With a busy fall laid out in front of us, it’s time to review how Kyocera sees the near future proceeding. Here’s what we learned in a closed-door analyst session with President and CEO Oscar Sanchez during their annual dealer conference in Las Vegas a while back. He spent an hour fielding questions about everything from branding and selling solutions, to how the company plans on helping dealers grow their business.
We can’t keep doing things the same way
In the past, Kyocera Document Solutions enjoyed very high growth rates. But in the last two years, revenue has plateaued. This tells Sanchez that the company needs to take a different approach. An obvious change is Kyocera’s venture into selling software like Hyland. “I think that the product makes a big difference,” he said. It equips dealers with an affordably priced cloud-based solution that can help them grow in the mid-market. Sanchez sees Hyland as a great way for dealers to get their feet wet with managed services.
Sanchez’s message of change wasn’t just about expanding software and professional services. He also wants to see Kyocera improve the way they run their core business. “I think we can become more efficient, we can help our dealers to improve their direct marketing capabilities, we can really have more integration in the value chain,” he said.
Another way Kyocera plans on doing things differently, is by bringing in some fresh blood with a new perspective. As the company is filling key positions, one thing Sanchez is NOT specifically looking for is experience in the industry. “It’s not because there is something wrong, but because we want someone that has a different perspective,” he said.
Supporting dealers in the era of disruption
One of Sanchez’s primary concerns is how dealers will integrate cloud-based solutions and services into their portfolio. How will dealers train their sales reps to sell a completely different product using a different approach? How do they incentivize sales reps to move services and solutions, when their current compensation models incentivize reps to push boxes? How do they compensate sales reps, when you’re waiting 36, 48 or 60 months to make any serious money?
To address these problems, Sanchez says Kyocera will need to be more than just a supplier of copiers and printers to their dealers. They can’t just go to dealers and say, “take this cloud-based model, which is fantastic, and sell it. This is what the customer wants — good luck!” Instead, Sanchez said Kyocera will be supportive, providing help and training along the way. They will guide dealers in creating a compensation model that is sustainable. He noted that the company recently simplified licensing models, which should also make it easy for customers to do business with Kyocera dealers.
Getting out there
“I think that our brand recognition is lower than most of our competitors,” said Sanchez, noting you won’t find some romanticized story about Kyocera’s origins in a 20-minute Hollywood produced commercial. But when you take a look at the inner workings of Kyocera, it makes a lot of sense — a significant portion of their business comes from OEMing components behind the scenes. Yet, Sanchez indicated that the company is already investing more money into their marketing efforts than in the past. But throwing money at a problem doesn’t solve it. “Trying to invest in a brand that doesn’t have a clear meaning for everyone, I think that makes it more challenging,” said Sanchez. “We’re trying to reposition the brand in a uniform way, and then after that, we can make, increase our investments and try to achieve better brand awareness.”
These are interesting changes on the horizon at Kyocera. As the industry continues to shapeshift, Kyocera will continue to lean on software and professional services to grow the business, while searching for new ways to improve their core business. We’re in the middle of a disruptive time in our industry — it almost feels like an identity crisis. Both OEMs and dealers are trying to redefine themselves and hopefully secure a slot in the new world order. The spoils will probably go to the ones that can most successfully and seamlessly work with their partners to provide complicated portfolios of services and solutions in very flexible formats. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?