaging industry? I ask that because there’s a school of thought these days that it’s a dying industry, so why would anyone in their right mind become a part of it? The good old days are well behind us, and winter, to use a “Game of Thrones” phrase, is coming. Hardware sales and printed output are trending downward, and software solutions and services are the wave of the future. And making money off of solutions and services is something plenty of old-school imaging technology dealers are still trying to figure out how to do.

But does that mean it’s a dying industry?

You might reach that conclusion based on anecdotal evidence. For example, attend any dealer meeting or industry event today, and what demographic still rules? You got it: males well over 50. But I’ll tell you this: Most are in pretty good shape and probably going to be around awhile longer.

I’ve also run across dealers like JD Sullivan, president of Image Matters in Knoxville, Tenn., whose sales reps range in age from 23 to 27 and don’t walk into a prospective client’s site looking to sell a box. All of them have IT skills and focus on managed print first and the box sale later. Doesn’t sound like these young reps are working in a dying industry to me. 

Another sign the industry isn’t in as dire straits as some would have you believe is that there’s no shortage of offspring entering the business. Indeed, it’s a family affair in many dealerships (Fraser AIS; DPOE; Atlantic, Tomorrow’s Office; Quality Business Systems; and Impact Networking, to name a few), which begs another question: Would you bring you kid into a dying business?

Okay, that’s pretty much the same as my first question and illustrates the never-say-die, never-give-up, survival-at-all-costs attitude of the independent dealer. Well, either that, or it illustrates a failure to see the writing on the wall.

I’ll be optimistic and believe the former.

We’ve all read countless articles and columns over the years lauding the staying power of independent dealers, and maybe they really do know something the industry observers who are predicting the imaging industry’s demise don’t. 

I interview hundreds of dealers over the course of a year, and although there’s the occasional sense of frustration about dealing with change, I’ve yet to find a dealer who admits that the clock is ticking on the industry and his or her business. Will the industry and dealerships look different in another 10 years? Of course they will … just as they did 10 years ago – and 10 years before that. The beat goes on.

So, would you still do it all over again?

The smart money is still on the imaging channel, and if I were a young person coming out of school with IT and technical skills and a knack for sales and/or service, I’d put my bets on it.

Scott Cullen

Scott Cullen is the editor of The Week in Imaging (www.theweekinimaging.com), a weekly online publication, and a frequent contributor to office technology and imaging industry publications, including The Imaging Channel.