Selling copiers and compatible toner? You need to diversify now

If you’re an office equipment dealer and you’ve been on LinkedIn over the last couple days you’ve read some sobering news about an industry giant going into receivership as a “going concern.” I don’t think anybody is really shocked. But what does that mean going forward? Let’s look.

This is the second time in as many months that we’ve seen industry giants being forced to course-correct. As I mentioned in my blog about Clover Imaging, I believe that LMI Solutions has the right team to figure this out.

They may not, but I believe they will.

At it’s core LMI is a family business and that family is going to do everything humanly possible to realign the company and guard against as much impact for their customers as possible. If you know the Willerts you know what I’m talking about.

My view on this kind of thing is pretty clear: It aint’ over till it’s over.

I support my partners when they need it most. Simple.

What do these changes mean for our industry going forward?

But enough about them because really, everything that’s happening right now is more about us. Yes, we’re implicit, all of us. We’ve spent far too long turning a blind eye to the reality in front of us, that our channel is changing, evolving.

Customers are working differently, they have different needs, and yet we still try to fix most things with a new copier. That isn’t working, surprise. We need to look at our businesses very differently.

More on that in a bit. Let’s look at the current market reality.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend

After the HP and Xerox partnership was announced we all knew things were going to get interesting. When competitors team up to combat what they consider a significant threat in a shrinking market you know things are going to get a little squirrelly.

As I’ve said in other blogs, the OEMs are getting very creative on how they squeeze out compatible toner offerings. This will never fully succeed but it will force those who make compatible toner to revisit their business models or suffer big consequences.

The pie is shrinking

This one I’ve said for years because in my last post I actually had access to the data sets year over year. In the last five years I’ve watched print volumes per user decline. Some said that was baloney, but I watched five percent or more a year.

I said that over five years that would equal 20% to 30% decline. It happened and now we’re seeing the effects. I wasn’t the only one looking at the numbers, many others have been ringing the bell for quite a few years now.

Diversification is not an option — it’s required

I used to have some dealers tell me that managed print was still going to grow by double digits. For some dealers, yes, the ones doing a good job of taking other people’s customers. But the market overall is, well, see the point above.

The days of staying the course are behind us. Volumes will continue to decline for the foreseeable future and the consolidation frenzy as a tool for growth is going to slow.

If you’re an office equipment dealer there are three stark choices before you: diversify, sell, or die.

I’ll bet some reading this are still questioning that third point. The purists. Those that are just trying to sell, and sell fast. But for the rest looking to grow, well, that third point is probably weighing heavy on your mind.

It’s okay. I’ve had to diversify myself. You’re not alone.

I had a lot of people question me when I moved over to Tigerpaw because they weren’t sure of my logic. A lot of people asked me questions like:

“Your pedigree is with office equipment dealers, you can’t leave the imaging channel, can you?”


“Office equipment dealers aren’t going to do managed services, are they?”

I’m not hearing those questions anymore. After six months at Tigerpaw I’m hearing different things from my dealer friends and partners. Things like:

“Tigerpaw really seems to have what it takes for the future of our channel. You made a great move!”

Diversification leads to growth

Yes I did make a great move. By moving to Tigerpaw I wasn’t leaving the office equipment channel and my ecosystem behind by the way. Far from it!

Tigerpaw has spent years diversifying to be able to help office equipment dealers as well as managed services providers looking to offer managed print. We are in the office equipment channel folks.

And of course by joining Tigerpaw I was diversifying too! I joined a team that adds to my core strengths because when I ask my partners and customers to do the same, to diversify as well and to continue to work with me — then I had better be diversifying myself and be with a company that does the same!

The market that we call the office equipment channel is not going to die but it is experiencing a level-set, a correction. That’s okay if you diversify. Lots of stable income to help propel you into the future. Lots of opportunity to grow like crazy if you know where to look.

Our channel is not going to die. It will adapt, as it always has. It’s not about Clover or LMI, at least not in full. It’s about us all and the decisions we make on how we grow.

Traversing the event horizon

I know there are those that thinking I’m being naive and too optimistic, that’s fine. Let me tell you why I think that’s incorrect by looking at the past (a great teacher). In a past life (giving away my age) I was there for the “dot com bomb” when people said the internet was going to die, and now the world is using it to connect EVERYTHING. IOT anyone?

That being said, there aren’t as many players in the internet space and they aren’t just doing internet anymore.

The successful companies started offering cable TV and telephony as well. And then wireless and even credit cards. They diversified.

And now we will too. We have to. As the CEO of one of the major mega-dealers in a recent podcast interview said to me, “The event horizon isn’t coming, it’s already here.” Yeah, and the company he leads is growing big time. If he gets it, well… Shouldn’t we all?

A wake up call: do more, be more, grow more

If you’re using LMI or Clover for your products you clearly have to have a chat with them and make sure you’re comfortable with the measures they’re taking to protect and grow your business in challenging times. But if you’re concerned about the health and future of your business this is not enough, nor is it the biggest challenge facing your business.

No. What we need to do is take a closer look at our own businesses direction and ensure that we are really doing all we can to grow into the future. It’s not about “them”, after all, it’s about “us”. It’s not about “toner” it’s about “workflows” and making things easier for our customers.

Yes, it could involve toner, but it will also include document management, desktop as a service, intrusion detection and protection, and VOIP, to name a few. We’re not in the business of providing toner. We’re in the business of helping our customers to make the work of work easier and more productive.

Our job now requires more skills. Our job now requires new toolsets that are built for these new workflows. Yeah, Tigerpaw has some of those tools you’ll want to look at.

There is a lesson to be learned here, but it’s not about LMI or Clover. It’s about us. Yes, do what you have to ensure that your current partners are doing what they need to satisfy your current needs.

But don’t stop there.

Use it as a wake up call to do more, to become more, to offer more.

If you’re an office equipment dealer who believes that diversification can lead to growth and you’re ready to grow, we encourage you to reach out to Tigerpaw. We are passionate about helping office equipment dealers to successfully bridge the divide as they evolve into companies that look more like managed services ones. We’re growing and diversifying and would love to do it together. What are you waiting for?

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