Success is increasingly tied to creating business without a governor on thought, action and speed. Thought and action are expected in most business environments, but unfortunately, great EBITDA is not necessarily proof of how well you think and act, let alone the speed with which you move. The only limitations for success are self-imposed and very human.
The world is moving at an unprecedented rate and accelerates with every passing day. One significant KPI change for our industry is the absolute need for business agility to be applied with skill, accuracy, vision and speed. The imaging channel has enjoyed a great and historically predictable formula. In today’s world, however, managing to past achievement is the absolute opposite of business agility for success tomorrow. So how do we improve our agility?
What is business agility?
Wikipedia would tell you that business agility “refers to rapid, continuous, and systematic evolutionary adaptation and entrepreneurial innovation directed at gaining and maintaining competitive advantage.” There are a lot of big buzzwords packed into that sentence and I think that the definition can be much simpler. Business agility is constantly finding ways to do it better, faster, cheaper, and with fewer people. You must approach your customers with the same mantra. What do your customers need to be less expensive, better, and faster? How can you deliver that product cheaper, better, faster, and with less people? How can copier dealers become more agile?
The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what your product or service is. At a certain size and scale, all organizations inevitably find themselves at a crossroads where they’re forced to confront their inefficiencies and embark on the painful journey to whatever comes next. The other option is extinction. The copier market is certainly approaching this point — revenues have been lost in the last year, and dealers who want to survive need to find a new way to make up for it. Being proud of our history is important, but it is not our future.
Whether IT services, software, e-commerce, AI, cybersecurity – new platforms are needed to create new opportunities. The good part about this is that, once you get into areas like IT, security and software, you have a pre-existing trail to follow, and it’s a trail that has, in many cases, been blazed by some of the world’s leading tech companies.
So once again, how do copier dealers make this type of business agility work for them? First of all, rebrand! Should we still be calling this the imaging channel? Should we still be referring to ourselves as copier dealers? The hallmarks of this channel and the people in it are innovation, adaptability, and flexibility – let your public persona reflect that. Then, be sure to get a workout – physically and mentally. Stretch out, get in shape, and use all the tools at your disposal – software, hardware, people and processes.
The dealer agility toolbox
Remote fleet monitoring and management, smart DCAs, and data analytics. Together, these technologies enable print providers to monitor and manage their entire fleet in real time, from a single location. No dispatching techs to read meters or turn a machine off and on. Dealers can automate metering tasks, ensuring that every last print, copy, scan, and fax is accounted for. Data analytics tools can predict when a part will fail or when a certain consumable will be depleted. This allows dealers to provide automated, JIT consumables replenishment for customers, and proactive service to machines. Dealers don’t have to hold a ton of inventory and replacement parts, freeing up cash flow that can be used for other improvements to the business, and the service department can spot and fix a little, inexpensive problem before it turns into a big, expensive one. And with remote fleet management solutions, you might be able to fix the problem from the comfort of your dealerships, eliminating the need to dispatch a tech altogether.
Software. Whether used to improve your own operations or to help solve your customers problems, software is a key component of business agility. Leveraging software to improve your business isn’t limited to a smart fleet management system or an ecommerce platform. Even something as basic as a software product that simplifies your taxes can help your business be more agile.
When you’re selling software, it doesn’t even need to be hardware related. You want a software package that can stand on its own and address pain points in a supply chain that has a million potholes. These are sticky products that get you a foot in the door, and a way to expand your presence thereafter.
Ecommerce. You have to meet your customers where they do their shopping. Lately, that place is online. Last year, ecommerce grew by 40% in the US, accounting for $4.2 trillion in sales. And that number is only expected to grow.
We are not immune to this trend in the print space. In fact, ecommerce exploded by 300% in the print space over the course of the pandemic. Megadealers are going to take advantage of ecommerce. Over the next two years, I expect it to make up 25% to 30% of their sales. Not only will that make them more accessible to your customers, but it also enables them to reduce their cost of sale tremendously. A lower cost of sale to the megadealers helps them lower their costs even more, and muscle you out of more accounts.
Forget about the 25% of your revenue that you lost last year. It’s gone. Hindsight being 20/20 and all, an agile business wouldn’t have lost 25%. All COVID-19 did was accelerate the inevitable — this day was always coming — and agile businesses were able to adapt before they felt the pain.
If the pandemic is your wake-up call and you want to be an agile business, then you shouldn’t be thinking of ways to get just that 25% back. Getting back what you lost is not success. Getting that 25% back — and then some — is success. And only an agile business that can do it better, cheaper, faster, and with less people will succeed. Just like your physical muscles, your business muscles will atrophy if you don’t use them. Get those workouts in and keep your business agile.