Archive for April, 2012

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Ricoh – Prepare for a talent exodus

April 28, 2012

I received a call from a Ricoh sales guy in another state who read a 2009 post on my blog.

https://theconnectedcopier.wordpress.com/2009/03/11/are-ricohs-employees-paying-for-the-ikon-aquistion/

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
Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@yahoo.com

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Never let them see you sweat!

April 21, 2012

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
Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@yahoo.com

PS: My thanks to the people who helped me make this weeks install successful! You know who you are.

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How to tell you work for a good company

April 15, 2012

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
Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@yahoo.com

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Making the “Copier” relevant in today’s office

April 5, 2012

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
Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@necs.biz
WWW.NECS.BIZ

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IKON the great is fallen, is fallen…

April 1, 2012

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
Vince McHugh
vince.mchugh@necs.biz
WWW.NECS.BIZ