Let me start out by saying I don’t write print drivers. I am a Systems Engineer so I set them up, configure them, and sometimes I hack them to make them do what I want them to do. About six weeks ago I was working with a customer that was using a Universal PS driver of a particular Print Management system and ran into an all too common problem.
The customer was getting some Postscript errors on random print jobs and asked to try the Universal PCL driver. I thought sure they “are” two completely different print drivers. They have to be because they use a different print language (PCL vs PS). At least, that is what I thought! But it wasn’t the case. To be fair the Print Management system had been upgraded about six months earlier but the Universal Print Driver that was being used by the client PCs were still the older PS one. I could tell because the older one had 3 tabs in its printing preferences settings, while the new one had only one.
As a best practice I typically pull the the driver from the resource web page of the Print Management Server. When I did this and set up the NEW PCL Universal driver it also unfortunately updated the OLD PS Universal Driver. This caused the OLD PS Universal Driver to become unstable. And caused me and the IT Manager a fair amount of unnecessary and unwanted work. All because of a poorly written Universal Driver.
Universal Drivers are becoming more popular as a way of only having to load a single driver (ideally) or at least fewer drivers on a print server. Why is that important? Because as anyone who has worked in the print industry for any time will tell you; print drivers don’t always place nice with one another.
The reason this happens is the files that make up most print drivers end up in the same folder:
In and of itself this is not a problem. And generally different manufacturers name their files differently so they don’t over write or get overwritten by another manufacturers print driver. You would think that each Manufacturer would either write backward compatible print drivers (ideally) or at the very least their newer print drivers would not overwrite their own older files if they are not going to be backwards compatible. But sadly this is all to commonly not the case. Once a newer driver has overwritten a file used by and older driver and caused it to become unstable or create new unwanted behavior it can be very difficult to remove the driver, even with some of the cool driver removal tools that many of the manufacturers provide. I speak form the experience of battle.
But I recently was pleasantly surprised when I was working on another Print Management system that had some Samsung Print Drivers already installed. We wanted to test a new Universal Samsung print driver. But this wasn’t the first rodeo for this IT Manager. Just before we loaded the new Universal print driver he turned to me and said “remember, this is a production print server”. Then he asked me will this new Samsung driver interact with any of the Samsung drivers that are already installed? I told him that I honestly did not know, so I would do some testing on my Demo room system and let him know.
I went back to my Demo Room and the first thing I did was print out test pages on all of the current Samsung Printers. then I loaded the new Samsung Universal Print Driver and printed out it’s test page and all the other Samsung Printer test pages again. Why, you ask? Because each test page lists all the files that that Print Driver uses and where they are located. When I did this I got a very pleasant surprise! Samsung wrote their print drivers so that each one of the files had a specific and unique prefix for each of their Print Drivers. A great BEST PRACTICE when writing a driver. This way none of their drivers files would overwrite (or be overwritten) the file of another print driver even though the were all installed in the same “3” Folder.
This is the way all print drivers should be written! Well done Samsung, well done!
That’s My $0.02
VP \ Network Solutions
I am not a big fan of on site trials. Usually when a Sales guy tells me that their Customer wants to do an onsite demo I ask why? What can they see on site that that can’t see in our demo room. Maybe they have some custom application or a Host system that they want to see print correctly. In those cases I ask the Sales person to write up a conditional sale. They negotiate an acceptable price and we set some very well defined conditions. These do not include “if we like the machine” or “If our users are happy with it”. These are two vague and capricious. A conditional like “it must print form our AS400 system and format the pages like our current printer does”. Or maybe “It must be able to scan to email from our Office 365 email server”. These are well defined and achievable conditions that once met we will get the deal. If a customer refuses to sign a conditional sale, be ware, their commitment level is probably not where it needs to be to risk doing that much work.
There are of course exceptions, but it is generally based on the risk reward ratio. If we spend the time to set up an MFD, that’s not that time consuming. But if I have to set up am UniFLOW, Papercut, or Biscom Server for a trial that takes just as much time to do it for a trial as it would for a real installation. And that’s fine “IF” there is a big enough return on investment. I am very confident in our ability to make our MFDs work with most systems. I like to tell people if your running Windows, Mac, Unix, Linux. AS400, we can and have integrated our devices with these systems. Pretty much anything except Banyan Vines. And if you know what that is you’ve been doing networking for a very long time.
About nine months ago one of my top sales woman got me involved in a presale opportunity where the potential customer was currently using Equitrac with Konica Minoilta MFDs to print from a host system processing medical billing. The customer has the need to occasionally reprint jobs for the end users if they didn’t print correctly or at all. The KMBS Branch added some separate software called Phoenix Dispatcher to add this functionality that Equitrac could not accomplish. It did however require the Customer’s IT Dept to do the reprinting of the jobs based on a date and time range.
NECS believes in team selling. Having both a seasoned Sales Parson and a Pre Sales Systems Engineer to better define not only the customer’s needs but what would be the best solution to satisfy that need. You may have heard me say in the past that I believe a true solution is a combination of Hardware, Software, and Know How used to solve a Business Problem. The Pre Sales SE needs to not only understand what the customer is trying to do but why and then consider all the different options available to best meet this need. Sometimes a good SE can help a customer revamp or reinvent how they do a particular process or workflow saving them significant time and money. But that only happens when there is a certain level of trust and a good working relationship between the vendor and the customer.
When we first met with this customer they told us the basic functionality they had was working “OK” but they were unhappy with the reliability of the Konica Minolta MFDs and even more so with the lack of support from the KMBS Branch. They were interested in replacing the KMs with Canons but not all at once. And here is where it gets complicated. After understanding what they were doing now, what they liked and didn’t like, and what they were hoping to accomplish we gave them a couple of options:
- Keep using your current Equitrac System with your Phoenix Dispatcher System and we will simply add Canon MFDs with embedded Equitrac MEAP apps to replace the Konica Minoltas that are failing. We would need to order RFIDead Card Readers and do some testing to match the current HID OmniKey Card readers on the KM MFDs. But a number of our vendors (Nuance, Cranel, RFIDeas) said “no problem” we will be able to match the card numbers read by the OmniKey Reader.
- . We also proposed replacing the Equitrac System in three possible ways:
- Add a UniFLOW System to run alongside their current Equitrac System and it would eventually be replaced as we replaced more and more KMs with Canons.
- Completely replace the Equitrac System with the UniFLOW system and use the UniFLOW Universal Release Stations (URS) to release the print jobs on the KMs and the Canons would use their built in UniFOW MEAP app.
- The third option we considered was Papercut but we dismissed it early because while it has a nice Archiving feature, there is no mechanism currently in place for mass reprinting or even reprinting a batch of print jobs.
When the KMBS Branch found out that the customer was talking to us and that they were considering replacing some of their Konica Minolta MFDs with Canons they said “You know that you wil need to have two separate input queues for secure printing. One for the KMs and one for the Canons”. They asked us if this was true and we confirmed that Yes, this is how Equitrac does it. We did tell them that with the Canon UniFLOW System you could have a single secure input queue for BOTH the Canon & the KM if they used the UniFLOW Universal Print Driver.
The first option failed to be satisfactory when we could not get the new RFIDeas Card Readers to read their HID cards exactly the same. We worked with RFIDeas, Cranel, and Nuance and the only solution that they came up with was to dumb down the readers to read a 5 digit card number. This was unacceptable to the Customer. So we moved on to a UniFLOW System.
When we installed the UniFLOW system we loaded UniFLOW MEAP apps on the Canon MFDs and set up UniFLOW URS (Uninflow Release Stations) near each of the Konica Minolta MFDs. While we recommended that NECS take over the service on all of the KMs as well as the Canons the fact that we didn’t actually have to load any software on them or modify them in anyway to use the UniFLOW Release Stations they could if they want to still have the Branch continue to service them until we replaced them with Canons. Two of the things that the Customer REALLY liked about the UniFLOW System were that you could not only use a single Secure Input Queue for multiple MFD manufacturers BUT the End Users could reprint there own documents WITHOUT any third party software (like KM’s Phoenix Dispatcher) on either the Canons or the Konica Minoltas becasue they both show a new print job queue and a previously printed job queue (if activated). This was a big deal for the IT Department because it meant they no longer had to reprint users documents.
So we worked hard, and worked through the different challenges to deliver the perfect solution to this customer, right? Well, not so fast. All that I described above with the UniFLOW System worked as advertised BUT this particular user had two more requirements. The first requirement is all documents had to be printed in the exact order that they were sent to the Secure Print Queue. And the Second requirement is they all had to print at the rated speed of the Engine (Canon or KM). These two requirements were BOTH do able but NOT with the Universal Print Driver. Technically that’s not true, The Universal Print Driver can print in order and at rated speed unless you print a very large number of single page jobs, which, you guessed it, that is what this customer does. We have never seen a slow down before because we had not dealt with a customer that would print 200 – 500 single page jobs and then release them all at once.
We worked with NTware & Canon for over a month to try to get this resolved and finally had to tell the customer that the only way we could get them to print at rated speed and in order for 200 – 500 single page jobs we would need to use the actual Manufacturer’s Print Driver, which would mean in this case UniFLOW, like Equitrac, would need to use a separate secure input queue for the KMs and the Canons respectfully. The customer was not happy and asked us to keep working on the Universal driver to accomplish all three functions:
1. Print at rated speed
2. Release all the Print Jobs in the same order that the user sent them
3. Use one secure input Print queue for both the Canon and the Konica Minolta MFDs.
We exhausted all of our technical resources and ultimately had them have to pick two. They chose the first two and after all the work we did decided to keep the KMs on the Equitrac System until they got to the point that they wanted to replace them with Canons. At that point we would move them over to UniFLOW. And when the last KM MFD was replaced they would decommission their Equitrac Server. I know that we proposed this months and months ago but Customers want it all, and to tell you the truth I want to give them it all, whenever possible. But sometimes technology has limitations. I am not sure why this customer didn’t kick us out, except to say I think they were REALLY unhappy with their current Vendor. It took us finally saying “no” we can only do two of the three requirements to get them to say OK. We can live with that. So we did a nine month trial and we won the deal. This felt like a bare knuckle 15 round fight. When we hit the road blocks that we were not able to completely overcome my very Seasons Sales Person was beside herself, and not happy with me because it had never happened before. But when all was said and done and we won the deal she understood just how difficult the technical requirements were to meet. I think the Customer stayed with us because we demonstrated a commitment to keep working with them to give them the best possible solution that was available. And that is what they got!
It was a tough, challenging nine month trial, but we won the deal. And somehow that makes it as I look back on all the effort it took, worth it!
That’s My $0.02
Twice in the last two weeks I received information that makes me think this is true. The first one was a call from a Facility Management (FM) company that had CSA as their servicing dealer for their Canon equipment, but they called NECS to see if we could provide Professional Services on a technical solution that CSA seemed unable to get working. We have worked with this particular FM on a number of other deals, but we always had at least the service, and typically the equipment sales. For this particular customer the FM wanted to pay NECS to fix what CSA could not get working. I had to turn them down. I did tell them if they wanted to turn the service over to us I would be able to help them, but a few hours or even days of professional services fees was not worth it if we had to help make CSA look good. They are, after all our direct competitors when it comes to selling Canon equipment. NECS also sells Samsung and Konica Minolta MFDs.
The second call I received that leads me to believe that CSA is hurting Canon’s reputation was from a Sales Person. He called a potential customer (a High School) that we had submitted a proposal in response to their RFP. The customer said they let CSA place a Canon but it could not do several of the things that their RFP required. My sales person let them know that the problem wasn’t the Canon but the company (CSA) that was supporting it, or rather their lack of support. Both my sales guy and I know that we could have made the Canons work just fine in their environment. But I’m sure that CSA (formally Canon Business Solutions or CBS) pulled their classic “We’re the Manufacturer. Why would you buy from a Dealer when you could buy directly from the manufacturer. A number of years ago we lost a Canon deal to CBS (now CSA). They used the same pitch, and the customer (a large Financial House) bought it. Words are just words until they are backed up with good service and support. CBS \ CSA’s service and support was so poor that this customer would not even let them bid when the first three year lease was up. When we came back in to meet with their team we told them that NECS would not be the cheapest option that they would get. But, I added, “You’ve seen what the cheapest looks like, and I don’t think you want that again”, to which the whole table nodded in agreement! The sweet taste of a cheap price is quickly forgotten in the face of poor service. We not only won the business but we have been able to keep it by keeping them happy. They loved the Canon product they just hated the poor support that CBS \ CSA provided. CSA is no more Canon then CBS was. Canon is a manufacturer, and they do a good job building Canon MFDs. But who buys a car from GM or FORD directly? No one, you buy a car from a local dealer, who can service and support you after the sale, That is where CSA falls short. For the most part they remind me of a Hollywood western town. From the front it looks like a real town, but there is nothing standing behind it! No local dispatch or warehouses, and there top service and support comes from New Jersey or somewhere else in the Country.
Unless the business card says “Canon” and that’s it, not “Canon Solutions America” you are just dealing with “the branch”, a sales organization, treated by Canon no differently that an Independent Canon Dealer. The difference is the Independent Dealer has significantly more infrastructure to back it up. A number of years back Canon lost a large amount of it’s distribution when Ikon, Danka, and Global were purchased by other manufacturers. They opened up direct sales branches in most major markets as a defensive move. While I understand why they did it, I think that they may live to regret it. Because while the Canon product is great, Canon Solutions America is making customers and potential customer think that they are not.
That’s my $0.02
Read my latest blog on The Copier Network
My adult daughter recently applied for two different jobs after working for four years at one company. Her resume showed her advancing from part time to full time to a counter manager position. I remember thinking after reviewing her resume before she sent it out that a hiring manager would really like what they see. She stayed put at one company for four years taking on greater and greater responsibility. That is someone worth investing in. Read More …
How would you like to turn every one of your Canon, Samsung, or Konica Minolta MFDs into a 21st Century Fax, WITHOUT adding a fax board, or a POTS (plain old telephone system) phone line or even an analog to digital convertor. You won’t need any of these with the NECS Fax Anywhere functionality.
The NECS Fax Anywhere enables all your MFDs to be able to fax! We can provide 800 numbers or local numbers, and there are no long distant charges. Sound pretty good, doesn’t it? It gets better. With this new NECS Fax Anywhere functionality you also get an Audit trail. You can prove that you sent or received a fax on a certain day, at a certain time.
The NECS Fax Anywhere functionality comes in three flavors:
1) Completely Cloud Based (no software or hardware required on your network).
2) Hybrid Cloud Solution (a Small Software Package is loaded on a Windows Server on your network).
3) On Site Fax server (can be enabled with redundant fax server support in the cloud).
We can also provide Smart Device (iphone, Android) Fax apps, and Fax via email and even fax enable your core applications with our NECS Fax Anywhere solution. Let’s face it faxing is still a part of business in our modern offices. Sometimes faxing is either the right medium or the only medium to deliver certain documents. NECS Fax Anywhere gives you all the convenience of faxing without the old fashion fax machine, or fax board, or expensive phone line.
Fax Servers are better than network (print to fax) faxes because you get better reporting and audit trails. But you also can get advanced routing, or direct inbound dialing. Do you want each of your sales people to have their own fax number that comes directly to their own email? NECS Fax Anywhere can provide this. But do you want that same sales person to be able to walk up to an MFD or Digital Copier that has no fax board or phone line and be able to send out a fax that will come from their personal fax account? NECS Fax Anywhere can provide all this functionality.
We at NECS are excited about offering Fax Anywhere Functionality to our customers!
That’s My $0.02
I wrote a blog about Sharp a while back. https://theconnectedcopier.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/sharp-denies-rumours-that-they-are-selling-their-copier-division/ Sharp denied the rumors.
But the bad news keeps on rolling in for Sharp.
Here are some quotes from a BloombergBusiness Article:
“Sharp’s core business is as bad as it could get,” said Atul Goyal, a senior analyst at Jefferies Group LLC in Singapore.”
“Shares of Sharp fell 5.3 percent, the most since Jan. 19, to 232 yen in Tokyo, widening their decline to 13 percent this year.”
“Japan’s Rating and Investment Information downgraded the consumer-electronics maker to B- from B+”
“Hurdles to Sharp Corp.’s restructuring are becoming even higher.”
“The newspaper also reported that Sharp’s fiscal 2015 net loss may reach 100 billion yen, and the company may shut its Mihara chip plant and exit its solar business.”
“Standard & Poor’s cut its credit rating on Sharp to CCC+ with a negative outlook”
“In 2012, when the company should’ve been celebrating its 100th anniversary, executives were releasing the company’s worst financial results ever (nearly $5 billion of losses)….the bleeding has not stopped. Sharp is forecasting a $251 million loss in the 12 months ending March”
My Comments start here:
I am betting that the people who complained the loudest about the opinions I expresses in my 2012 blog article have already found there way to the exit.
The burning question that once again rears it’s ugly head is what will become of Sharps MFD (Copier) Business? It has value, so who will buy it?
Makes you go Hmmmm?
That’s my $0.02
In 1965 Charlie Tiernan started NECS. Today it is the largest dealer in New England. 50 years is a half century. That’s a long time to be in business. Even more impressive when you consider what went on during those same 50 years. It was during this time that Ikon, Danka, & Global both rose to power and eventually were gobbled up by manufacturers. If I had a nickel for every time one of the three big national dealers said “We are going to buy NECS” I would probably be retired today. But here we are in 2015 and NECS is still here and Ikon, Danka, & Global are gone. That doesn’t happen by accident, or by luck. It takes hard work and a commitment to excellence!
NECS, then New England Copy Specialist humble beginnings started in Lynn, Ma. Today its Headquarters are in Woburn, Ma with a total of seven offices throughout New England. The picture above was taken in 2000 when I received an award for “Connectivity”. Based on the tie I am wearing this was at our yearly Christmas Party. I still have that award in my office today. I still have that tie too, LOL!
One of the things that makes NECS a great company is it’s people. It is surprising to me just how many people have worked there for over 20 years, some for over 30 years! It is very rare thing today. Another phenomenon that I have not only observed but participated in is how many people have left NECS only to return to work there again. NECS is a good place to work. It is a good company with a lot of good people in key positions. NECS is a good partner, and takes care of their customers. It is this passion for excellent service & support after the sale that has allowed NECS to not only survive for 50 years in a very competitive market place but to thrive and grow into the largest dealer in New England.
In the words of Tim McGraw “I’d like to take a moment to celebrate my age. the ending of an era, the turning of a page”. Happy Anniversary NECS! Here’s to the next 50 Years!
That’s My $0.02
VP \ Network Solutions
I spent last Friday afternoon at Biscom’s headquarters working with their Systems Engineers. My initial goal was to set up the Canon ImageRUNNER Advance MFD that we had loan them to integrate with their Bisocm Fax Server. We used UniFLOW to accomplish this integration. When it comes to integrating Fax Servers with UniFLOW “I have stood on the shoulder’s of giants!” Men like Erick Miller (Ray Morgan) and Joe Lucas (NTware) who pioneered UniFLOW \ Fax Server integration.
We got the Canon IR-Adv MFD set up so that it would send emails through their email server, but when an end user would type in JUST a fax number where the email usually goes the UniFLOW system was smart enough to route it directly to the Fax Server, bypassing the email server altogether. Since the end user was “logged in” at the Canon IR-Adv MFD, Uniflow knew the email address of the logged in user. This allowed the Fax Server to show that the Fax came from them, and the fax sent receipt would also show up in their email. I had just set up this same functionality at a private school in the morning, So it only took me all of about 30 minutes to do at Biscom.
We had blocked off the entire afternoon so we had some time to kill. I got to talking with the Biscom Engineers about also setting up the Canon IR-ADV MFD to send emails via their Secure File Transfer Server. There wasn’t an easy trigger (like a fax number) to allow the UniFLOW Server to differentiate a normal Scan to Email from a Secure Scan to email. So I set up a different button on the Canon (see picture above) to ALWAYS send to the Secure File Transfer Server. It worked great!!!
Think about what this means to an office. We can set up a single Canon ImageRUNNER-Advance MFD to Scan and send a file via
1. Scan to Email
2. Scan to Fax Server
3. Scan to Secure File Transfer
The first two can be done by the standard Canon Universal Send when we enhance it with UniFLOW. The third option can be done by either a separate MEAP Button, or I am confident we will also be able to set it up via a UniFLOW Advanced Scanning Workflow Button (we are still working on this).
In practice this means that the average end user can send an email to their own email (Scan to myself) or their Home Directory (Scan to MyFolder) or someone else in their company (Via an LDAP Address Book tied to their Active Directory). Most corporate email servers are set up to allow users to Scan “to” the server but not allow them to scan “through” the email server to an outside email address. This is often done for security reasons. Since Our Canon ImageRUNNER-Advance is set up to allow Ad-Hoc Secure File Transfer via the Biscom SFT Server, when an End User needs to email a file outside of the organization they choose the Biscom SFT button which will send a link to the documents via email, but the recipient needs to login to the Biscom Secure File Transfer Server to actually download the files.
Finally an End Users can send a Fax by simply typing the Fax # or selecting a Fax # from the Address book and sending it as if it were an email. Giving them the simplicity of sending a fax from the MFD, but also giving them all the benefits of a Fax Server, like fax receipts being emailed back to their personal email account, and improved reporting, allowing them to prove they sent a particular fax two months ago. Limited reporting capabilities is one of the greatest limitations of faxing from an MFD or stand alone faxes.
This new Canon \ UniFLOW \ Biscom integration will empower End Users to deliver documents inside or outside their organization in the most secure manner possible. That will make both end users and the CSO happy, Not an easy task to do!
That’s my $0.02
A little over 3 years a go we lost an account to a Global (Xerox) Branch selling Konica Minolta. It was a school that by all accounts they said that we were doing a good job supporting the equipment, and that our Canon equipment had run well. I think part of the problem was they asked us to include in the bid a price for a Document Management system with an AP Workflow. Our price was about $10K higher than the Global quote. Which I think pissed them off and made them think we were gouging them. We weren’t!
Global put in some Konica Minolta MFDs for a demo and the feedback we got was that it didn’t work well during the Demo, but they came in with a half dozen “Suits” and wowed the customer with promises of what they would do to make it “right”. We asked if we could put in our new equipment for a demo and they told us that there was no need because they knew our equipment. We truly thought that we had earned their business by what we had done to support them over the life of the lease. We did not realize just how upset they were over our DMS \ Workflow price. So they went with Global and their Konica Minolta proposal.
My sales guy was livid, beside himself that he had lost this good customer when he \ we had done such a good job supporting the customer. He resisted the urge to say bad things, and he sent an email to the customer’s key contacts and said he really appreciated their business in the past, and was sorry to hear that they had chosen to go with the competition. And If there was anything he could ever do for them, please don’t hesitate to call (a true sales professional). He did get a call six months into the new 3 year Global lease, and the customer was asking if there was any way he could get them out of their lease (2 & 1/2 years remaining). This school is 98% MACs. Mac boxes and Apple stickers were all over the IT Department’s office. Well the school updated there Mac OS from 10.5 to 10.6 and all there printing broke. They called us because the Global Branch was not able to get them printing (other than the Generic Print Driver) for six months. The Branch management finally sent the school a letter saying that the problem was the schools fault because they (Global) never knew that they were a “MAC House”.
I also found out that the DMS \ AP Workflow solution that Global proposed for $10K less than our proposal was never brought to an actual functional state. They had only booked 1 week of time for their SE that came in from Florida and when it wasn’t functional at the end of the week the SE still left to go back to Florida. THe local Global Branch apparently didn’t have any local SEs to finish the project. We were told that the school ended up spending tens of thousands of dollars more on this DMS \ Workflow solution and they never got it to work to the schools satisfaction. When all was said and done the school ended up paying more than twice what I had proposed. I thought to myself that I too could have come in $10,000 cheaper if I didn’t have to make it work too. But that’s not how we do business!
We couldn’t get the customer out of their Global lease two and a half years early, but we stayed in touch and we did get the business back at a price we could all live with just recently. The customer said that they thought that they would get everything that we had provided PLUS all of the new promises that Global “Said” that they would provide. But that is not how it worked out. Sometimes customers take good service & support for granted. They think anyone can do it. But the truth is it is more rare than you think. And good service & support cost a little more. We never try to be the cheapest because even if you win the deal everyone loses! The sales person loses because he can’t make an honest profit on the deal. The Service department loses because they are not taking in enough money to provide the proper level of service to keep the customer happy. The customer loses because the sweet taste of a “cheap price” quickly fades in the face of poor service and support. Everyone SAYS that they have good service, or great service, but not everyone actually does! I think it is more the exception than the rule in our industry. But it is puzzling that a current customer would leave what by their own admission was good service & support on equipment that they said ran well for the “Promise” of the same from a company that has yet to prove anything to them. All because they were a little cheaper. Their is an old proverb that states “Well Done, is better than Well Said!”
This is not the first customer that we have let go, only to get back after that lease is up. And when we do get them back they don’t ask us to be the cheapest bid, because they have seen the cheapest and decided that’s not what they want!
That’s my $0.02
I wrote an article for TheCopierNetwork.Com on this subject. Please go and read it and then let me know your thoughts.
Twice in recent memory I have had a customer ask if I can you recover data from their copier’s hard drive? It seems that both companies learned too late that the person who they just let go (or quit) walked out of the door with sensitive customer information. In other words they stole your company’s data.
Q. How big of a deal is this?
Q. How would it affect your company if it happened to you?
The individual’s in the above scenarios used a very sophisticated method to obtain this confidential data…. They printed it out! You may be consoling yourself by saying we don’t let our sales people print out their customer list. And each sales person ONLY has access to their own list of customers, not the entire list. That’s good, but how about your Sales Managers, or VPs? I am sure that there are some people in your organization that have much greater access to your customer data. Lucky for you those people NEVER leave a company, especially not yours. Who are we kidding, the reality is people of all levels leave companies all the time. It is a fact of life in our modern world. And even if a Geo Sales Rep doesn’t get to take all of your customer list, do you want him / her to take any of it? I think not.
Unfortunately both of these customers came to me after the fact. They wanted to see if I could close the barn door after all the horses had been let out. I tell them that we can pull the hard drive out of your MFD, and we can sell you a new one and install it (at a reasonable charge) and you can take it to a forensic expert to see what they can get off of it. But it’s not easy, and its not meant to be easy. Copier \ MFD manufacturers don’t publish the specs of their OSes, or how to retrieve data from their hard drives. Because they don’t want the bad guys hacking into their hard drives to retrieve data. But you can spend $1,000s of dollars retrieving info off of a hard drive. Will it tell you who printed it and when? Maybe, maybe not.
Of course when we pull the hard drive, and hand it back to you, You will need to sign for it to maintain the care, custody, and control of said hard drive. We also recommend that you have whoever you hand it off to sign for it so you can prove the care, custody, and control of the hard drive when you show up in court.
But what about going forward? Let us put a security solution in place that can be used to immediately identify who printed what when & where. IF I set up UniFLOW software on your Print Server(s) where your MFDs and Printers are currently set up, THEN when someone prints out something that they shouldn’t we can run a report that will show you who printed what (Job Name) to what printer on any date & time frame that you designate. Did you notice the IF \ THEN statement above? IF you put this solution in place THEN you will have the pieces in place to deter or recover stolen data. One way you could deter employees from printing unauthorized data is to make it known that this system is in place. But I think it’s best if they don’t know you are saving all of this printing data to a SQL database, to be used when needed.
Maybe you are saying “We disable a users AD account the night before we terminate them, so they can’t do this”. That’s good when you choose to terminate them, but it doesn’t help at all when they give you their surprise two week notice. If they are planning to steal your data they will likely have already done it BEFORE you know they are leaving. In this scenario you run a report for the last month for just this one employee and see what they have printed for the last month. If you find sensitive data has been printed you have the proof to confront the departing employee with legal consequences.
Here is how I would handle the exit interview for Joe Smith who was my star Sales Manager and he is leaving my company for “personal reasons” or “to spend more time with his family” or “Is not sure where he is going” all which translate to he has accepted a position with your chief competition. I would start out pleasantly, even though I know Joe has printed out a customer list. Joe we are sorry to see you go. You have been a valuable employee, but I can see that this is something you really feel you need to do. Joe, I need to go over the non-compete agreement that you signed. (You do have a non-compete, correct?) As long as you stay out of our accounts, or the specific territory you worked in, or whatever the agreement stipulates we won’t have a problem. This should be a non issue since you (Joe) are leaving to “spend more time with your family”. Then I would produce the UniFLOW report on Joe’s printing history for the last month and put it on the table with specific print jobs highlighted and say Joe, we see that you printed out a dozen different customer lists in the last week to the MFD in the warehouse. It’s odd that these were all printed after hours. Hum? Anyway We need to secure these printed lists. Where are they? If they are not in the office, then his intention to steal them is clear because he is prepared to be walked out the door when he gave his notice.
You should have your legal council and HR manager present. Because the gloves just came off. If Joe says he has them at home, you can offer to follow him to his house where he can hand them to you. Do NOT let him go and come back or he will stop at Kinko’s to make copies and you are no better off. Your legal counsel should be prepared to tell “Joe Smith” the legal consequences and remedies that your company is prepared to pursue if “Joe” doesn’t immediately returned all of the confidential information that he printed out illegally.
Your lawyer should be knowledgeable of the CFAA (Computer Fraud and Abuse Act). BUT, avoid threatening Joe until you have secured the stolen data. Once you have secured the data, Joe has lost his leverage. Joe has still broken the law and can still be prosecuted, so you can now pressure him to reveal where he is going to be working. If he refuses you can threaten to press charges. If he tells you you can have your lawyers send Joe’s new company a letter informing them of Joe’s non compete agreement. You should ask your legal counsel whether or not to include the information of Joe’s theft of data. Regardless, Joe now knows that if he or any other sales person from his new company shows up in one of your accounts that you will pursue him to the fullest extent of the law.
You are now in the drivers seat. because you didn’t wait to implement a security solution after your data was breached, your company installed UniFLOW reporting before you needed it. You actually closed the barn doors before the horses got out. And you know what they say an once of prevention is worth…., right?
That’s my $0.02
I don’t know why it is so hard for me to say that “2013 was a good year”. But the words refuse to roll off my tongue. Yet by so many metrics it has been a good year. Maybe I am a little jaded, or at least a little guarded about being too optimistic having gone through a series of pretty tough years. Maybe I just need 2014 to also be a good year, which I think it will be, before I can really embrace how good 2013 was. They say hind sight is 20:20.
But I think I am going to go out on a limb and say 2013 was a good year. When I look at our Sales, we made our numbers more often than we missed them by a ratio of 3 to 1 (9 months out of 12). It has been a long time since I could say that. I am not sure if this is true just of NECS, or the Independent Dealers, or if the “Copier” Industry as a whole had a good year. I would love your comments to hear from a cross section of our industry (Large Regional Independents, Direct Sales Branches, Smaller Independents, and OEMs). How did 2013 treat you?
I am also seeing a number of leading indicators that tell me the economy in general is getting better. I know a number of people in the construction industry that are busy. When businesses begin to build new buildings & homes that is a sign that they have a positive outlook on the future! I believe that we are well into a recovery that will continue through 2014, as long as the Government doesn’t do anything stupid to “fix it”. Because some of the scariest words ever spoken are “I’m from the government, and I am here to help.” Lord save us from our helpful government. LOL.
How was your 2013 personally? How did your company do? And what are your predictions for 2014? Will it be better, worse, or about the same as 2013? I believe that 2014 will be even better than 2013, and last year was a good year, so that is saying something!
Have a Happy & Prosperous New Year,
That’s My $0.02
What’s more interesting is a number of Nuance executives have sold off large amounts of Nuance stock. Read more @ The Copier Network:
Happy New Year,
I loathe to call an MFD a copier, because it does so much more than make a copy. BUT, at it’s core the essence of an MFD is a “Copier”! Which means by definition it makes a copy! Even when it Scans or Faxes an original the goal is for a copy to show up somewhere that is an accurate representation of the original. A copy means a duplicate – a replica – a transcript – a reproduction. What a copy doesn’t mean is a modified image or document so that while it may appear at a casual glance to be the same it is in fact NOT an actual representation of the original, and hence NOT a copy.
Here are just a couple of URL links to the Xerox news story. You need to read this for yourself and pay particular attention to Xerox’s response to the issue.
What are the legal, or financial ramifications of the Xerox producing an interpretation of your original document? Legally “A “duplicate” or copy of a document, produced by methods ensuring accuracy and precision, is given the same status as an original unless there is a question as to its authenticity.” Does this now mean that since Xerox has admitted that sometimes there MFD changes a 6 to an 8 (and maybe other characters as well) that documents scanned on a Xerox MFD are not admissible in court?
Can you imagine the person who get’s arrested on a DUI charge because they blew a .08 on their breathalyzer test. And when they get to court their lawyer challenges the documents because all they have is copies made on a Xerox MFD and we can’t be sure if that was a .06 (= not guilty) or a .08 (=guilty).
What about financial institutions or accounting firms? What are the day to day ramifications of not being able to trust that your Xerox MFD is accurately reproducing your original documents. And once you or your firm knows about this issue do you become responsible if you take no action? I guess you could proof read every document that the Xerox scans.
What if you are building something, a high tech part or even an office building. What are the ramifications of the dimensions being off, so instead of an 6 foot opening for your windows your builder puts in an 8 foot opening. And then the 6 foot windows show up! Normally the manufacturer blames the builder, and the builder blames the manufacturer, maybe they should blame the Xerox copier?
There is “good news” from Xerox though! Xerox already advises customers of this possibility in its software, describing results from normal compression settings as “acceptable” That makes me feel soooooooo much better! Xerox says changing a 6 to an 8 in your business critical documents is acceptable! Did they actually say it with a straight face? Do you think its “acceptable”, because I don’t!
Yes, I rarely call an MFD a “copier” these days, but that is because we all know and expect it to be able to make accurate copies of original documents. And Purchasers have been saying for years now “ALL MFDs are the same, they All COPY, PRINT, SCAN, & FAX the same”. Well maybe MOST MFDs can do an accurate job on these 4 functions. If you can’t trust your Xerox MFD to make an accurate copy of your original document, that (IMHO) makes them unfit for business use. I was going to say they should just use them in Kindergarten but even in kindergarten you have to be able to tell a 6 from an 8. Maybe Xerox should take ownership, and fix the problem, there’s a thought!
That’s my $0.02
The Oxford Dictionary defines “Retread” as:
I have had the good fortune to to work with a seasoned salesman who use to work for my competition. He moved to Florida but didn’t like living there, so he returned to New England a few years later and reapplied for a job at his old company. It was a Xerox \ Global Imaging Dealer that has absorbed two local dealerships. The Global Dealer interviewed him for a sales position, but one of the top Sales Managers said to him “we don’t need any retreads”! In New England we call that “Bulletin Board Material”!
That same salesman came to work for NECS, and he came motivated, and committed to CRUSH the dealership that called him a “retread”! He has been pretty damn successful. He has gone after a vertical market that they had dominated and that we had all but ignored and has beaten his old com padres in deal after deal. Initially they were pleasant, even friendly towards him. But the more successful he became the colder his reception at his old company became. That’s OK, they have no one to blame but themselves. It’s gotten so bad that even people that I consider friends at that dealership don’t call any more. I blame my retread
I have often said that the primary job of management is to get and keep good people!!!! I truly believe this!
The Xerox \ Global Dealer’s Sales Manager had an opportunity to rehire this very talented salesman with a great work ethic. Did I mention he has a great work ethic? But pride or stupidity took over and he not only didn’t hire him, but totally motivated him to work extra hard to beat his old Xerox \ Global Dealership every chance he gets. He has been so successful doing just that, that I told him he should start watching his back. Because pretty soon they are going to take out a contract on him. LOL!!!
I am a “Retread”! I have worked for my current dealership for 16 years, left for two years, and came back to my current position. So I have a soft spot in my heart for retreads. One of the great things that “Retreads” have is Perspective! Have you ever heard the phrase “How can I miss you if you don’t go away”? Very often when you leave an organization for greener pastures you realize that the grass is NOT always greener on the other side, especially when YOU have to mow it. Some sales people who have never worked anywhere else except their current dealership have nothing to compare it to.. While their loyalty is to be commended, it limits their perspective.
When you work at more than one sales organization you get to see what is great, or good, and what is bad, or terrible. I have had the privilege to work at two major corporations (3M & Ricoh) and one large Regional Dealership; NECS (twice). The sales person who works at a great Dealership thinks that ALL DEALERSHIPS are the same. S/He would be WRONG!
Enter the retread! Bringing back or bringing in someone who has worked for another Dealership and REALLY appreciates what your dealership does well helps the rest of the Sales people who have not worked elsewhere appreciate what’s great about your dealership!
Now the retread has to be someone who has been successful selling for your organization in the past. If they have not been successful selling in the past there is no reason to believe that they will be as a retread. This particular retread that I am writing about (You know who you are) has been so successful that maybe I need to look for a few more retreads! It takes one to know one!
That’s My $0.02
I just returned from Chicago where I attended the Samsung National Dealer meeting. At the close of the meeting Samsung told us that their goal is to be one of the top 5 copier manufacturers in 3 years and one of the top 3 in 5 years. Are you laughing? Better look in your rear view mirror because objects in your mirror are closer than they appear.
‘Nuf said for now! I will blog more about the meeting soon.
That’s my $0.02
Yesterday my company, NECS became the new Samsung Dealer in New England. It’s no secret that since Todd Pike and a number of Canon expatriates went to work for Samsung they have been pursuing Canon Dealers. Let me say up front that we love having and selling the Canon line, and we have been very successful doing so. Samsung does not (yet) have a full line of MFDs. So they have focused on their sweet spot of 20 – 50 ppm.
If you sell Canon, you know that they tend to be more expensive than some of the other MFD lines. But Canon has clearly established a great position in the market place (Just like Mercedes Benz, Lexus, or Cadillac has in the Automobile market). But not everyone buys these high end type of cars. Ford, Toyota, and Hyundai have also carved out solid markets for themselves in the US marketplace. You may have noticed that many named Car Dealers carry multiple lines of cars. Because there is no one car that meets the needs of all car buyers. And a Mercedes Benz buyer doesn’t also shop at the Ford or Hyundai dealerships to get a competitive price so s/he can negotiate with the Benz salesperson. Does that mean that we should all only sell Mercedes? or only sell Fords? No, not if you want to broaden your buying base.
Samsung can have a great symbiotic relationship with Canon at the Dealer level. I have spoken to many sales people that have either lost a deal to a less expensive alternative or had to sell the Canon product for little to no profit. But they felt forced to “take the deal” because they have made a commitment to their Dealership to meet a specific monthly quota. But they didn’t become a sales person to starve. In an honest business transaction they should be able to make a reasonable profit. Unless you work for a non profit organization there is nothing wrong or evil about making a reasonable profit on what you sell. Now, with Samsung, our sales person has a great alternative for those customers who are extremely price sensitive. So instead of walking away from the deal or giving away the deal an Independent dealer has a third choice, Samsung!
Samsung seems to understand this relationship, they are not asking us to sell Samsung instead of Canon or Konica Minolta. They are looking to help us as an independent dealer expand our business by helping us win profitable business that we couldn’t with our Canon or Konica Minolta lines. There is one thing that Samsung doesn’t have that Independent dealers care deeply about, they DON’T have a Sumsung Business Solutions, or Systems, or a Samsung Solutions America. In other words Samsung has no direct sales organization. Samsung has committed to work exclusively with top independent dealers. WOW! What’s old is new again. This is the way all manufacturers use to do it before the days when Ikon, Danka, and Global got bought by Ricoh, Konica Minolta, and Xerox respectively. I do sympathize with the manufacturers dilemma. They need to secure their distribution channels. Business hates uncertainty!!! But the manufacturers have struggled to make their direct sales branches profitable. And the Independent Dealers certainly are not feeling the love from their Manufacturers.
The large Regional Independent dealers have and continue to flourish! Because we offer our customers choices, considering what’s best for them. We don’t have to try and force a square peg into a round hole because that’s all we have to sell (one product line), any more than a Cadillac Dealer tries to convince a Hyundai buyer to buy his product. The Independent Dealer offers choices of products, paired with great service & support for the life of the lease. Now that NECS has added Samsung to our Canon & Konica Minolta offerings we will be competing for that business that has traditional gone to the second tier products. You know who you are, and you have been put on notice that you will be seeing us in more of your deals, because Samsung has arrived in New England!
That’s my $0.02
I spent last Thursday & Friday at the Bellagio in Las Vegas attending the NTware Forum. NTware just released UniFLOW version 5.2 and this was our chance as Canon Dealers to get to know what was new and cool about it.
I don’t think it is a secret that I am a fan of UniFLOW. What I like so much about UniFLOW and more specifically NTware is every time it seems like their competition starts to close the gap they take another giant leap forward. Leaving the competition scratching their heads. They’ve done it again with version 5.2
Three new cool additions to UniFLOW that I want to mention here are:
UniFLOW is Google Cloud Print enabled.
UniFLOW has AD Authentication for IOS Airprint.
UniFLOW has reintroduced Print Room Management (Formerly called Helix).
To get the “skinny” on UniFLOW enabled Google Cloud Print (GCP) I will redirect you to my recent post on The Copier Network. Go read it and then come back…. I’ll wait….. Pretty cool, Huh?
Like GCP, Airprint is a technology that is predominately aimed at the consumer market place, But just as UniFLOW \ GCP integration has added the missing pieces that bring GCP into the Enterprise it does the same for Airprint. How does UniFLOW’s bring Aiprint protocol into the Enterprise, by adding Active Directory Authentication to the Airprint protocol. No serious network allows access to it’s resources without authenticating the user who wants access. LDAP is the defacto standard, with AD being Microsoft’s LDAP offering. UniFLOW doesn’t invent Airprint or LDAP, it just marries them together making them better and more functional. GCP & Airprint may not be a perfect fit for your environment. UniFLOW offers device agnostic email printing workflows that works well in even the largest enterprise.
Finally, NTware reintroduced Print Room Management into UniFLOW. It had this as an option in earlier versions, but it was pulled out and offered as a separate product called Helix. Now it’s back, as a part of the UniFLOW Platform and as such it leverages all that UniFLOW is and does but brings it into the CRD (Central Reproduction Department) or Print Center. By making it an optional UniFLOW module it is very cost effective, especially when you compare it to other offerings in a similar space (like EFI’s Digital Store Front).
That’s My $0.02
Last week I heard a rumor from a source at Toshiba that Toshiba has shown an interest in buying Sharps copier division. From all that I read Sharp has major debt that is coming due soon.
I caught a lot of grief for saying that I believe that Sharp WILL SELL IT’S COPIER DIVISION. But that’s my not so humble opinion. I can’t see how else the math will work for Sharp. Sharp’s debt, in the very near future, will force their hand.
But WHO Sharp chooses to dance with is still undecided. Both Samsung & Toshiba have shown interest in Sharps copier division, Both court Sharp, but both are not welcome suitors. You are probably aware that there is no love lost between Korea and Japan. That being said one suitor is more welcome than the other. But Samsung has deep pockets, and is highly motivated to become a major player in our industry.
I mentioned to someone I know at Samsung, that Toshiba is looking to buy Sharp. He smiled quietly and said “We’ll just buy Toshiba”. He further stated that “when Samsung puts their mind to do something, they do it”, I have to admit. that I admire that quiet confidence, that dances right up to the edge of hubris.
So we’ll see who buys Sharp’s copier division. But someone WILL BUY IT soon! And yes that is MNSHO!
That’s My $0.02
I have often said that a great “solution” is a combination of hardware, software, and know how that solves my customer’s business problem. In the copier industry hardware has pretty much become a commodity. Software can still be a differentiator.
It’s great when a vendor has an exclusive on a particular software (like Canon did with eCopy originally, or now has with UniFLOW). But more often the software vendor writes their software for as many MFD platforms as s/he is allowed to put it on. Which means that it is possible to have two different companies offering the exact same hardware \ software combination for their solution to a particular customers problem (a purchasing agents dream). So what would separate one “solutions provider” from the other……..?
No! not price! Why does your mind always go there? And don’t tell me that wasn’t your first thought. But it’s NOT my first thought. Please go back to the beginning of this post and re read the definition that I gave for a great solution and tell me what part of a great solution have we not yet discussed? (I’ll wait).
Yes! Know How! It is not enough to have great hardware, working with great software if you don’t have the know how to put them together to create a real world, practical, workable solution, that end users will love to solve their business problem.
When eCopy originally opened up it’s product line to all the non-Canon dealers a lot of people panicked. eCopy ShareScan was a GREAT separator for Canon, for a real long time. It was the only solution that (at that time) had AD integration, and it could place an email that you sent from eCopy at the copier in the sent folder of your Outlook client back at your PC. That was a huge deal back then, and we beat that feature like a drum! But then everyone (except Xerox, they took a long time to get on board with eCopy) picked up the product. So what did we have to differenciate ourselves then? Know How!!! We had been working with eCopy for over a decade by that time. Our competitors were saying me too, me too, we can do that too!!!! We were saying we already done it, hundreds of times. And well done is better than well said!
It’s not just with eCopy, the software & the hardware and like the raw ingredients to make a meal (the solution). I could provide the same raw ingredients to two people to make “Beef Wellington” me and Chef Ramsey. We both have the same ingredients (Hardware & Software). I bet he’d even be a sport and let me have a recipe to follow. Who do you think would provide a better meal (solution) from the same set of ingredients (Hardware & Software). No doubt, the person who has done it a thousand times. The same is true for our industry, the hardware may be a commodity (I personally do believe some manufacturers make significantly better hardware than others), but at least the functions of the basic MFDs are all the same (Copy, Print, Scan, & Fax). So you could say that at least the basic functions are a commodity.
But when you add software to the MFD that extends and enhances the capabilities of the basic MFD, you turn it into a smart MFD. While the copier industry may not yet have the equivalent of the Apple App Store, there are a lot of companies writing software that runs in the MFD. Some of these run completely within the MFD, while others tie into a middleware server that runs on a windows server or PC somewhere on the customer’s network. These are the raw ingredients that we have to solve our customer’s business problem. But it is how you put them together, and how you configure them (your cooking technique, if you will) that will determine if you are starring on “Master Chef” or “America’s Worst Cooks”. It is know how, how to use the raw ingredients, that will make or break the end result, regardless of whether that is a perfect Beef Wellington, or a perfect solution f0r your customer.
That’s my $0.02
Last week my company installed a new Canon Color ImageRUNNER-Advance into a relatively small transportation office (2 floors). We were swamped with two SEs out, one at UniFLOW school and another on vacation. So I dd the install. It was pretty straight forward. The only issue is when I initially brought the Canon online I choose DHCP, and it self configured it’s IP info. I then proceeded to “ping” the ip address that the customer had gave our sales person to be assigned to their new Canon. Unfortunately when I pinged that address IT RESPONDED! If that doesn’t mean anything to you, then you shouldn’t be setting up MFDs on customer’s networks. So I pinged an ip address that believed would be outside of the DHCP scope that did NOT respond, and I manually assigned it to the new Canon.
I set up the Canon on the network, got all the PCs printing and then the Office manager asked me to set up the Scan (Send) function. I pressed the Send Button and the touch screen said “This function requires optional equipment”, UGH, The sales person thought this model had Universal Send as a standard feature, It didn’t. Not that big a deal, now a days if you want to add a function to a Canon ImageRUNNER-Advance MFD all’s it takes is a license code! Which IMHO is the way it SHOULD be. Manufacturer your MFDs with all the functionality that they could need and then release the optional functions with license codes.
So I told the office Manager that our sales guy would order the license for Usend (Scanning). She was NOT happy and said that this must be setup before the end of the week, then said, NO, by Thursday, because I am off this Friday and She wanted this completed before she went on vacation. We rose to the occasion. I called my sales guy and and he got the licensed code ordered, Our operations manager pulled them from our inventory (Yes, we actually do stock inventory) and he scanned them to my email address. I received them on my company iPhone. I know, how pretentious, but how FUNCTIONAL!!!!
The next day (Wednesday) I was back onsite, and installed the Usend \ Scanning license code, and rebooted the Canon MFD. It came up with the scanning functionality that the customer requested. Before I left on the first day, I looked at the old Lanier MFD on the second floor, and made note of the smtp (email) settings. Since I had worked for “Ricoh Business Systems” for two plus years I knew how to get this info. A Lanier is just a relabeled Ricoh. I was able to get all the info I needed to set up the Scan to Email EXCEPT the password for the User account used for SMTP Authentication. But, I had spoken to the IT support, by phone. Remote IT Support is more and more common today. But when I spoke to him I told him that I would need the password for the Account that was being used for the SMTP Authenticationon the upstairs “Lanier”. He assured me he would get it for me before i returned.
So, I show up on Wednesday, pull up the email from my Ops manager and keyed in the license code for Usend, reboot and I have a scanning MFD. I configure all the settings except the password for the SMTP authentication account. The office manager called their remote IT Support and he gave me the password for the SMTP Authentication account. I entered it and the Canon was Scanning to email. Cool! All was working as advertised!
But I got a call from the Office Manager and she was in a bit of a panic because NOW her Lanier on the 2nd floor Scan to email stopped working (She said) when we set up the Canon. Coincidence? I don’t think so. Do you know what happened? Yep! The “remote” Network support person didn’t know the password to the account that they were using for SMTP authentication. So he just changed it. That’s OK for me and my new Canon MFD, but not so good for the old Lanier upstairs. When I spoke to the office manager she was in a bit of a panic because of who sits upstairs (The principals of the company). And now they couldn’t scan to email (unless they went downstairs to the Canon). Now I could have said that this was NOT MY PROBLEM, because it wasn’t my MFD that could not scan to email. But that is not how NECS does business. So when the office manager called me in a panic, and said that she HAD called Ricoh and they told her that their SE would NOT be there for 3 Days, REALLY 3 Fricken’ Days!!! I decided I would work with her, over the phone to try to walk her through how to fix her Lanier MFD that would no longer scan.
Since the Canon can now scan and the Lanier use to be able to scan, there was no doubt in my mind that the remote IT support person had simply changed the password to the account they used for smtp authentication. So I leveraged my time at Ricoh to walk this nice woman through the process of how to change the password of the smtp account. And she tested it and the Lanier now could scan to email again. Yet Ricoh said that she wouldn’t see an SE for 3 DAYS!!! If you ask me THAT IS WHAT SERVICE IS ALL ABOUT! Service is a promise! It says “We will be there when you need us”! In my opinion Ricoh didn’t uphold this promise, and NECS did, even when it wasn’t our equipment. Why? Because we hope this will matter to the Office manager the next time they order equipment, like when they need to replace the Lanier MFD on the 2nd floor. I hope they remember the difference in support when the time comes. Because I am sick of having to compete with the Bottom feeders who are always cheaper than I am, but who make the customer wait 3 days, yes, 3 FRICKIN DAYS!!!!!! to fix something that I can fix over the phone. The question I have for you, is put yourself in the shoes of that Office Manager, with YOUR Principals pissed off at YOU because their old MFD can no longer scan to email. If you were that office manager would you want:
A. a Service organization that tells you they will be there in 3 Days, or
B. a Service organization that calls you back, and walks you through the process over the phone of how to fix the COMPETITORS MFD!!!!!!!!!!
Of course you want “B”, but the question is, will you pay a little more for it? Because we will NOT BE THE CHEAPEST! But WE WILL BE THE BEST VALUE!
The above incident illustrated How!
That’s My $0.02
Xerox equipment sales drop, as Korea comes on the scene
I wrote this post for The Copier Network, but I am posting the link here for those who may wish to read it.
Ricoh announced in a letter to their customers that they will no longer renew service contracts on Canon equipment.
Dear Valued Customer:
THIS LETTER CONTAINS IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR SERVICE CONTRACT.
As you know, as of April 2012, the Ricoh and IKON brands aligned as one brand — Ricoh — the culmination of a careful, steady progression since Ricoh’s acquisition of IKON in 2008. Now, as a unified organization, we are in a better position than ever to provide you with a broad portfolio of technology and services to meet your document and information management needs with a high level of service and support. We appreciate the trust that you have placed in Ricoh as your service provider, and I want to thank you for the business relationship we have built over the years.
Ricoh takes pride in providing its customers with top quality service and quick response times when servicing your equipment. However, Ricoh’s ability to continue servicing your Canon-brand equipment is fast approaching an end, as Ricoh may be unable to secure parts and supplies for maintenance of Canon equipment in the near future. As previously communicated, under the terms of our agreement with Canon USA, Inc., Canon is only obligated to provide Ricoh with parts and supplies for Canon-brand business equipment through April 30, 2013. After April 30, 2013, Ricoh may experience delays or be unable to secure the parts and supplies needed to maintain Canon-brand equipment.
As a result, Ricoh is not in a position to renew maintenance service on your Canon-brand equipment. Therefore, your maintenance agreement with Ricoh for the Canon-brand business equipment will terminate at the end of its current term and will not be renewed for an additional contract period.
In order to continue to provide you with the level of service you have come to expect from Ricoh, keep your costs down and maintain our relationship moving forward, we would like the opportunity to talk through the details of the service contract on your Canon-brand equipment, discuss your options, and find a solution that supports your needs.
We know that you have a choice when it comes to providers and we do not take that responsibility lightly. We are committed to providing quality service and support for your account, and look forward to continuing to provide you with a high level of service.
Please speak to your Ricoh representative today in order to learn more about your options for continued support of your document management needs. I want to thank you again for your continued commitment to Ricoh and I look forward to continue building on our relationship in the future.
Senior Vice President, Managed and Technology Services
RICOH AMERICAS CORPORATION
70 Valley Stream Parkway Malvern, PA 19355 http://www.ricoh-usa.com—————————————————————————————————————————————–
King James Version (KJV)
2 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Canon Inc recently released their Mobile Printing App for IOS (iPhone \ iPAD). This is not to be confused with the Canon USA MEAP app called Canon Direct Print and Scan (CDPS) app which was released a few months ago.
You may have noticed that there is a plethora of Mobile printing apps being released by MFD manufactures, as they all scramble to meet the needs of a more mobile work force. The previous Canon (CDPS) App cost around $100 and you needed to load a MEAP (java) App on the Canon IR-Advanced MFD that you wanted to print to from your Apple or Blackberry device. You also needed to download the matching app from the Apple App Store. The cool thing about this app was you could set up the printer on your IOS or Blackberry device by simply scanning a QR code that the MEAP app would display. But it was a little clunky, and there were limited printing options, and no web browser built in to the app.
The new Canon Inc app – Canon Mobile Printing App for IOS is available as a free download from the Apple App Store. No MEAP app is required, in fact you don’t have to do anything to the Canon MFD for this app to work. There are a number of Printing options (such as paper size, and staple, duplex, color or B&W, and even the ability to print to a Mailbox on the Canon). A customer of mine who purchased the original CDPS MEAP app really seemed to like these features. The other thing that I like about the new Canon Mobile Printing App is it uses good old port 515, LPR Printing for an IOS Device. This in my opinion was a great move. In fact I think that Apple really missed the boat by trying to force users to use Airprint rather than including LPR or IP Printing on their IOS devices. But the market seems to be responding and providing the choices that people really want. The current limitation, is it is ONLY and IOS App, no Android, or Blackberry…yet! But if the market provides the demand, as I am sure it will at least with Android, I believe you will see a similar app in the Android Marketplace.
The best thing about the Canon Mobile Printing App for IOS is that it will find, and allow you to print to almost any Canon MFD on your network.
The worst thing about the Canon Mobile Printing App for IOS is that it will find, and allow you to print to almost any Canon MFD on your network.
Yes, it is BOTH the best & the worst thing about the app. But I appreciate Canon putting it out there and allowing companies to decide which it is for them. What makes it the best is if you are on a reasonably open network, where you trust the people who you have given access to your wireless network then they can download the free app and start printing from their IOS (iPhone or iPAD) with little to no help from your IT Dept.
What makes it the worst is if you are on a secure network where your company has decided to limit or track who prints to what Canon Device, you now have a problem. BUT since you are reading this blog, hopefully before this becomes an issue for your company, you will know what options that you have to mitigate the potential problem.
Here are your options:
1. The first line of defense is securing or isolating your Wireless Network. Don’t allow people you don’t want to print on your wireless network, at least not the wireless network that allows access to your company LAN. You can, and many companies do, have a separate wireless network for Guests, that allow them internet access but not intranet access.
2. If the above option doesn’t help you because you need to limit or track your companies employees who have access to your companies wireless access you have a couple of options.
A. You can set an IP or MAC filter on your Canon Devices and limit who the Canon MFD will talk to. You can have it ONLY communicate with your print server, and your CEOs iPad (It’s good to be the King!).
B. If you are OK with your print documents passing through a secure cloud based app, then the EFI PrintMe Mobile (MEAP) app may be a good solution for you. It is email based so any smart device that can email can print. becuase you can send a print job to email@example.com and then go to ANY Canon device that has the EFI Printme Mobile app loaded, so you get follow me type of printing too. Since this is a cloud based app, there is no server needed on your LAN. And if you load the App on Canon MFDs at multiple offices you get follow me type printing with offices that may not even be connected by WAN links, as long as each office has internet access. That could be a huge benefit for some companies.
It is also possible to lock down the Canon MFD using the new ULM (Universal Login Manager) so an end user, or even a guest user could not get to the EFI Printme Mobile app unless they could unlock the Canon Device. By configuring these two different apps on a single Canon device you can have both mobile access and security.
C. If you want an all in one solution that will give you both security and convenience, and you don’t want your print documents sent to a cloud app (this is very important to some companies) than your best option is the Canon UniFLOW solution. UniFLOW doesn’t just give you Mobile Printing, but Secure Mobile Printing. So, if UniFLOW is the best solution why not just offer UniFLOW? Because it is NOT a one size fits all! While I believe that UniFLOW is the best Solution it may not be the best for you, or your company. I like choices, and Canon has given us a great deal of choice on how to allow, or deny, or limit who gets to print to our Canon Devices, and choices are a good thing! If this seems at all confusing to you call your Authorized Canon Dealer and ask to speak to their Pre Sales Systems Engineer. S/He will be able to talk with you and your IT people to help figure out which, if any, of these solutions are right for your company.
A final thought on Airprint printing. Airprint similar to the Canon Mobile Printing App allows users to print to anything that they can see. However Airprint is further limited in that the Printing device must support the Airprint protocol for it to show up on your IOS device. There are an exponentially larger number of printers that support LPR \ LPD than those that support Airprint. Of course the Canon Mobile Printing App for IOS only support Canon Devices (What did you expect…LOL). But if you have almost any Canon MFD, you can print to them via the new Canon Mobile Printing App for IOS with very little effort on your part. That makes this new app pretty cool!
That’s My $0.02
It took them long enough to scrape the old name off the building ( 1 Federal St Boston, Ma).
I read the What’s Happening Report from From Industry Analysts, Inc. that stated Sharp has cut off Global Imaging (GIS). Sharp will no longer sell Global Imaging (a Xerox Company) hardware or accessories after November 26th 2012. Global will still be able to buy parts but at a higher price.
I asked myself why would a cash strapped company like Sharp cut off a revenue stream, any revenue stream? If you want your copier division to survive and prosper during the turmoil that that they are experiencing you would not arbitrarily cut off one of your distribution channels. During good economic times there are a number of reasons why Sharp would not want Xerox selling their products. Let’s face it Sharp doesn’t want to help Xerox (Global) anymore than Macy’s wanted to help Gimbals.
So why do it? Even a better question, why do it now? The most obvious answer to me is that they are preparing to sell the copier division to a buyer that doesn’t have or want to have a relationship with Xerox \ Global. It a lot like when someone is selling a building, and the buyer makes the seller clear out all the undesirable tenants as conditions of the sale. If anyone else has a more plausible explanation I am all ears.
I know that Sharp USA is working their A__ off signing up dealers and putting out press releases. I believe that there are a lot of good industry professionals who work at Sharp USA. But Sharp Inc owns Sharp USA, and they are not likely asking Sharp USA for permission or advice. It’s not even likely that the leadership of Sharp USA is fully informed about whether or not they are being sold. Sharp Inc wants to keep the worker bees at Sharp USA making (m)Honey.
I am sure that this is very stressful to the folks at Sharp USA. Having lived through the Ricoh \ Lanier merger myself I understand, and even sympathize. But it looks like the hand writing is on the wall for Sharp USA. Since the copier industry is going through a significant contraction this will be a particularly difficult time to go through a merger, or even worse a takeover. If you currently work for Sharp USA this would be a good time to get your resume updated, and start to network with other professionals. The good news is good people will always find work. the bad news is that with all of the consolidation there are a lot of good people looking for jobs in this industry. Some of the folks at Sharp USA will make the transition to who ever buys them, some will not. Take your future in your own hands, start looking around for other opportunities so at least you will have options. Options are a good thing!
That’s my $0.02
Sharp contacted my company through the CDA to complain about the recent blog article that they I posted stating that the buzz at the CDA meeting is that they are selling their copier division. Even though this is a personal blog based on my opinion and the opinions of those posting, I was asked to pull the article. I am being told second hand that Sharp is denying the persistent rumors. No one from Sharp has spoken to me officially, or directly.
So, In fairness to Sharp I am pulling that article, and posting this retraction. Sharp is a publicly held company and can not knowingly mislead their stock holders. If it will help settle the matter I will go one step further and offer Sharp a featured spot on this blog to directly state that there are no plans to sell the copier division. So we can put the rumors to bed once and for all.
That’s My $0.02
Canon calls them Department IDs, you may hear them called Pin Codes. But a rose by any other name…
Depart IDs have been used to control and track copy usage long before the copier became the MFD, when we connected them to the network. They were the most basic way to track what users copied. Department IDs also evolved so you could also use them to track printing as well. When Color MFDs came into the Office the biggest concern customers had who were switching from B&W to a Color MFD was “How do I control color cost”? Pin codes were the answer, they could be used to lock down JUST COLOR COPIES & PRINTS. Where you could copy or print in B&W without entering a code, but if you tried to copy or print in color it would give you a pop up and you had to enter a valid pin code that was set up on the copier or it would deny your job. The fact that users knew that they were being tracked REALLY helped control color usage & cost. Because they knew if the monthly report showed that they had done 5,000 color copies \ prints that the would have to defend that number to their boss.
Dept. IDs could also be set up to only lock down certain functions. If you wanted to track ALL copies & prints, but wanted to leave Fax & Scanning open you could set your Dept IDs to lock down just copy & print, but fax & scan could be used without entering a pin code.
The best thing about Department IDs is that they are a standard feature on the Canons, and most MFDs have something similar. They are turned off by default but can be easily turned on and set up by your technician or even your sales person. They work great on a single device but they have their limitations. The first being that they are copier centric which is fine when you have one MFD, and OK when you have two, and maybe three MFDs, but they do not scale well. Since they have not been designed to be centrally managed, managing & tracking a number of MFDs that have Dept IDs has proven to be labor intensive. As the number of MFDs scales up the labor required to manage their Dept. IDs increases exponentially! But like a lobster in a pot, if the heat gets turned up slowly over time, the customer may not notice until they are boiling, and then they are so married to the system changing it to a centrally managed system is hard to justify the ROI, because the Dept. IDs kinda work, if you do a lot of work.
There has never been an easy way to manage Pin codes across multiple machines. They have also traditionally had very limited reporting. But that was done on purpose (IMHO), they call it “a Marketing decision”. The manufacturers wanted to sell you something that was NOT a standard feature (like eQuitrac for example). The problem with eQuitrac or similar optional equipment has been the cost, and often they would require hardware terminals (affectionately know as the brick). I will say that Equitrac and others have written embedded software that runs within the copier and is accessed through the copier’s touch screen. This embedded software is cheaper then the hardware terminal but there is still a licensing fee, that on a fleet of MFDs drives up the price of the solution. Customers were often left with the choice of the cheaper less functional solution (Pin Codes) or the much more expensive eQuitrac type solution. .
But I may have found the middle ground. I recently used Canon UniFLOW solution to push out a standard list of Department IDs to 165 Canons. and automate the monthly allocation report by having the previous months totals emailed to the finance department on the first day of each month. Not only will the UniFLOW report give a break down of copies, prints, color, B&W, Faxes, and even scans, but it will calculate the cost for each Dept ID so that all the Finance department needs to do is bill it.
You may say that sounds a lot like an eQuitrac style solution, but the difference is I didn’t need to touch any of the 165 Canon MFDs. I was able to import an Excel spread sheet of standard (numeric) cost centers with Alphanumeric Descriptions into UniFLOW as Cost Centers. Then we pushed out these cost centers as department IDs. This all happened without the end users even being aware it was being done. No client needed to be loaded on the copier, no hardware had to be attached, we didn’t even need to reboot the copier. Now, only 165 out of 300 Canons at this account uses Dept IDs (Pin Codes) to track the MFD usage. the other 135 are wide open with no Dept IDs to use the Canon. For these Canons we simply assign a default cost center in UniFLOW and then set up the report that will track the copy & print activity by cost center for all 300 Canon MFDs and we never touched a single Canon!
DEPT IDs are a simple yet elegant solution. I come not to bury Dept IDs but to praise them (my apologies to Shakespeare) . Using UniFLOW to centrally manage and track Dept IDs overcomes their greatest weakness. But you may say UniFLOW supports Pin Codes on their embedded MEAP app, why not just use the UniFLOW MEAP App. The simple answer is costs. Just like the embedded Equitrac software there is a licensing cost per MFD. That doesn’t mean the customer may not eventually migrate to the embedded UniFLOW software, but it doesn’t have to be an ALL OR NOTHING proposition. This can be an evolution rather than a revolution. The upgrade path can happen over the period of the lease or the next level of functionality can be added with the next lease.
The reason that this customer decided to add UniFLOW was a clear ROI. It use to take them 3 months to gather and allocate the cost of their copiers so they could charge back the respective departments. And to be honest they knew that they were not accurately tracking all the usage. Now with UniFLOW they get this process automated and an email shows up on the first day of every month with an Excel or PDF file attached. The lesser cost of UniFLOW using Dept IDs over a full fledge version of UniFLOW with MFD clients or Equitrac was an easy sell. There is also a clear upgrade path with features that the customer has already indicated that they want such as tracking ALL NETWORK PRINTING by adding UniFLOW RPS software to their 8 Print Servers, Secure Printing tied to their companies security access cards, which would also give them Secure Mobile Printing. On a side note they have already rolled out a small test group or 12 MFDs that are using the UniFLOW Advanced Scanning Module to scan into a back end system. UniFLOW is modular and scalable so we can install it to meet their current need and then leverage that investment to add additional functionality without having to re purchase the core server. UniFLOW helps me add value, and show an excellent ROI, without making my customers choose all or nothing.
That’s my $0.02
I am going to be doing a little blogging for The Copier Network.
Since I am not allowed to post the same blog here, I thought I would send a link so you can read the article over on the Copier Network Blog. I don’t think they will mind the extra traffic.
Here it is
Reuters reports that Sharp plans to sell their Copier & Air Conditioning business.
Stop me if you heard this one….
A Politician who is in the fight of his life trying to beat his tough opponent is walking down the beach thinking about what he can do when he comes upon an old lamp. He picks it up, and rubs it and to his astonishment a Genie appears and offers him one wish. But the Genie cautions him and says what ever I give you I am going to give twice as much to your political opponent. The politician thinks about it for a minute and says ” I wish I were half dead”!
My point, and I do have one, is that this terrible economy that is hurting all of us is killing off the weak. Sharp looks like the next to go in the great consolidation of the “Copier Industry”. I would like nothing better than to see a full recovery, and get back to the “good old days”, but maybe, just maybe I can wait a little longer to see who else can’t take the heat. My company is doing OK! We are not knocking it out of the park like we were, but we are doing OK. And as it turns out OK in the worst recovery since the great depression isn’t so bad.
It looks like the decade of the Independent Dealer continues!
That’s My $0.02 (almost enough to buy a share of SHARP stock…LOL)
The Nuance Desktop application – eCopy PDF Pro Office (EPPO) is an amazing product! In some ways it reminds me of Adobe Photoshop, not that they have similar functions rather they each can do so much that it takes time to really learn them. From my experience it is more than the average user can do on their own. You might see a problem but what I see is an opportunity, an opportunity to sell Professional Services Training.
When I first saw the EPPO product I immediately thought:
This is a very powerful product!
It does things that no other application can do
I have a lot of customers that need these features
But I also thought, this is NOT an easy application to learn or use.
This led me to put together some custom training “How to” PDFs and offer training sessions to my customers and their end users. The training has been especially well received in Legal community.
The longer I do this job the more I realize that it is NOT about what your hardware or software can do, often competing companies have the exact same hardware or the exact same software. What adds the value to you customer is how well YOU can teach your customers how to use the technology to solve their business problems. A Solutions Engineer or a Solutions Specialists who not only understands the technology but also the business implications can be the difference.
That’s my $0.02
In case your math skills are a little rusty the equation reads Oce is to CBS as Ikon is to RBS. True or not True. Here is my argument for True:
The carnage at Ricoh Business Solutions continues as the Ikon takeover of RBS moves into it’s final stages. Ikon’s management is firmly ensconced in upper and middle management of RBS. And guess who they are bringing along for the ride? All their Ikon friends. The loyal RBS employees are being squeezed out!
(Please feel free to skip the rant in red below. I will not feel offended if you do).
I need to digress here and say I long for the days when the company who BOUGHT another company called it a TAKEOVER, even a HOSTILE TAKEOVER!!! I am so sick of the political correctness of calling a purchase or a takeover a “merge”! In the old days a successful company bought a failing company and put IT’S MANAGEMENT TEAM in place of the failing companies management team to turn around the failing company. Ricoh seemed to be absent from business school the day they taught that lesson, because they buy failed, or failing companies and put the failing companies management team in charge of the company that bought them!!!! But I digress….
The Canon Business Solutions (CBS) “merge” with Oce is on the horizon. It is no secret that CBS has not performed well, and did not by any means fill the void in Canon’s distribution in the USA that was left by the Ricoh purchase of Ikon. I have heard that Canon USA and CBS have not always seen eye to eye, and that putting Todd Pike (long time Canon USA guy) in charge of CBS was an attempt to bring their unruly step child (CBS) in line. When Mr. Pike was unable to achieve this, he “fell on his sword” and left Canon for Samsung (an up and coming player in the MFD market, and one that bears watching). With Oce already having a distribution organization in place in the USA It looks like a repeat of what happened with the Ricoh purchase of Ikon. Ricoh bought Ikon, so Ikon could take over Ricoh. While CBS is not Canon (unless you ask a CBS sales Rep…LOL), Canon bought Oce, so Oce could run CBS.
I am hearing that CBS is experiencing there own exodus as seasoned industry people see “the (Oce) writing on the wall”. IMHO CBS was a failed experiment. Apparently it is not so easy to start up a branch (or a dealership). You are much more likely to succeed by taking over an existing operation (like Oce) and fixing it’s problems. So Oce will gobble up CBS, even as the essence of Ikon consumes RBS. Ikon’s last act will be to remake RBS in their image. If Ikon fails who will Ricoh buy next to fix themselves…. Xerox? Hmmmm …..time will tell!
That’s my $0.02
PS: The CBS name will disappear when Oce & CBS become Canon Solutions America (CSA). Someone speculated that this name change was due to the fact that they got sick of me referring to them (among others) as the _BS Branch, LOL! I don’t know if that is true, but in the words of the Bard …”A rose by any other name…”
… to the wolf pit and fighting your way out!
New technology, new solutions, someone has to be the first guy through the door, the first person to make it your own. The first guy to really learn and understand its capabilities. To be able to understand and communicate to your Sales Force why this is important, and what advantage this gives them over their competition.
It sometimes feels like jumping into a “wolf pit” and fighting your way out. It is what Systems Engineers (SEs) have to do whenever a new technology is introduced. I am just now completing a long and challenging install that has taken about 2 months to get fully implemented and running to my customer’s satisfaction. I have walked through the “bowels” of this technology, My team and I have spent over 100 hours on this very large and very profitable install. Hours have been spent in remote sessions with both the manufacturer and the software developer. Truly a baptism by fire, but in the end we were successful and the customer is happy.
But the big benefit to me is the education that this install has provided to me and my team. We have learned things about this product that would have taken us years to learn if we ever learned them at all. I think that this is a quality that I look for Systems Engineer, a willingness to “figure it out”. It is the hallmark of a good SE, and makes him\her worth their salt.
That’s My $0.02
Here is the URL and the chart.
The Red arrow points out when Ricoh purchased Ikon. It looks like we have an answer to the question I posed in 2008; Did Ikon bite off more than they can chew (when they purchased Ikon)?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and if that is the case then I think I have said enough for this post.
That is my $0.02
I received a call from a Ricoh sales guy in another state who read a 2009 post on my blog.
We spoke for about a half an hour. He said that Ricoh just adopted the IKON comp plan for their Sales Force. He had submitted his monthly comp plan work sheet before they made the change, then had to rework it based on the new comp plan and he said it cut his commission in half! He was not happy. His manager, trying to be a good manager, and a good corporate citizen, tried to show him how to best work the comp plan to maximize his earnings. The action plan was something like if you can rub your belly while patting your head riding a unicycle up hill, whistling Dixie with a mouth full of marbles you can make an “OK” commission. The sales guy showed his manager the what the same activity would have generated under the previous plan, and that was the end of the conversation.
Don’t get me wrong, Ricoh has to do something because they are hemorrhaging cash. But there is one thing I know about sales people, they didn’t go into sales to make an OK living. Most of them have a life style that requires them to really earn! They do a very difficult job, under tremendous pressure, but are willing to do it IF THEY CAN EARN! Take that away and Katie bar the door! Ricoh should also pad lock the fire doors (figuratively) because the mass exodus of talent (Ricoh & Ikon talent) is about to take place.
The thing that Ricoh has going for it is the sluggish economy, and the fact that the other _BS (Direct Sales) Branches of the rest of the Manufacturers are also doing poorly. But their BEST PEOPLE will always find work. Where? The Large Regional Dealers are still doing well even with the sluggish economy. Good sales people will always find work. Some will leave the industry, some will move to other _BS branches (CBS, TABS, KMBS, etc), and some will go to the Independent Dealers. With so many of the Direct Sales (_BS) Branches loosing significant money, I am declaring this the decade of the Independent Dealer!
That’s my $0.02
I had one of the more difficult installs of my career this last week. I went out of state to finish up a large install at one of my customer’s remote offices. The initial install at the main office went well. To say it didn’t go as planned at the remote office is an understatement. In the end I got it working. I really earned my pay this week, but it also reinforced a couple of life lessons that I learned.
Lesson 1: Never let them see you sweat!
When I was a young man I use to manage “World’s Best Car Stereo” shop in Alameda, Ca. I worked there about 4 – 5 years. We installed, but did not sell car stereos (We also sold and installed car alarms). We used to take a 4 or 5 inch hole saw and cut a hole for speakers on some pretty high end cars. One day I did 5 BMWs by myself. Best practices would be to open the door panel, roll the window up and down and check for clearance for the speaker BEFORE you cut a four or five inch hole in the car door. I once did a truck door that I couldn’t do that on because it was sealed. So I did my best guest-a-mit and cut a hole right into the center of a metal support bar. I was very casual about it, and went and got a small hand sledge hammer, and a pair of speaker spacer. I beat the metal support back just enough to allow the magnet of the speaker set in with the help of the speaker spacers which limits how deep the speaker has to sit in the door. I then proceeded to the the exact same thing to the other door exuding the confidence that came with making the first car door speaker fit. The second one was a lot more fun because I knew what the outcome would be.
I learned early on that my customers reactions to a less than ideal situation or outcome had a lot less to do with what they saw, and a lot more to do with how I reacted to the situation. If I didn’t panic, they didn’t panic. So never let them see you sweat!
Lesson 2: Show your personal commitment to make it work!
When things don’t go well your customer needs to hear that you are personally committed to making it work! You need to communicate with your key contacts, the stake holders of the project. Because they too have a lot at stake if they have approved or back your project, their reputation is also on the line. Be demonstrative in your commitment, say things like “We will make this work”, “we will work through this”, or “I will stay here until it’s right”.
Lesson 3: Marshal your resources
With each of our products & solutions we have a lot of resources to back them up, Knowledge Base(s), Google Searches (use Boolean logic to find the best results), Help Desk, Escalation to Engineering, Remote Session Support (Web Ex) and On Site Field Support from the MFD distributor and the Manufacturer of the product. Don’t forget the customer’s IT people! They are the experts on their network environment. MAKE SURE YOU DON’T ISOLATE THEM BY MAKING RASH ACCUSATIONS!!! You need their good will more they they need you. Even if it turns out that they did something to cause the issue, NEVER PUBLICLY BLAME THEM, not if you want to work with them again. The bottom line is “Fix the problem, and not the blame”! Too many technical experts want to find an easy out early on. They might say well it worked fine at the main office, so it MUST BE your environment. RESIST THIS URGE WITH ALL THAT IS WITHIN YOU! Bite your tongue until it bleeds if you need to. There are so many variables from one network environment to another, it is hard to make an honest definitive statement as to what is wrong until you have actually fixed the problem.
One trick you NEED to know, is the MFD Manufacturer who distributes the product has more pull with the Company that makes the product then you do. They can get faster and deeper access to the best tech support available than you can. So make sure that you can get them to get you to the absolute best tech support help available on the planet, even if that means the developers of the product in another country need to remote in and help you and your customer get the problem resolved. I think that this is one of the greatest “Achilles Heel”. For many technical professionals their pride tells them they can figure it out on their own, the problem is if you take too long to marshal your forces you may wear out your welcome and run out of time to save the deal. Timing is everything, so don’t wait to long to get the help you need. Use your Knowledge Base(s), use the distributors and \ or product manufacturers help desk(s), and on site or remote session experts.
Lesson 4: Over communicate with the stake holders
When you figure part of the problem out, tell them, when you overcome a part of the problem, tell them. When you have help remoting in, or coming on site tell them. It is best if you proactively tell them what is happening rather than wait for them to ask, which means they are frustrated or they are being pressed for answers.
Lesson 5: It REALLY helps if you have some good will “banked”
Hopefully, if you find yourself in the installation from hell, you have already developed a good relationship with the customer. This is where a good past history will help them give you the time to work through a difficult problem. Because once you have lost their confidence or wear out your welcome you are done! And it doesn’t matter how close you are to getting the problem fixed. This is why it is so important to take care of your customers after the sale. It is the last stage of the sales cycle = Continue to build the relationship (once you have the deal signed and the equipment placed). This is how you bank good will!
There is no substitute for “going through the fire” with a new product. You can take a class, you can read the manual, you can set it up in your demo room, but until you install it in the real world, multiple times in different environments, and have to work you way through some difficult challenges, you really haven’t learned the product. Jumping into the wolf pit and fighting your way out is how YOU become an expert on the product!
That’s my $0.02
PS: My thanks to the people who helped me make this weeks install successful! You know who you are.
It is only natural to bitch about work, seems like everyone does it to some degree. But how do you tell if you work for a good company or not?
For many years it had been a workers economy, where your top people could pick and choose where they wanted to work, often seeing large salary increases with each jump. But the the last few years have been an employers market, raises are few, bonuses scarce, even if your company is not laying off, it seems like so many of your competitors are that the market is flooded with talented people. I am starting to see signs that the economy is turning around, albeit slowly. If the economy does continue to get better companies will again get more competitive for talent.
Men don’t get courted very often, it has happened to me a few times where a company puts on a full court press to get me to join them. Increased salary is often the karat that gets dangled, and who doesn’t want to make more money. But I think any decision you make solely on money will be a bad decision. That is not to say making more money is bad, but in and of itself it is not enough. You need to find the best opportunity, the best challenge, where can you make the greatest impact, where can you shine? When you answer that question, the money will follow.
But getting back to my original question, do you work for a good company? How do you know? Is there any objective way to know? I may have found one. The other day I walked in to our Parts Department and ran into a Senior Service Tech who had left NECS a few years back to work for another company. He recently returned to work for NECS again. I greeted him warmly, and told him it was good to see him (and I meant it), Because I believe that the chief responsibility of management is to get and keep good people. I ran into another tech who went to work for a Xerox \ Global company (hated it) and came back to NECS. Are you seeing a pattern here? Because I am.
This wasn’t the only talented person who left NECS only to come back later. I myself am on my second “tour of duty” at NECS. I can’t tell you how many people have come back to work at NECS after leaving to test the waters. Now it is critical to leave on good terms, and it REALLY helps to stay on good terms. Don’t get me wrong when I am across the street from a buddy I want to beat them on every deal. But I don’t need to speak ill of them or the company that they work for, at least not in front of a potential customer.
There is a quote that I like that I will share with you here.
“If you work for someone, then work for him: Speak well of him and stand by the institution he represents. Remember, an ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness. If you must growl, condemn, and eternally find fault, resign your position and when you are on the outside, complain to your hearts content. But as long as you are a part of the institution do not condemn it.”
~ Elbert Hubbard
So, I will ask you again, do you work for a good company? Because I do! If you left to work somewhere else would you come back to your current company? Could you come back to your current company? I will give you the same advice I have given my children, when they want to quit there current job. If you do resign, say nice things about your current employer, especially in your resignation letter. It will leave the door open if you want to come back, and if it is REALLY a good company you may want to come back, after testing the waters.
That’s My $0.02
Now that I have your attention, it is not possible to make a “Copier” relevant. BUT it is possible to make the MFD relevant! I sure hope that you are not trying to get a purchasing agent excited about your 35 PPM color copier. Because all (s)he wants to know is how cheap (s)he can get it from you (Not only boring, but a recipe to go broke, for you and your company).
So what makes an MFD relevant:
Is it integrated with your companies Active Directory (or LDAP) Server?
Is it integrated with your companies Security Cards?
Is it integrated with your Fax Server?
Is it integrated with your Document Management System?
Is it integrated with your back office (core business) servers?
Can your mobile users print to it from their iPads, iPhones, Androids, or Blackberries?
In short, can your customers leverage their MFD to solve their business problems?
If YES? Then your MFD is relevant in today’s modern office!
If NO? Then you better be the cheapest copier, and you better hope that I am not competing for the same business.
That’s my $0.02
My apologies to King James but as of today IKON has ceased to exist. When you click on www.ikon.com you get taken to a Ricoh web page. There is even a nice PDF explaining how “great this is” for former Ikon customers. I have recently heard from a Ricoh tech that they are losing a lot of customers.
It is truly ironic that the pac-man like entity that gobbled up independent copier dealers all over the country has been reduced to a foot note in the history book of the Copier Industry. If I had a nickel for every time an Ikon sales guy told one of my customers that they were planning to buy NECS I could retire in style today.
While I am tempted to “come to bury Ikon, and not to praise it” I have to take a minute and say that Ikon was my best competition. Ikon had a lot of talented people, multiple brands (Canon, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, Kyrocera, HP) so they could not only sell their customers what was best for them, but could sell them what their competition could not. They also had a national sales & service organization that they used effectively to sell against the large independent regional dealers.
Ikon was not without its faults, terrible billing and back room. Service that would oscillate from terrible to good (six months before the lease was up). But the single greatest fault Ikon had was hubris.
Now Ikon has become Ricoh. Ricoh has brought in so much of the Ikon management in to fill leadership positions that it looks like Ricoh will be run from Malvern, PA and not Cauldwell, NJ. But that doesn’t make Ricoh Ikon! With only the Ricoh product line they are now a one trick pony. Not even the former Ikon sales force will be ale to make one size fit all.
In the movie Jeremiah Johnson he was told that the Crow nation judged the greatness of a man by the stature of his enemies. Ikon was my toughest competition. Based on Crow reasoning the death of Ikon lessens us all. But somehow I keep hearing the song “Ding Dong the witch is dead, the wicked old witch the witch is dead….” Maybe it’s just me! (LOL)
That’s my $0.02
Actually if all your company needs is a “copy Machine” then an RFP (Request for Proposal) WILL work for your company.
But when was the last time your company or organization purchased a “Copy Machine” – a machine that JUST MADE COPIES?
Don’t you buy MFDs or even Smart MFDs? Do they Scan, Print, and do Network Faxing? Are you leveraging the power of your Smart MFDs by loading software on them that extends and enhances their capabilities to connect into your network infrastructure or back end servers? If not than you are missing out on the REAL SAVINGS that a Smart MFD can bring to your company. Have you ever heard the phrase “strain at a gnat, but swallow a camel” that describes the process as it relates to a traditional copier RFP. Because the focus is on trying to make all of your vendors look exactly alike, so you can force the cheapest price for the dumb down comparison that the RFP requires. There is a better way to do an RFP.
If you work in purchasing and you are responsible for the “Copier RFP” and your biggest concern is replacing like for like features (50ppm and duplexing) at the cheapest price then you really need to update your process, and broaden the input you receive from other departments like IT, Compliance, Governance, Security, and Operations. If you don’t get their input as to what they need then you will buy the cheapest “copy machines” that will NOT meet any of these departments needs, so they will need to go out and purchase other devices that will cost your company more than necessary because your Copier RFP did not consider their needs. Or worse yet, you actually thwart their projects or requirements because the bargain copiers you bought can’t do what they need.
My company was invited to participate in an RFP for a company that we have sold to and supported for the last several years. This company was purchased by a larger company and the new parent company was very concerned with the fairness of the RFP process. It was very much a traditional RFP process, and the relationship that we had forged as a trusted technology partner and adviser was discounted, and we were treated like any other vendor. We were told that this was done in the interest of “fairness”. While it was “fair” to the new vendors, it wasn’t in the best interest of the customer. Is that what the customer wants the RFP process to do? To be best for the new vendors, and not their own organization? I think not!
A new vendor who is willing to buy the business by being the cheapest is hoping for a traditional RFP. Because they have no inside knowledge and if they have a box mover type Sales Person than they will drop their draws and give them a bottom feeder price. The traditional purchasing agent is counting on it, not because they want to buy from the new dealer, they want to leverage that offer to force the incumbent dealer to be cheaper. And I get that. I am NOT against competition, but I am against dumbing down that competition to speeds & feeds. Anyone can sell you a BOX that does 35 ppm color output with 4 paper draws, and a stapler finisher. SO WHAT! THAT IS A COMMODITY!!!
The reason that I am writing this is this just happened to me. We won the traditional RFP bid. We met the traditional speeds & feeds that the traditional RFP specified. We reduced our cost to be more competitive. NO, we were not the cheapest bid. We relied on our excellent history of service & support, and the reliability, and ease of use of our equipment to offset the fact that we were higher than our competition. We were the best value, and we still won the bid (because we earned it)! Yet the Purchasing folks still had to make a case to their bosses who signed the deal in their corporate office why we were the better value.
But when we went to implement the RFP equipment, and start the training we heard NEW REQUIREMENTS that the RFP did not specify from departments that were not involved in the RFP. Because we were not allowed to talk to compliance, and really vet this RFP with the IT Department. So now we have another meeting scheduled to discuss a change order to add in what the RFP left out. It will cost more than the winning bid because addition of features required to meet new previously unidentified requirements.
RFPs are not likely to go away, at least in the near future. Although because they require so much work on the customers part I have seen very large organizations award no bid contracts to current vendors who have done a good job for the customer and have a proven track record. I recommend this trend UNLESS the current vendor has NOT done a good job for your company. If you are unhappy with your current Vendor then by all means look for a new one who can earn your business and earn the right to get your renewed business without having to go out to bid each time.
If you have to do an RFP and you have a good vendor, who you consider a partner and trusted adviser then engage them early, Pre-RFP. Engage their Systems Engineers who can both ask the right questions and propose the right solution for your company. Ask for them to use their expertize to help your company craft the RFP so that it meets all of your needs. You may say that this is not fair to the potential new vendors! True, but what do you owe that new vendor? How has that new potential vendor earned your business? The better question to ask is what is BEST for your organization? I know that this relationship has the potential for abuse, and I am not talking about a sweet heart deal. But rather leveraging the expertize of your technology partner to craft the best requirements document pre-RFP, and then make that available to all of the vendors. I have seen this type of RFP and yes, I can tell when another vendor has helped craft an RFP. But that tells me that they are doing a good job for this customer and has earned the right to advise them. Which means unless I can WOW them with something that their current vendor can not do, they will remain loyal to their current vendor. I am OK with loyalty as a reward for good service & support, rather than “fairness” to a vendor who has done nothing for your company, but maybe that’s just me.
What should you do if you don’t have a current vendor that YOU trust to advise you in crafting a great RFP? You could hire a consultant, but most of these that I have met are experts in the traditional RFP process. You could form an internal team to handle the RFP. This team should include someone from Purchasing, the IT Department (possibly the printer expert), someone from Security, Compliance or Governance, and Operations (The people who handle the “Copiers \ MFDs” day to day). This group should meet with at least six months to a year before you award the bid.
Consider sending out a questionnaire to your departments (not just department heads). Ask them do you have any unique scanning, printing, or faxing needs? Do you have any upcoming projects that will involve document management, or printing, scanning, or faxing? Are there any unique compliance or governance issues that may effect how are end users scan, print, fax, or copy? The response to this questionnaire will help you ask the right questions of potential vendors.
Have the group interview a number of vendors and let the Vendors answer the question “Why should our company do business with you?” Then narrow down the list to two or three vendors that are a good fit for your company.
Things you should consider when selecting a Vendor:
Q. How long have they been doing business in your area(s)?
Q. How long have they sold & serviced the equipment that they are proposing?
Q. How long has your salesman been with this company?
Q. How many technicians do they have? In Total? In your area?
Q. Where is their Dispatch? Local or in another state?
Q. Where is their warehouse? Local or in another state?
Q. How much ($) in Parts, Supplies, or Inventory do they have in their warehouse?
Q. Do they have a team of Systems Engineers (dedicated specialist that integrate these MFDs into your network infrastructure)?
Q. Where are their SEs (Systems Engineers) based? Locally or in another State?
You may not care about this information before you purchase your MFDs but these questions will tell you what kind of infrastructure the Vendor has to support you after the sale. This can make or break the long term relationship when things don’t go as planned. It will also give you a better sense of what the Vendor brings to the table. Do they have the infrastructure to support a company like yours or are the simply a Sales Office with all of their infrastructure in another state Like a Hollywood Western town that has a great front, but nothing behind it when you look around back, LOL. A Vendor that has a better infrastructure will cost you more, but will also provide better service & support, and you will end up with less headaches!
Finally, ask your Vendor to give examples of how they have uniquely helped other companies get the most out of their MFDs? Can they give examples of how they have helped a company in your industry (Healthcare, Manufacturing, Education, or Finance)? Vendors who say “We CAN do this, and we CAN do that” may NOT be able to say we HAVE done this, and We HAVE done that! Well done is better than well said!
If you have a Vendor who has earned your business consider not doing an RFP. At least not every time you refresh your equipment. Think of how much time, effort, and money it can save your organization. But if you must do an RFP it is time to bring the process into the 21st Century. This may mean that you need a Project Manager and not a Purchasing Agent to lead the team. Either way focus on what’s best for your company, what brings the best value to your company, that should be more important that who will give us the cheapest 50 ppm copy machine.
That’s my $0.02
One of our Sales People took over an account from a company that he used to work for. While he was there doing some follow up training his main contact was telling him how much she appreciated how smooth the installs went, both from the Service Tech & our Systems Engineer. She said that she had gotten used to doing all the network portion of the installs herself with little to no help from our predecessor. She said that they don’t have Systems Engineers (SEs).
Seeing one of the competitors MFDs that was still under lease my salesman asked her how do you like the Xerox? To which he got the reply “The machine is OK, but they are just a copier company”. They can’t connect it, and integrate it with my network, my computers, or my software. My Sales guy was very pleased to hear that his old company is still just a copier company, they are still just selling boxes. Good luck with that!
Don’t expect to maintain any reasonable margin if you are just selling boxes. If you can’t leverage the functions of a multi functional device and integrate it into your customers infrastructure then you will have to be the cheapest. Because until you can actually solve your customers business problem you are selling a commodity. When you genuinely solve their problem by knowing how to configure your hardware & software within their environment you have added value. You have sold them (dare I say it) a solution.
By the way, no one calls us (NECS) “just a copier company”, how about you?
That’s My $0.02
There has been much talk about the mega dealer RJ Young buying 4 RBS branches.But what does it mean? Up until this point the trend has been for the Manufacturers to expand through acquisition of Dealers. And when they could not acquire a dealer they would often open up a direct _BS (CBS, RBS, KMBS, etc.) branch and try to compete against their own Independent Dealer. It goes without saying that doing so has not endeared the manufacturers to their dealers.
The manufacturers in their defense were reacting to their competition buying up large parts of their distribution change. See my blog post. They felt that they needed to directly control their distribution so that this could never happen again. In the beginning their was a considerable chill between the manufacturers and their Independent Dealers. I heard one quote ascribed to a Ricoh executive that in the near future they wouldn’t need their Independent Dealers! What Hubris! I am guessing that right about now he is rethinking that opinion. Do I think that that the practice of Manufacturers selling off their branches to large Independent dealers is a trend? Maybe in the more rural areas, we’ll see.
I think Ricoh’s significant financial troubles made them the first to be willing to take this step. But other manufacturers continue to struggle with their direct sales force. In the case of Canon, I think they felt that CBS would fill the void left by IKON & Danka, and to a lesser degree Global. And while they spoke about how important the Independent dealers were to them, they were opening up CBS branches across the street, trying to put them out of business, or at least relegate them to a significantly lesser role. But it hasn’t been quite that easy. The Independent dealers did not “go quietly into that good night”. With decades of history selling & supporting their products and an infrastructure that no _BS branch can claim the large independent dealers are thriving. We have been filling the vacuum, and competing quite well against the direct sales branches.
I recently saw a great line on the P4PayHotel that asked “Do you buy a car directly from GM? Ford? or BMW? Of course not! You buy a car from a local dealership that has a solid service infrastructure standing behind them. Cars and Copiers (MFDs) are very similar types of purchases. They cost about the same (ranging from under $10K to over $100K). They require regular maintenance and fairly high tech support. If BMW opened up a direct sales office in your town, and had a beautiful showroom and nice experienced sales people, but no parts department, or their top tech was based 3 states away, would you be comfortable buying a car from them? I doubt it, I surely wouldn’t.
Manufacturers are great at manufacturing, but they struggle when they get outside of that comfort zone. Most of their _BS branches are losing money. They have attracted an experienced sales force, they have nice demo rooms in major markets. But heir centralized support model leaves much to be desired from a customers point of view. I have heard CBS sales people say that they thought they would roll into town as CBS and fill the void left by IKON & Danka, but it has been a lot harder competing with the large Independent dealers than they thought it would be. I have heard managers within the Independent community say the direct _BS branches would be the end of the independent dealers. Only to find that the “reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated!”
The truth is there is a place for both the direct sales and the independent channel. The biggest problem that the _BS branches are causing for the dealers today is giving away their products and especially their service. After they say “We are the Manufacturer” (see two paragraphs up) they then say “We have the same products as the Independent” (which is true). They then go to their Ace in the hole “We are cheaper than the independent dealer” (No wonder all the _BS branches lose money). To tell the truth I don’t mind selling against someone who is “the cheapest”, because the response to that statement is do you want “Cheap” or do you want “the Best Value”? Then I proceed to explain the difference between the _BS branch and our large Independent Dealership. For 20 years our President has had a saying “Canon is the product, and NECS is the difference!” This has never been truer than it is today because CBS and Oce have the same Canon product as we do, but they don’t have:
an alternative product line like we do (Konica Minolta) when Canon is not the right fit.
They don’t have a local warehouse with millions of dollars or parts, and millions of dollars of inventory.
They don’t have a Sales force that has been selling in this area for 20+ years,
They don’t have a Service force that has been servicing this equipment with an average of 15 years experience (some as many as 25 & 30 years).
They don’t have local dispatch who knows the local weather, and the distance between Gloucester & Worcester.
They don’t have a local team of Systems Engineers to integrate, configure, and support these MFDs on our customers networks and with our customers software.
Finally, the _BS branch does not empower their sales force to solve their customers problems. Our Sales people CAN talk directly to Service (from the tech to the VP). Our Sales people CAN talk to the Billing coordinator to resolve billing issues, or the leasing coordinator to resolve leasing issues. If you have ever had a problem with leasing or billing you know how valuable that is.
All of which brings value to what we are selling. Because we are NOT just selling a Canon or a Konica Minolta. We are selling an NECS\Canon or an NECS\Konica Minolta with the full faith and infrastructure of NECS standing behind the manufacturer’s great product. That’s the NECS difference. It costs a little more, but it is certainly a better value.
The sweet taste of a cheap price soon turns bitter with the reality of living with poor service & support after the sale. Especially when you have to live with it for 3 to 5 years. So ask me why we cost a little more that the _BS branch even though we are selling the same products, that is a discussion that I look forward to.
That’s My $0.02
…to put your cell phone number on your business card!
Why? You ask in Horror!
Because I do, and I tell my customers to ask my competitors if they will give them their top “IT” guys cell phone number. My competitors just look at their shoes and try to talk and talk until they think that the customer forgets what they asked, but they don’t forget.
Again, you ask in disbelief, why? why do you do it? Because I have a great organization standing behind me. You’d better if you give out your cell phone number. I am NOT afraid of my customers calling me with a problem. My BIGGEST PROBLEM is when my customer has a problem that I don’t know about.
Problems are an opportunity for you to shine, for your team, or your company to shine! Do you have a billing issue? I have the greatest “Back Room” in the industry, and our Sales People can actually talk directly to them, and get our customer’s billing issue resolved. I know that this is not possible in the direct (_BS) Branch. When I worked for a direct branch we had to go through layers of managers and bureaucracies only to be told shut up and get out there and sell something. What the _BS Branch doesn’t understand and I doubt will ever understand is YOU WERE SELLING!!!!!! You were selling your company to the Customer.
No wonder why the Direct Branches always sell for the lowest rock bottom price, they have nothing else to say. Because they won’t let their sales people take care of their customer’s problems. So the customer correctly assumes that their salesman has no juice (can’t get anything done), so why should they pay more for their products when there is no added value. And I really don’t blame sales people who work for the Direct (_BS) Branch for not putting their cell phone numbers on their Business Card. Because if you are not allowed to solve your customer’s problems you certainly don’t want them calling you!
Finally, if you are a sales person please have a real message on your cell phones voice mail. Don’t just say you’ve reached 617-555-5678. Seriously? Don’t you want your customer to know that they’ve reached YOU! When I call a sales person and I can’t tell if I have actually reached the right person, I will double check the number, and then tentatively leave a message. If I am not sure that I have reached you how will your customer know.The bottom line is you need to be reachable. If you are not they will call me, and I answer my phone
That’s My $0.02
I know that at one time or another every Manufacturer will relabel someone elses device to fill a gap in their line. But it blew me away at HOW MUCH RELABELING XEROX IS DOING!
We were competing for a customer’s business against Xerox. Xerox had already proposed 4 different Xerox models for this customer’s fleet of MFDs. Doing our due diligence we looked up these models on BLI and to my surprise saw that each of these 4 Models had a different manufacturer!!!! I didn’t expect this from Xerox. I was especially surprised to see SAMSUNG & Konica Minolta listed as two of the OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer). See excerpts from the 4 BLI reports below.
I don’t know any customer who would knowingly mix 4 different types of MFDs for their fleet. By Xerox relabeling the 4 different OEMs the customer doesn’t know they are doing exactly that. Hopefully this article will allow customers to make an informed decision.
No wonder I hear so many horror stories about Xerox struggling to network their devices when they are made by so many different manufacturers. There is no way a Technician will be completely knowledgeable on 4 different lines. If you have a jar of pickles BUT you label the jar apples it may fool some people initially, but it doesn’t change what’s in the jar! So even though it says Xerox on the out side, it could be Samsung, or Konica Minolta, or Fuji, on the inside. I thought that you would like to know.
That’s My $0.02
I was talking to my VP of Service, Mike McLaughlin the other day and he posed the question why is it legal to set a Copier \ MFD’s meter to only make a single meter click on an 11×17 page when it is twice the size of a standard Letter (8 1/2 x 11) page? That would be like having the option to set your car’s odometer to only count every other mile when it ran on certain roads, or when it was driven by certain drivers. That would actually be against the law, because you would be defrauding the person who would buy that car after you. Isn’t that the same on a copier? Would it be OK if Airplanes only counted certain hours that they flew? How would that effect their maintenance or resale value? As a consumer would you be OK flying on that plane? What if you as a consumer couldn’t tell which cars or planes had their meters “adjusted” to only count a portion of what they should? I would want to know so that I could make an informed choice, wouldn’t you?
Why would anyone want to set up the Total (main) Copier meter to single click an 11×17 page? There is really only one small segment of the business community that wants their copiers set up this way, and that is “Print for Pay”, or Quick Printers. Because they both sell and are charge by the page, it is the printing industry that insists on having their copiers \ MFDs set to single click on 11×17. Their is no other group that I can think of that really cares about it. Now I don’t dislike Print for Pay companies. I made a good living selling to Print for Pay when I was a Color Sales Specialist. Print for Pay buys top of the line equipment, often with high end accessories that is why sales people like them. On the other hand Print for Pay businesses (thanks to Larry Hunt) expect uber-competative pricing (for equipment and service) and demand a high level of service. They are one of the few customer who will pull out a “loop” to show you an imperfection in a copy or print that can not be seen with the naked eye. Print for Pay companies are also notorious for not paying their service on time, or wanting to negotiate down their overages. Now I realize that this is a generalization and that there are some P4P companies that do pay in full and on time, but in my experience they are more the exception rather than the norm.
So why should one small business segment get to dictate to all copier manufactures that they have to have this “feature” to short the total meter? If these companies did a normal amount of 11×17 that a typical business did, this wouldn’t be that big a deal. But most of these Printers run all of their 8 1/2 x 11 jobs two up on 11×17 paper and they cut them in half after they are printed or copied. This cuts their cost in half, which is great for them but who suffers? The consumer who buys a used copier in the aftermarket! These print for pay shops put a lot of clicks on their copiers \ MFDs. When you consider that the actual total clicks could be twice what the total meter reads these MFDs should be junked and not resold. This sure seems to to fit the definition of fraud, IMHO.
We have state divisions of weights & measures, and the attorney generals have offices of fraud and consumer affairs to stop this kind of abuse for cars, and trucks, and planes, and scales. But not copiers or MFDs at least not yet. I understand that Print for Pay is very competitive business, but I think allowing them to set their total meter to count 11×17 (which is twice the size of the standard 8 1/2 x 11) as one click is wrong.
That’s my $0.02
Maybe I am feeling a little nostalgic. The New Year fast approaches, and I have been writing this blog for 3 years. As I look back over a long an interesting career, I got to thinking about just how long I have been in this industry and all of the different jobs I have held. I have been a Trainee, a Service Tech, Troubleshooter, Field Service Manager, Salesman, Systems Engineer, Solutions Manager, and now an Executive.
I started working for 3M BPSI in Manhattan, NY in 1978, my first real job out of high school. I had a walking territory in the midtown and uptown of the East Side of NYC. Since I didn’t use a car, I didn’t get a Car allowance, but I did get $75.00 every quarter for shoes (LOL). I was originally trained to repair microfilm machines but in December of 1979 I was trained on 3M’s Secretary II Alpha Model 368 Copier. Believe it or not, I still have my diploma. That was the first copy machine that I was trained on. It came with a pair of large wooden tongs and you needed to have an empty solid metal waste basket next to it, because sometimes the paper would get stuck under the “toaster oven” like heater and catch fire. You were instructed to use the wooden tongs to remove the paper (while it is on fire) and put it in the empty, solid, metal waste can to “safely burn out”. Now consider that I use to service equipment in NYC 30 floors up and higher! Can you imagine OSHA being OK with a copy machine where the paper occasionally caught fire! Those were the good old days LOL.
I took about a 10 year break from the industry when I left in 1980 for school and travel, and returned in 1989 as a trainee copy service technician (in the Boston area) first on Mita copiers, and then Canon. While working at this large regional dealership I became a Troubleshooter, and then Field Manager, managing a dozen technicians who serviced the high volume Canon equipment (50ppm and up). In the early and mid 90’s the digital copier came on the scene. My Dealership sent two managers to Novell CNE school (back then Novell had 60% of the Server Market). The Service manager decided to go himself and took one Field Service Manager with him, I was a Field Service Manager but not the one chosen for Novell School. But it was apparent to me that these digital copy machines would drastically change our industry, so I paid for the Novell CNE training out of my own pocket (my then wife was NOT happy about that). when I finished all the classes and associated test to earn my CNE (Novell Certified Network Engineer) both of the managers who were CNE’s gave their notice within two weeks of each other. Leaving me as the only CNE on staff. After financial arrangements were worked out to cover my out of pocket costs I was made a part of the Connectivity Team, and in six months I was manager of the team. I managed that team for several years, and almost took a job with eCopy but decided to stay at NECS. After maxing out my earning potential managing the Systems Support team I decided to go over to “the dark side” (LOL), I became one of three Color Sales Specialists. At this time my dealership was a single line Canon dealer. The CLC was in the sunset of its domination and the ImageRUNNER C3200 had just been released. My first year I sold a little over 3/4 of a million dollars @ 36 profit margin.My favorite deals were selling a New IRC 3200 with a used CLC1150 that package would meet all of my customers needs. The CLC5000’s were still a very viable product in the Print for Pay market.
Then Canon released the infamous C3100 & C6800 hybrid B&W/Color devices that changed things again. I was sitting in a sales meeting when the Director of Sales started chiding the sales force for NOT selling these C3100’s and C6800’s on their own (without the color specialists). I caught him as we left the meeting and said, “so my job is going away?”, he looked at me sideways and said “why do you say that?”. I laughed and asked him if he was just in the same meeting I was. After thinking about what he said in the meeting he said to me, I can see how you might think that, but assured me he would make room for me as a down the street rep. Not really what I had in mind.
Shortly after that Sales meeting I got a call from a Major Account Rep who left the Dealership and went to work for Ricoh Business Systems (RBS) now Ricoh Business Solutions. He told me that they were reconstituting their “Solutions Team” and were looking for someone like me to run the team. After 3 long and intense interviews I was offered and accepted the job of Solutions Manager for RBS-Boston (The New England Market Place). I was later told that in a cost cutting measure Ricoh had disbanded their previous Solutions Team, and were surprised when their sales tanked (DUH!). I took about a year to get the chemistry right between the Solutions Team and the Sales force. But once we did we were a formidable force. The second year I was their RBS-Boston hit our triple crown numbers. We were the only branch out of 13 US branches to do it that year, and RBS-Boston had never done it before in the history of that branch. I was a part of a great management team! The branch awarded me an MVP trophy that year. I still have it in my office today.
The Lanier \ Ricoh merger was announced towards the end of that year. We went down to a joint (Ricoh \ Lanier) year end meeting. I was psyched for that meeting! Why not, we were the only branch to knock it out of the park that year. We were strutting around when we got there, when I was told that they would be changing the structure of the branches. I naively said “to match how RBS-Boston is set up?” No, not exactly….. They moved my team into the Service department… I thought WTF? Do you have any idea what we do? or what it took to accomplish what we’ve done? Apparently not. This is when I lost respect for Ricoh’s management because they don’t respect results. They are more concerned about all the branches being the same (= mediocre). How can you work for a company that asks you to accomplish difficult goals and when you do it they change everything that you work so hard to put in place. I can’t and choose not to work for them anymore. I was offered the job of Vice President for the Dealership I worked for back in ’89.
I have been back with NECS for over 4 years, and when you add that to my previous 16 1/2 years I have worked for NECS for a little over 20 years now. So please indulge me in this short stroll down memory lane. This industry has been very good to me. I have had the opportunity to meet and work with some great people. I know that not everyone is cut out for it, and many people burn out after a few years. But for those of us who call it “our industry”, it has shaped us as much as we have shaped it.
What will 2012 bring? I have no crystal ball. But making it through the Tsunami and double dip recession of 2011 still standing tall, I have great expectations for 2012. I hope that it will be good to you too! Happy New Year! Bring on 2012!
That’s my $0,02
While the purchase of Oce by Canon, and Ikon by Ricoh are old news, both of these organizations have continued to be players in the industry. But it looks like that will change in 2012. The word on the street is the Ikon name will cease to exist in April 2012, and Canons recent move to “delist Oce” forebodes the same for the Oce name http://www.canon.com/news/2011/dec22e.html
While the number of choices for companies narrow even further in 2012, the basic choice remains the same when it comes to who will you buy an MFD from? And even more important who will service and support that MFD after the sale? The second question is best answered BEFORE the first question! Because a cheap initial price will soon be forgotten in the face of poor service and support. It is quality service and support AFTER THE SALE that brings the real value to the deal. Is a few dollars less a month worth the head aches and complaints from your staff & coworkers for the next 3 to 5 years. I know that Purchasing Agents like to boil it down to a like for like comparison and then negotiate the cheapest price possible. And in some cases you may even be comparing the same manufacturer’s MFDs from two different vendors. What will you use to differentiate one Dealer from another? Here are a couple of things to consider:
1) How long has this Dealer been servicing the equipment they sell?
2) What is the average experience of their technicians on the equipment you are buying?
3) How long have they been selling and servicing in your area?
4) What kind of reputation do they have for Service & Support after the sale?
Anyone can provide 3 references, so talk to other companies in your area,
or check the BBB to see what their rating is.
5) Do they have local System Engineers on staff? How many? Or does the same copier tech who
changes the heat roller do the systems work? Are you comfortable with that?
When you go out to buy a car, do you look for the cheapest car you can find? And then take it to the cheapest repair shop to maintain it? Generally not, especially if you are spending your own hard earned money, you want VALUE for your dollar! Why then does “common sense” go out the window when we are buying something for our company? When we buy a Car, or a TV, or a Suit we don’t look for the cheapest, we look for the best value, and I will pay a little more for it because it will last, and when I find a vendor,merchant, or car mechanic that gives me good service after the sale, I go back there again and again. And I tell other people to go there as well, because they gave me a good value, and good service after the sale.
So what are your 3 main choices in 2012 when it comes to buying an MFD (Copier)?
- The Direct Sales Arm of the Manufacturer, the _BS Branch (CBS, RBS, TABS, KMBS)
- The Large Regional Dealers
- The Mom & Pop Dealer – small, local, shop with a couple of techs.
If you are a very small office with one small piece of equipment you might consider the small Mom & Pop dealer. You needs will not likely tax their limited resources. But If you have multiple MFDs or multiple offices you are really down to two choices, the _BS Branch or a Large Regional Dealer. The Branch will say “We are the Manufacturer, why would you want to deal with anyone else”. CBS, RBS, TABS, and KMBS have never manufactured anything. They are just another sales channel and are treated no different than any other Sales Channel by the actual manufacturer (Canon, Ricoh, Toshiba, Konica Minolta). But even if the _BS Branch was “The Manufacturer”, what does that mean to you? You still need to answer the question How good is their service & support (after the sale) going to be? Past performance is the best indicator of future results. If you have a large regional dealership that has been in business for 30 to 40 years they have survived and thrived on good service & support. So do your due diligence and look for the best value in 2012. Because the sweet taste of the cheapest price will soon sour when poor service and support cause you head aches not just in 2012 but 2013, 2014, 2015, and beyond. I like to tell potential customers up front that we won’t be the “cheapest” company that they look at, and if that is what they want, “the cheapest”, they shouldn’t be looking at us. We will be competitive, and we will provide the best value for their dollars. But good service & support cost a little more. So you decide in 2012 what you want “The Cheapest Initial price” or “The Best Value for your money”. I already know what I will pick!
That’s my $0.02
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Luke 2:1 – 20
I wish you and your family a Merry Christmas, and a very prosperous and Happy New Year! If 2011 was not all you wanted it to be, ask yourself what will you do differently in 2012? Because one practical definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results.