by Patricia Ames
Innovolt, an innovator in the power protection sector, recently announced the appointment of two top executives in the channel – Ed McLaughlin and Phil Boatman. The Imaging Channel was intrigued by what we see as an aggressive move in the space and wanted to find out more, so we decided to talk to not only Innovolt CEO Jun Ho Son, but also the new team, President Phil Boatman and Vice-Chairman Ed McLaughlin.
This is quite a unique team that’s been assembled with an impressive amount of industry experience. JunHo, can you shed a little more light on why specifically these gentlemen were chosen and what you hope to achieve with this team?
JHS: It’s sometimes hard to get people’s attention, especially when people think they’ve heard it all. We are trying to reintroduce ourselves in a way that is both meaningful to our potential customers and our current customers, but then also be able to follow that up with very insightful and trustworthy dialogue. I saw an opportunity to bring on two people who could greatly accelerate our efforts.
At the core of this, Ed and Phil bring years of credibility and integrity to these conversations. Innovolt has great data, but the key is getting people to really want to look at the data and really want to understand what’s going on. That’s the hardest part to accomplish when you’re trying to break in and try to take market share from the 800-pound gorilla in the space. Now we have more reach in terms of who we can actually go talk to in a meaningful and engaged way.
Ed, you’ve had a chance to do a deep dive on the technology and have been working with JunHo in an advisory capacity for a while now. Where do you see big opportunity for Innovolt?
EM: Wherever there’s a service element, there’s an opportunity for Innovolt. More importantly, there’s a huge opportunity for the office equipment industry because, more than ever, the industry needs to be keenly aware of improving its incremental cost structure, its efficiency, and its ability to manage its fleet and its accounts better. In order to do that, you’ve got to have the right kinds of tools. Innovolt is not all the tools, but it certainly is one that can make a huge impact on the ability to refine and improve the incremental costs and efficiency of the organization.
It has to do with the ability to improve the performance by the remediation of power over stress being able to remedy rather than just being redundant is critical. Candidly, I think there’s a lot for the industry to gain, and yes, there are other markets for Innovolt to explore. They’ve already explored many of them and, interestingly enough, there’s a lot of data to support that those improvements are consistent in all those verticals.
Phil, you’ve been in the office equipment industry for a really long time. Once you’ve been in the industry a while, there’s a tendency to get a little complacent about it, maybe a little jaded, but you seem genuinely thrilled. What are you most excited about with this new opportunity?
PB: I think there’s so much market share and growth opportunity for Innovolt that the surface is only being scratched. It’s easy to see, and we have great supporting data that proves that the technology is superior. To be able to go apply that now and to be able to partner up with Ed and JunHo and Walter Crowder, our VP of sales, and take that message to so many people that need to hear it in our industry is very exciting. I just think that we’ve got more opportunity than has ever been available and it’s just going to be fertile ground to really go take Innovolt to new heights. I’m not trying to be cliché but I really see such an overwhelming opportunity to grow at a pace that’s going to make everybody take notice.
JunHo, we’ve been talking about markets in addition to the office equipment channel that can benefit from Innovolt’s technology. Are there any specific ones that you’re focusing on that you want to talk about?
JHS: ATMs and other branch automation equipment are areas that we’re just getting started in but are showing very compelling results with some real marquis brand-name players in the financial vertical. We are having a similar experience with vending. The vending machines that are around today are very different from the ones that we grew up with. They probably have more chips and computing power in them than the first Apollo rocket. It’s all part of an inevitable trend of increasing digitization of all the things that we’re used to using every day. What I’ve been trying to do since I took over the helm is to put some rigor and discipline and patience around developing some of these new opportunities so they actually turn into real businesses. When we enter these markets, we want to do it with full commitment and dedication and ability to execute.
How can your current and prospective dealers then leverage those adjacent market opportunities?
JHS: We at first like to show them that it doesn’t matter what kind of machine it is or what industry. We’re seeing very consistent results in terms of the benefits we bring. That’s how the conversation gets started. We start talking to the dealers about who they service. Dealers are one of the best routes to market to hitting some of the potential customers in this space. Which major OEM or dealer doesn’t, in one way, shape, or form, have relationships with the banks in their area or even national banks? All of them, right? Similarly, we know that we have an effect on gaming.
Dealers are always looking for ways to strengthen their relationship with their customers and continue to show how they’re driving value. Just by using our data from the office equipment side, it opens the door for them because then they can show the customer at a quarterly business review that their office equipment is protected and functioning but it also gives them the opportunity to highlight all the equipment hanging off their network that is NOT protected.
These types of conversations will expand the footprint and the strength of the relationship with the customer and emphasize that they continue to bring value beyond what they’re traditionally considered for. That’s the challenge of most businesses but I think it is felt acutely in the dealer and the copier space. Everyone’s trying to reinvent themselves for the next wave of growth. Dealers have one of the best assets you can use, which is longstanding trust and customer relationships. If we are honored enough for them to allow us to partner with them, it’s a great leg up for us and we hope that we’re contributing in our own way towards dealer growth.
Talk to us a little more about the data being collected and how it can be leveraged.
EM: First of all, data is not automatically knowledge. However, the way that the data is collected and analyzed is another source of knowledge for the dealer. How to monetize that information and knowledge — that will change and evolve over time depending upon the dealer and the account, and the importance of it in the account. Innovolt has been at the forefront of collecting meaningful data and analyzing it before anybody else in this segment has even thought about it.
This industry talks a lot about dealers getting into the services business. The services business is not just an extension of the transaction business, however. It’s a knowledge-based business. And the more knowledge the dealers have access to, the better they’re going to be at providing a services function to their customer and have meaningful conversations about ideas, about how to improve their account and how to improve the business. No one would have thought that an Innovolt device could help provide dealers with added knowledge, but it can. Continuing to look at ways to monetize that will be an ongoing challenge and an opportunity.
PB: I see it as a credibility source. Dealers’ integrity with their customers is based on being able to deliver what that customer needs. If the customer views that dealer as a trusted source and the dealer gains more credibility because of the data that we can provide through the Innovolt devices, that dealer’s going to be able to better take care of that customer and they’re a customer for life. The data provides knowledge, as Ed indicated, and it’s another source of credibility.
JHS: What we’re trying to do at the first instance is just provide very usable data. The first person that’s going to benefit from our data is not some data scientist that’s sitting in headquarters looking at terabytes of data. It’s going to be the tech that gets to a troubled machine and can show the customer that the fault does not lie with a bad product or because the tech does not know how to fix things. They’ll be able to show that the fault lies with the power. They’ll be able to send a report to the client immediately and show exactly what’s going on we have plenty of examples of dealers who are actually using it that way.
It’s not a tool for them to say I absolve myself of responsibility. It’s a tool for them to engage in dialogue as opposed to finger-pointing with their customer, to say “I’ve noticed this. This is what’s going on. It’s probably frying other machines here but for this machine that’s in trouble, what I would recommend as a more permanent fix is to call an electrician or maybe we move some of the other equipment on the circuit to alleviate the burden. “
Nothing makes a customer more loyal than knowing that the guy taking care of you is smart and knows what they’re doing. That’s one of the things that we’re really trying to do with our data – make our dealers’ techs the smartest guys in the room.
EM: Absolutely. You need knowledge, you need data, to feed you information to get you to that point. That’s credibility. Credibility is customer retention. Account retention in this zero-sum world is critical. This is a tool to make it happen. Data through analytics becomes knowledge. Data by itself is useless.
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. Follow her on Twitter at @OTGPublisher or contact her by email at email@example.com.
Patricia Ames is president and 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 15 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.