Article | June 15, 2017

The Future And The Past: A Tale Of Two Meetings

By Ray Stasieczko, Consultant

Last week I attended Print Audit’s Seat Based Billing Roadshow. The Roadshow was held the day before the BTA meeting in Kansas City. I decided to attend both. The SBB roadshow was informative. It is always refreshing when I see organizations bringing the future to the present.

A company becomes obsolete when it focuses on bringing the past to the future instead of bringing the future to the present.

For that, I give Print Audit, John Maclnnes, West McDonald, their team, and the vendors who supported them a big thumbs-up. Seat Based Billing is a common practice in the Managed IT Sector, and it’s time the copier industry adds the method to their deliverable. It will be interesting to see how the print manufacturers, the IT sector resellers, and those who manage print service vendors will adapt to the SBB print services model. I believe Print Audit has many opportunities with their software. They are pioneering the transformation of a much-needed change to Managed Print Services, a decades-old deliverable. It will be exciting times ahead as Print Audit continues focusing their deliverables on the future.    

Next was the BTA Meeting, a reunion of the past.   

 About three years ago I decided, after spending over twenty-five years in the copy/print industry, that it was time to shift my attention from those who insist on bringing the past to the future, and instead focus on those bringing the future to the present. I spent this time living in and learning from the IT sector. My time at ImageQuest, where I helped lead the transition of a legacy Print provider to a Managed Services and Security firm, taught me many things. The most valuable lesson: transitioning to something new is easier with the revenue from the legacy deliverables still intact.

Many will wait too long and die of thirst as their wells dry up. This week reminded me that except for a small minority of players the Imaging Channel is still in the past. When you attend their meetings, it’s like going to a reunion. Reunions bring us up to date on the past. You laugh and joke about the good old days; you reminisce on what was; you run from the controversy of what could be, and you bask in a safe-zone where the truth is translated to what you want to hear by those who won't challenge you for fear of economic reprisal.

Ladies and gentlemen of the Imaging Channel, it is past the time for continuous reunions. The Imaging Channel must seek out the future, and even welcome those future competitors to the party. It’s time to look in new places and welcome new ideas. It’s time to run toward your future relevancy, jumping over your past.

The time has come for the forward thinking thought leaders of the Imaging Channel to throw a huge retirement party. They should invite all those who are betting that their retirement from their business will come before their irrelevance in business. This retirement party should not just be for Dealers. Invite manufacturers, software providers, consultants, and peer groups. Invite everyone who is holding back the future.

Far too often, I hear industry leaders say, “I’ll retire before I need to change." The copier industry is not immune from obsolescence, and without the ability to discuss how they can be defeated they are at the mercy of those who will defeat them.

It is not about Paperless

The threat to the Imaging Channel is not a paperless society; it’s an “Annuityless” business model. Yes, I made up that word. Ring the bell and remember this. It’s “Annuityless” that will destroy the Imaging Channel's decade's old reoccurring revenue model. As the manufacturers continue reducing complexity, expanding yields, and eliminating screws, the service model will evolve. If you think the pain of 0.003 is bad, wait until it is 0.0000, and is replaced by the Amazon website where the user simply adds the needed parts and supplies to their shopping cart. Wait until the service tech is replaced by the end-user or a freelancer from Field Nation.

Those in the Imaging Channel must repurpose themselves and start looking where they’ve never looked, start inviting their imaginations to their board rooms, start collaborating with those on the outside of their circles and quit believing that improvement will win-out over reinvention in a declining market. The Imaging Channel Dealers and the vendors who support them must stop fighting for continuous improvement, and begin fighting for continuous relevance. Diversifying a deliverable or completely changing your deliverable is always better when the current circumstances of the old way can support the transition. The time to benefit from the present circumstances is quickly running out. So my friends, stop going to reunions and start collaborating with those outside your norm. Start looking past what’s just in front of you, and stop denying yourself the thoughts of a different future.

No business is exempt from becoming irrelevant; however, all business leaders have the choice to change. By constantly surrounding ourselves with the cheerleaders for Status Quo, we will soon perish. Think about this; when the speakers at these reunions have to begin their conversations by justifying the relevance of what those attending do, who are they trying to sell on status quo? You or themselves? No one can guarantee the future, but as the leaders of your companies, you must not let the emotions tied to the way it was, highjack what your common sense tells you is the way it must be.