They say the office equipment channel is on fire. What are you going to do about it?

What a summer it’s been for the office equipment industry!  The biggest news was the Xerox & HP partnership for managed print. I would love to have been in the boardroom when this deal was proposed. Sheer brilliance and a total bombshell for many. This partnership is an exceptionally big deal and its ramifications are being felt profoundly in the office equipment channel. The hardest hit (so far) are those companies remanufacturing toner for managed print programs. I’ve written a couple of blogs on this already so won’t repeat myself here. You can find them here if you haven’t read my thoughts yet and would like to. That being said, I don’t think the fallout of deal is over yet, and I also believe that it’s only a matter of time before other OEMs take similar tacks. 

Print volumes are in decline too. Trust me, if they weren’t, HP and Xerox wouldn’t be buddies right now.  They’d be competing for every new page. And the partnership wouldn’t have had the impact on the remanufacturing folks to the extent that they have. Lots of money, hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars went back to the OEMs and good luck getting any of it back. That money is gone.

If I were you I would disregard the first two paragraphs of this blog. Why? Because talk doesn’t effect change. It’s just flapping lips saying “I told you so!” Talk isn’t enough, what our channel requires right now is leadership.  Leadership and action effect change. Don’t get me wrong, we need to talk about the issues affecting our industry but if that’s where our efforts end we’re not doing our businesses or our industry any good. The expression “talk is cheap” is a famous one for a reason.  It’s true.

So as leaders what are we to do beyond talk? I’ve had some pretty awesome mentors in my life and the one piece of advice they’ve all given me: “Don’t talk about a problem unless you’ve got some ideas around a solution.” We need to work on solutions and we can’t do that in a vacuum.  We need to work with others with a similar desire to effect positive change and drive the future of the office equipment channel.  Here is a great way to start:

Join the MPSA:  The MPSA, or Managed Print Services Association, is an organization whose sole purpose is the betterment of our channel. I totally eat my own dog food on this one and am proud to serve on the executive council. As an office equipment dealer the MPSA is an incredible place to contribute, learn, and shape the future of the office equipment channel. Its mandate has expanded far beyond the printed page, and that is important. As they say on their website:

“The mission of the MPSA and its members is to address and optimize businesses’ office document management while enhancing the growth, efficiency, and profitability of the MPS segment through advocacy, marketing, education, research, standards and a general community of interest.”

I think the key one for me is “general community of interest” because in troubling times its up to all of us to do our part for the benefit of the whole.  Rising tides raise all ships and the MPSA has always been an impartial and passionate group of folks dedicated to making a difference. You can learn more by visiting or by contacting me directly.

Join the BTA:  The Business Technology Association is an incredible group of dealers and industry partners that care about the health and success of its members like no other. They don’t shy away from the issues, it’s not an “echo chamber” or people patting themselves on the back. The BTA, I can tell you from experience, faces issues and controversies in the channel with a singular eye on helping dealers to navigate and succeed. They rock. Not only that, they host some of the best industry gatherings I’ve ever been to, a ton of fun! Education and driving the industry forward can be fun, right? I’m excited to be going to their Grand Slam event in NYC in September and their Capture The Magic event in November in gorgeous San Diego!

Join CompTIA: When you think of CompTIA you might have an image of A++ Certification in your mind.  While they do produce a lot of great certification training they are much, much more than that. Their membership includes the most diverse set of channels to be found anywhere on earth. If you’re looking to diversify your offerings into managed IT, Security, etc., you need to be a part of this organization. You’ll meet industry pros from all channels that you can learn from and work with on a peer level. If you want to do more than managed print, you need to belong to a group that is more than managed print.  CompTIA is that group. To learn more, visit

You don’t have to join them all, but at least by being an active member of one or two you’ll be doing your part to make a difference, to direct and guide the future of the office equipment channel.

Of course there are things you should be doing to help your own business sooner than later as well. If you want your business to be in a leadership position and to lower the risk of declining pages there are 3 key things you need to consider (starting… NOW):

Modernize your MPS Model:  SBB (Seat Based Billing), DBB (Device Based Billing) and other flat rate models will fit the bill.  If pages are declining per customer, why keep a CPP (Cost Per Page) model in place? It will only lose money over time. It’s also commoditized beyond belief and the race to the bottom, well, we’ve reached it. I’ve been a leading voice on this topic for at least 10 years now, and it’s finally gaining mainstream adoption. Konica Minolta is doing it. Marco Technologies is doing it. Many office equipment dealers are doing it. And even managed services providers are starting to do it. You don’t want to wait until everybody is doing it, so get your model in place while there’s still a boat load of margin in the model.

Start Diversifying Your Offering:  Print is no longer enough to grow your share of customer wallet. Sure, you can steal competitor’s customers for managed print, but they can do the same back to you. And no matter who wins everybody loses, especially under a CPP model. Adding services for your existing and loyal customer base is a great way to organically grow revenues.  Whether it’s document management, VOIP, cyber security, network management or all of them, the time to start is today.

The time for talk is over and the time for action is now. The event horizon in the office equipment channel isn’t coming, it’s here. Let’s work together as a community to not just survive but to thrive. Let’s do the work of making the future one of growth and excitement. Are you ready?

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