Monday, December 13, 2010

Taking The Human Element Further

After reading this post by Amanda Hutchins at the MPS insights blog many thoughts flew through my mind. While I really enjoyed the post I found that her perspective almost seemed skewed towards the acceptance of the following philosophy as proposed in this paragraph:

"Now, if Mr. MPS Specialist comes into the office to optimize your fleet–taking away your congregating point there could be some resistance. Are you happy with this change? No! Could this affect your job satisfaction and in turn your work? Yes! Are you going to riot? Well, probably not, but you get my point."

Perhaps I am just taking it the wrong way, but it almost seems as if "Mr.MPS specialist" will always be tasked with taking away said end-users congregating point and the above seems to suggest "that's just how it is."

Who says taking away the congregating point is always the right thing to do and is "Mr.MPS Specialist" always to propose such an idea? I understand that many companies will in fact take away said congregating point however, if we are going to discuss the human element in this way perhaps we should consider the fact that maybe this is not the right thing to do. Perhaps if said congregation meets in this way and job satisfaction is merely one of several positive byproducts accompanied by useful conversation within said aggregate which in turn produces benefits to the company and its customers...

Is cutting this limb off really benefiting the company?

As far as I know, this kind of thought process, one which takes into account the psychological consequences of MPS in regards to an organizations end-users is uncommon. With that being said... perhaps it shouldn't be.

I personally think that "Mr.MPS specialist's" job should not merely be a well oiled, overly mechanical process that eliminates costs without the human element associated with those costs also being taken into consideration.

People make your business what it is and people don't like being sterilized. Cutting certain costs may be akin to cutting out the human element. If the interactions at the water fountain, the coffee pot or the printer directly effect the emotions of the people who will be answering your phones, taking orders or speaking with your customers, then eliminating that organic experience may very well cost you more than it saves you in the long run. I suggest that maybe lowering the costs associated with said congregating point as apposed to eliminating it all together is something to consider.

I personally believe that if your trying to save money within your business, you may achieve the exact opposite if the only thing you focus on is money itself.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Selling or Saving?

I just returned from stocking toner at a local college who's staff are customers of mine. Since returning I sent a message to the IT manager to call attention to the fact that a new color laser printer was placed outside of a computer lab that is used heavily by students...

A woman from the library informed me that said printer was being used by students to print color documents and that many of them as of late happened to be full page color prints of non-school related material such as ads, coupons and etc.

I quickly sent a message to the schools IT manager to inform him of these clicks so that he could decided what to do from here.

Color is expensive and while I could have sat back and let the clicks fly, boosting my commission for the month, I decided instead to help my customer see the possibly unnecessary expenses inherent with the location of said printer. If these variables had not been considered, cost saving actions could now be made should he choose to act on them...

My point is this...

In selling and sustaining a managed print services program, a good sales professional will always put the customers savings before their commission.

So I'll ask you this...

Is your rep focused on lining their pockets or helping you save money?

Friday, November 5, 2010

MPS, Jabooda and Barcelona

Upon first reading the headline of this post you are no doubt asking yourself...

What is Jabooda?

The funny thing is that many folks in Barcelona Spain (which happens to be the location for this years European MPS conference) are probably asking themselves the same thing. (See photo above).

About 2 months ago I was asked to write a post about about guerrilla marketing for my buddy Mark Schaefer's {GROW} marketing blog (highly recommended, Mark really is a phenomenal and friendly marketing professional and his blogs community is full of equally wonderful people) which described how I used the technique of guerrilla marketing not only in my work here at Expert Laser Services in regards to my now infamous "Destroy Your Printer Contest Series" but also in regards to marketing my band Jabooda.

The article explained how a simple sticker campaign promoted through friends, fans, and street team members manifested Jabooda stickers in most of the 50 states of the USA and in a growing collection of European countries.

The stickers simply ask the question "What is Jabooda?" below which there is a url for our facebook page.

Since the article has gotten out we have had orders for stickers from Spain, Egypt and Cyprus and as you can see we are effectively making ourselves known on a global scale.

So if you are going to the conference and you happen to see a "What is Jabooda?" sticker somewhere, consider yourself in the know.

Please help cure AHC! Please Read!

I am asking for help...

I am asking for any of you who read this post to please donate a second of your time to vote for a research fund from Pepsi to help find a cure for Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood (AHC).

My little Cousin Ian struggles with this very rare and potentially dangerous disorder. With your help we can find a way to cure this disorder which
specifically effects younger children.

All you have to do is go to this webpage and vote for the funding to go to this cause.

Thank you for your time.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

"We're Mocking The Industy"

You know how in cartoons where some character is torn between making a decision for good or bad and an angel and demon archetype would appear on one shoulder of said character while their counterpart would manifest on the other shoulder and try to sway their decisions?

Well, when I first looked at the picture in this post on Photizo's MPS insights blog that is the first thing that came to mind.

I will let you figure out which archetype I thought each of them to symbolize....

Anyway, I find that some of the folk in this industry are rather stuffy, all business types who prefer a tight corporate noose and an ocean of paper work to drown in. Granted those people get things done... With that being said I think the post referenced above speaks volumes about the fact that you can be two very important icons within your industry who work equally as hard as the previously mentioned personality and still be a goofball.

I believe in the mantra "If its not fun, why do it?" and I think the above video proves that even within the MPS industry, this philosophy can thrive.

Haza, Greg. Haza, Ken.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Division Line

Many salesmen in this industry (and most others) are just that. Salesmen. An annoying breed of well dressed double talking magicians whose sole purpose is to generate money for the corporate machine and of course, themselves. They move from prospect to prospect in a veil of smoke and mirrors which to some is rather enticing. Truth be told many of these creatures are quite good at coming off as saints while actually perpetrating a far more sinister role in reality.

There are also those who are more trustworthy and noble folks who while reflecting said positive attributes still do only one thing. Sell...

As a salesmen (or rather a "business oriented relationship development specialist") I too share in the responsibilities of selling. What separates myself and other more noble people within the craft from the big boys are the other aspects of my work which have lead to the development of my character as it pertains to my position as a salesman.

Here at Expert Laser Services our sales team has had to take on some roles that many salesmen in larger companies would not have (additional duties that many of those mentioned in the first paragraph of this post would scoff at).

Being a smaller company, each of our salesmen are tasked with setting up new accounts with toner for each and every end user, providing each printer with a cleaning and or simple maintenance with our own two hands. There are times when we have go out into the field and do monthly cleanings and maintenance for large organizations ourselves. These jobs sometimes take one or multiple days out of our time that would normally be spent on finding new customers and trying to build new relationships.

These are the kind of experiences you may be hard pressed to find within the history of salesmen who work for the "big boys" or who tread upon the earth with that certain level of ego in regards to what their responsibilities "should be".

While I do not claim to enjoy doing monthly cleanings or simple maintenance procedures, jobs which can be lengthy, at times dirty and somewhat redundant, I will say that performing such duties have helped make me a better salesman. Having to execute these tasks myself has given me a great respect for those on our team who do these jobs day in and day out and help me to communicate with our service team better. These experiences also help me to get to know my customers from the CEO to the receptionist and every end user in between, better than I would have known them otherwise.

Whether its delivering toner, removing a paper jam, cleaning a machine, replacing rollers or so on and so forth, having to take part in these responsibilities (which are shunned by the bravado of some salesmen) plays an integral part in the molding of sales professionals who really care.

Take note of where you stand, for there is an invisible division line dividing those who wish to manipulate you and or situations connected to you in a way that places prosperity not on your shoulders as the customer but on their own, their focus being on success only as it pertains to them. On the other side of this division line are those who truly want to help you, folks who will take time from the chasing of their own gains to take care of your needs. Those who will work diligently not only to feed their own success but rather to fuel yours.

Indeed, there is a division line drawn in the sand.

When it comes down to the people who are supposed to be helping you, I would ask yourself...

On which side are they standing?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Debunking The "Paperless Office" Myth

On this past Saturday afternoon I read this from Ken Stewart on linkedin:

Answer Charlie's Question: "How is the MPS market growing if its goal is to reduce prints?"

To which I answered:

It's not really about reducing prints so much as it is about reducing the cost of the prints. If being a print Nazi was what MPS was about (and some MPS providers are just that to their customers end users) then this industry would be futile.

This got me thinking...

Since April I have connected with about 300 businesses. If nothing else I have been able to garner one valuable insight. Other than maybe within the context of the medical field and or folks involved with law or government offices, the paperless office is at best a myth.

Out of the 300 aforementioned businesses only one person in one of those organizations had actually made a shift to the paperless office and they still had a printer... "just in case".

I have found that even the people who like the idea of a paperless office become a bit more reserved when all of a sudden they ask for a print out from their receptionist and there is not one available because they are now "paperless".

The simple fact of the matter is that human beings who work in an office setting (sans some atypical types) have developed an emotional connection with printed documents (whether they realize it or not). I can't tell you how many people I know who print e-mails to show other folks the e-mail, which of course could have been done without the printing of said e-mail.

To illustrate the concept further I would like to point to a less office oriented form of print. Books. Unlike newspapers whose fate seems to be teetering between extinction and an existence of novelty and antiquity, books have not wavered in popularity as much despite their digital nemesis.

I propose that this is due to the emotional power that books have over people. There is a strong esoteric pleasure in the indulgence and enjoyment of the cover art, back cover description and the feeling of a book in hand. Not unlike the lost art of buying a band's album for the same reasons, the book has yet to be fully replaced by e-readers and other technological offerings and while I know there is a huge difference between a good book and a simple office memo, the latter still has a bit of a connection to the emotional power of the former.

With that being said, I say that the "paperless office" is nothing more than futurist mythology that will never be...

Although, depending upon what the future holds for our freedoms in any government I suppose the possibility of the paperless office could manifest within the context of the unsavory power structure of a dictatorship (either within a company or, God forbid... a nation).

I suppose time will tell... What do you think?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

MPS And The New Paradigm

I just signed an mps contract with the college mentioned in this post.

It has been 6 months since I started working with this school. Long sales cycles indeed...

The time that has elapsed from the first meeting to the signing of the contract which took place this morning was a bit frustrating and anxious at times, but shaking hands with a new customer and switching gears into building a relationship with the organization is well worth the wait.

I think what set me at ease for most of the process and what has helped me to deal with the long periods of time between the meetings, board meetings, phone calls, e-mails and correspondences with the IT manager from the school was the ability to focus on everything except the sale.

Maybe that sounds a little "anti-sales" in philosophy but I digress, thinking about the commission, the recognition or the smile that a contract would bring to my CEO's face was the last thing I thought about during the different phases of this project.

What I tried to focus on was the customers needs and getting to know some of the end users along the way, the simple pleasure of walking the grounds of the school while moving from building to building during the analysis as well as the times spent meeting with the schools IT manager, getting to know him better and understanding the needs of the school and its staff.

People are essentially what MPS is all about, at least that is what it should be about.

You may have a slick elevator pitch and all the chutzpah in the world and you may even get someone to ink a deal with you. However if all of that is the product of a focus bent on the acquiring of money, your gains will only lead to problems. Success, in the sense of building a long term relationship that will be profitable for you and for your business can and will only come from approaching the process with a spirit of passion and a drive to help other human beings.

You have to want your customers to succeed, to do better and to move forward. You have to provide them with a product and service that will help them to achieve said goals. You have to not only want this for the person who signs your contract but for everyone in their organization.

The ability to sell is no longer all that it takes to be a great salesman, not in this industry. This is managed print services and in this realm you have to be real, you have to be honest and as silly as it might sound you have to approach each and every prospect with love. I don't mean an outward pouring of sentimentality but rather an honest and true dedication and concern for every single person in the organizations that you deal with. You really have to care about how the end users are doing, what their opinions are, how they feel and sometimes what their hobbies, aspirations and life passions are. Some might look at this perspective as trivial and or useless however, these interactions are the division lines between being a corporate machine or a business composed of caring and organic human interaction. This interaction is just as important in regards to the end users and various staff members as it is in regards to the CEO, the CFO and the CIO.

Managed print services is not really about machines, document output, business process optimization, toner cartridges or anything else for that matter. It is about people and the promises we make to them. It is about being as good as our word and standing behind the principles that we project. It is about our actions and how they reflect our ability to take care of people in the way that we have promised that we will. It is about the fruit that our promises produce.

If you are going to make it in this industry you have you to be ready for long sales cycles...

You have to be open to getting to know the people, because once they sign that contract...

They are your people.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Medicinal Guerrilla Marketing?

While out on a sales call this past Friday I came across a curious looking vehicle parked in the back of a PC repair shop. At first glance It looked as if it was just another local hospital ambulance however, upon further inspection it was clear that I had stumbled across an awesome marketing ploy.

I like to think of myself as a
guerrilla marketing enthusiast for the technique of said art is one of my personal favorites in relation to my own marketing efforts. So I was only too excited to find that the vehicle before me was no ordinary ambulance but rather a brilliant example of guerrilla marketing. Once drawing closer I found that the ambulance was in fact an emergency vehicle...

For computers.

The PC Triage Center which happened to be the aforementioned PC repair shop actually did house calls with the old ambulance. The company logos and name being the only aspects revealing the true nature of the automobiles purpose.

And so to the creative minds at The PC Triage Center I say with great pleasure, Haza! Good Job!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Destroy Your Printer 2010 RECAP

In the above photo you will see "Destroy Your Printer Contest 2" winner Matt Soper of Matt Soper Marketing (right) and Dennis McCurdy
(left), owner of The McCurdy Group in Sturbridge, MA. Matt Soper won this years contest with this over the top destruction of a copier as seen here:

Matt decided to give his prize of two free toner cartridges to Dennis who is a mutual customer of both Matt Soper Marketing and Expert Laser Services. Matt also chose
"calling all crows" as his charity of choice for the $100 donation that was part of this years prize.

The destroy your printer contest which is now an annual staple here at Expert Laser Services has really proved to be an amazing tool for generating new business as well as acting as a catalyst to generate sales with current customers. Dennis who already does business with us was kind enough to refer me to The Law Offices of George & George, a firm located next to his office. After speaking with the receptionist at said law office I left with the afterglow of a new prospect and the enjoyable experience of meeting a new person and hopefully the start of a new relationship between our business and theirs.

It is really incredible to me how our destroy your printer contest in conjunction with our other social media efforts is proving to be so valuable to us as a mechanism which allows us to connect with new prospects and further deepen current customer relationships.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Customers Story

I recently read a post over at {grow} which was part of the community this week guest post series by a man named George Cooper. The post was about the power of story telling in relating to customers, clients, fellow employees and more importantly other human beings.

I really enjoyed the post because I relate to the idea of using story telling to build relationships with other people. Within my job as a salesman telling my own stories and listening to potential customers stories makes fertile ground for the growth of a relationship. I find that all of the folks who have signed MPS contracts or bought equipment from me reacted with almost instant positive energy when I took an honest interest in their stories and who they are as human beings.

I earnestly enjoy learning about how my customers got into the industry they work in, what their families are like, the hobbies they enjoy and the other things in life they are passionate about. Often times (though not always) the sales pitch is nothing more than a short lived quasi-necessity that is bypassed in importance by the sharing of who we are as humans in the journey of life, when speaking with a new prospect.

For example, a few weeks back I spoke with an older woman in the IT department of a local college who is a new prospect. I left the school where she works at knowing that she loved dogs, grew up on a farm and had a degree in computer science and also learned about the different schools she attended while getting her degree. Before leaving her office she showed me pictures of her dogs and spoke with me about how much she really enjoys animals, as a dog lover myself we shared a short conversation about how great dogs really are.

Walking out of the building I knew that I was already not just another "indifferent professional" to her as to how she had told me about a tech from a competing company who when asked if he could sell her a new machine replied, "that's not my job, I don't deal with that" and the negativity she felt towards said response.

Wow... Talk about a lost opportunity to connect with a customer and have a relationship as opposed to another piece of data in your excel sheets. Can you say, epic fail?

Now just this week I signed a deal with a gentleman in CT, who owns his own insurance company. From talking to him and his wife I learned that he rebuilds and races porches, is classically trained on the trumpet, likes cigars and spent ten years or so in his industry before he set out on his own. He also chose to buy a machine from me instead of the other company who had already proposed a contract and leasing plan due to the fact that "I was around". He explained to me that the other salesman simply did not show nearly as much interest in him and his business as I had and did not come around much.

Now I can't say for sure the other guy was indifferent however, I think I won the deal because I showed a genuine interest in the customers story (well, that and I work for an excellent, local company) and really expressed an interest in knowing him and the needs of his staff (some of whom I had also gotten to know through their own stories about how they got involved with the company).

What it all boils down to is that businesses are people. People don't want to be sold to and they never have. They want to connect with other folks and they want to be able to trust the folks they connect with. A sure fire way to build those relationships is to take interest in those peoples stories. Knowing that "Bob" in accounting likes his coffee black and enjoys fishing on the weekends or that "Jess" in IT loves to blog about poetry may be the truly valuable data collected from the next visit to your customers/prospects office.

Get to know your people, get to know their stories.

Friday, September 10, 2010

HP's "Reman Myths" Questionable


"HP has released a set of what it calls myths about remanufactured toner, claiming that aftermarket cartridges “end up costing you more”

See the whole recycler article here.

In HP's set of what it calls "myths about remanufactured toner" the company states the following:

"Remanufactured cartridges do not save the consumer any money because of hidden costs. According to the OEM, the cartridges “may quit working, stranding toner in the cartridge”.

“Certain non-HP cartridges are more likely to fail out of the box, fail after installation, and may leak into the printer”

“The generic toner and aftermarket replacement components can create charging issues that impact performance.”

“print quality degrades, resulting in pages that are not fit for use”

“In fact, 94 percent of remanufactured cartridges sold will ultimately be thrown away due to the remanufacturers’ preference to work with cartridges that have never been remanufactured and the unavailability of recycling for non-usable cartridges and replaced parts.”

First off I would like to explain the difference between bargain cartridges and remanufactured cartridges as pertaining to how we here at Expert Laser Services remanufacture our cartridges.

Some of you may remember the "Drill-n-Fill" debacle of the 90s. During that time period there was somewhat of a boom in the remanufacturing industry and (not unlike MPS) everyone and their cousin was doing it.

Those who wanted to get rich quick would quite literally drill a hole in an empty toner cartridge, refill it with toner, seal the hole and then re-sell the cartridge...

These cartridges always have been and will always be junk.

However a true remanufacturing company such as us use a highly sophisticated process of rebuilding the entire cartridge.

First the used cartridges are fully dismantled. Any and all moving parts are recycled and replaced with brand new OEM quality PCRs, mag roll sleeves, wiper blades, doctor blades, drums... everything is replaced with brand new parts.

The cartridge is then reassembled to OEM standards with new toner, tested multiple times and then repackaged for sale.

Below I am going to debunk these claims. (Granted you may think I am biased because we remanufacture toner cartridges here at Expert Laser Services. However if you want to challenge the integrity of our product or test HP's claim for your self, come buy a cartridge from us and if your not happy we will gladly refund your money)

"Remanufactured cartridges do not save the consumer any money because of hidden costs. According to the OEM, the cartridges “may quit working, stranding toner in the cartridge”.

HP fails to tell you that the same risk is inherent with their OEM cartridges as well. There is always a small possibility with OEMs and remans that you may get a non-working cartridge. To suggest that the issue stated above pertains only to remanufactured toner cartridges is misleading at best.

I would also go on to say that remanufactures like Expert Laser Services will make good by replacing any defective cartridge free of charge.

“Certain non-HP cartridges are more likely to fail out of the box, fail after installation, and may leak into the printer”

A simple self test will prove to any consumer the amount of truth present within the above statements. If you buy a remanufactured toner cartridge from Expert Laser Services (or multiple cartridges for that matter) and test them against the statements above you will in the very least discover that our products will not reflect those "certain non-HP cartridges" as mentioned above.

“The generic toner and aftermarket replacement components can create charging issues that impact performance.”

If one is to do a little homework and speak with their local remanufacturer they will generally find that the replacement parts are equal in quality to OEM specs. And if your local provider does not use said parts you can easily find a provider who does via the internet.

“Print quality degrades, resulting in pages that are not fit for use”

Expert Laser Services uses brand new toner powder equal to the quality you can expect from an OEM HP Toner Cartridge.

“In fact, 94 percent of remanufactured cartridges sold will ultimately be thrown away due to the remanufacturers’ preference to work with cartridges that have never been remanufactured and the unavailability of recycling for non-usable cartridges and replaced parts.”

Here at Expert Laser Services we have proven, time and again that we can remanufacture toner cartridges to OEM specs 7-8 times per cartridge. That means every one of our cartridges is able to be used from full to empty 7-8 times before the cartridge is broken down and its components are recycled.

Before you buy into the content of any press release, white paper or literature of such...

Do your homework. You may be surprised at what you find.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

MPS Interview #7: Jim Lyons

AIOI: What company do you work for?

Jim: I write a monthly column for the Hard Copy Observer, a publication of Lyra Research, and also cover many other news stories and analysis's for them, as a contract writer.

AIOI: How many employees does your company have?

Jim: Since I am a contractor, I am not privy to this company information (and I don’t ask).

AIOI: How long have you been involved with the printer industry?

Jim: While I joined HP in 1981, my first five years was spent on the storage side of the house. But beginning in 1986, I moved over to the LaserJet division, working there until 2005, when I jumped over to the “other side”, so next year will be my 25th anniversary of working in the printer industry.

AIOI: Which college(s) do you teach at?

Jim: I teach marketing and economics, graduate and undergrad, for the University of Phoenix, both in a local setting here at our Idaho campus, as well as in the online-only format.

AIOI: How do you personally define "Managed Print Services"?

Jim: I won’t try to compete with so many others who have come up with their own definitions, but I think that simpler is better, so the MPSA version is more than adequate (though I appreciate how your own Luke Carpentier put it, in his recent DOTC interview, about knowing what the “related business processes” thing meant!). This is not to minimize the importance of definitions and terminology -- I am a strong believer that if something can’t (or hasn’t) been defined and labeled appropriately, it won’t be going anywhere. Just the simple “MPS” moniker has gone a long way towards making the whole category real, in terms of a solidified part of the larger industry. I remember when we at HP started off with a “print-related services” idea in the late ‘90’s that suffered from its lack of clear definition.

AIOI: What do you think the future holds for the printer industry in regards to MPS?

Jim: As a participant and observer, I have mixed feelings, both about the current state and future of MPS. I have had the conviction for some time that MPS (in its “growth” stage at least) is a one-time thing, a consolidation effort that may be wringing much of the true innovation out of the business, for once and for all. All those personal printers that made their way into large organizations? Those printers were actually filling user needs, though granted at some expense. Getting (forcing) people to walk to a shared printer? Yes, that will reduce the amount of printing, but partly because it’s removed considerable end-user convenience from the equation. Printing (or anything else) flourishes when friction in the system is reduced.

I can certainly understand why vendors are scrambling to participate, and will continue to do so, but it really isn’t the type of trend where innovation flourishes, but in fact, mostly represents the contrary. The exception may be in how the actual printing of documents is being removed from the workflow, with online, electronic documents substituting for hard copy. Here’s where innovative products and services are shining, no doubt.

AIOI: Do you think MPS is being marketed effectively?

Jim: As characterized by any “land rush” trend, it is tempting by vendors and service providers to lump anything slightly related to enterprise printing and imaging under the “MPS” umbrella. Again, tempting, but it distorts what really is at the heart of the key players’ MPS initiatives. A great example are mobile and cloud-based printing solutions, an area I cover as well where I believe there is a great deal of innovation occurring. Yes, these initiatives provide value to the enterprise, involve printing, and have a services component, so, therefore, voila, they’re part of Managed Print Services! I shouldn’t be so skeptical, perhaps, but recently much of my reporting has been dis-aggregating press announcements, and separating the “wheat from the chaff” as we used to say, or “what’s truly MPS and what’s lumped in for hype value”?

I don’t want to come across as negative, and I think there are good things happening within the MPS space. It just is a mixed bag, with much of it, as previously stated, a reigning in/consolidation effort which will have a dampening effect on growth and innovation in this business I’ve been part of for 25 years.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

MPS Interview #6: Harry Hecht

AIOI: What company do you work for?

Harry: Buyers Laboratory Inc

AIOI: How many employees does your company have?

Harry: 55

AIOI: How do you personally define "Managed Print Services"?

Harry: Any outsourced program or service that measures and works to optimize costs associated with document creation, output and distribution on behalf of the user. I also agree totally with the MPSA definition

AIOI: How long have you been involved with Managed Print Services?

Harry: 7 years

AIOI: What benefits does your MPS program offer your customers?

Harry: I am an adviser to enterprise clients who are seeking to navigate the MPS waters. This includes: setting goals, identifying technologies, vendor selection, RFP creation, contract negotiation, implementation and ongoing fleet and program management.

AIOI: What are some of your major successes?

Harry: Many satisfied clients who engage BLI and look to us for unbiased guidance.

AIOI: Do you offer your own MPS program?

Harry: We do not actually provide, sell or implement MPS services. We are independent and work 100% on behalf of the client.

Monday, August 23, 2010

MPS Interview #5: Eddie Lederer

AIOI: What company do you work for?

Eddie: I am President of Miracom Network, a Managed Print Services Software Provider, and have held that position since its inception in 1999.

AIOI: How many employees does your company have?

Eddie: Over the years, we have transition from a traditional servicing company of 57 employees to a MPS software development company of eighteen with a host of contractors; from graphic design and system architects to contract programmers.

AIOI: How do you personally define "Managed Print Services"?

Eddie: I’ve seen lots of definitions; some really good. It’s important to note that MPS is not a “one size fits all”; it means different things to different customers. With that in mind, I define MPS as a system that utilizes cost management principals to effectively deliver the management of print as a business process; a process that identifies waste and redundancy, and then seeks to offer a more streamlined and operationally efficient device management solution.

AIOI: How long have you been involved with Managed Print Services?

Eddie: I’ve been in this industry since 1986, initially as President of Compunet Business Systems Inc., a management consulting company to the print industry. With Compunet, I was involved in building out a cartridge manufacturing facility and printer service organization. Then, in January 1999, I formed MiraPrint Services, to provide print management services to corporate end users. This was a very new concept back then and only a few of us were offering these services. You may recall that 1999 was the year that the first discussions were being held about digital convergence; printers and copiers getting connected to the network and who would ultimately control the process. Seeing the need for a non invasive software solution to automate the service delivery (now called MPS), I formed Miracom Network, an MPS software and solution provider. We released our initial products to the market in 2004 which are now used by independent dealers throughout the country. These MPS tools assist dealers in the efficient management of both network and locally connected print devices. With years of industry sales and management experience from running a cartridge manufacturing and printer service organization, to the development of a strategic MPS software application, I’m pretty familiar with the MPS landscape. Feel free to contact me at if you’d like to talk shop.

AIOI: What benefits does your MPS program offer your customers?

Eddie: Our application breaks down into 5 main categories – Remote management – Device management – Data Management – Service Management – and Service Network – all of these are then integrated into an end to end MPS software offering. This system design provides our dealers with geographic reach, and an integrated national service network. Our embedded Service Directory is designed to link service providers (dealers) together across the country so that they can control service delivery while competing nationally. The key here is complete control of all outsourced functions.

Miracom also offers back end management for those that are looking to turn-key the entire process while still maintaining decision making control over what toner, parts, or service vendors they prefer using to service their customers. And they can take the entire process back in house whenever they are ready; whenever it makes economical sense…this is their MPS business…not ours! Complete flexibility AND unlike many other rebadged solutions in the market, Miracom has developed and owns 100% of the code.

AIOI: What are some of your major successes?

Eddie: Our largest successes comes from helping to transition traditional printer and copier companies into Hybrid dealers and position them to compete on a national level. MPS is about meeting the operational needs of the device, based on contract terms and promised deliverables. Across a fleet of managed devices, it’s all about ticket and service call management; increasing tech to call ratios; "how many devices can one tech manage". Whether you’re providing in-house service management or out-sourcing that function, the dealer must be able to drive operational efficiencies or put another way; the software must go far beyond MIB capture and deliver operational efficiency opportunities to the dealer. Nobody delivers that better than Miracom.

AIOI: What separates your MPS program from your competitors?

Eddie: Miracom offers a truly agnostic managed print solution for the independent Service Provider. With no ties to OEM's, toner or supply vendors, the Miracom Solution can be whatever a dealer needs it to be. From simple meter reads and toner levels, to a complete solution, including ticketing, Miracom can provide it. If a dealer is thinking about getting into managed print but doesn’t have a service division, they can tap into our Global Service Directory for Service Providers across the country and monitor the progress of tickets they assign to them, seamlessly.

We have truly developed the most sophisticated application for the Managed Print Services (MPS) Industry. And while Miracom’s system scales to meet the needs of any size organization, its system design was developed with an eye towards the needs of the independent dealer and their leveraged ability to compete and expand past their local market.

The Miracom Solution allows the independent printer and copier dealer the ability to remotely manage distributed print devices throughout the country; eliminating any barriers to geographic reach. And everyone that signs up to Miracom’s MPS Solution will have the option of listing their company in the Service Directory thus becoming part of a Global Service Network. This truly is an industry MPS solution; one that keeps the dealer in control and allows them to leverage a solution that can support their sales efforts and position them to compete with the "big boys".

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ants in your scanner?

So this guy put an ants nest inside his scanner and scanned the tiny beasts work once every Friday for five years.

When you you need a new scanner, just shoot me an e-mail bud...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Office Depot swindles Washington State Taxpayers

According to

"An audit has found that global office supplies company Office Depot overcharged Washington State taxpayers $306,017 over three months of office supplies.

The Washington State Auditor’s Office investigated sales of office supplies including print supplies, pens, and paper to the Department of General Administration between July and September in 2009.

The audit found that the Department had been consistently charged more than the agreed prices for supplies in the investigated period, as well as being overcharged on shipping costs."

See the whole article here.

Once again I must ask, would you buy an MPS program from a company like this?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Have you "Hurd" about HP Japan?


"The article said that the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau found that HP failed to declare JPY 47 billion (£349 million) between October 2004 and 2006.

According to the Ashai, HP Japan pays over JPY 20 billion for administrative costs to its US parent branch, which tax authorities said should not have been claimed under expenses."

See the whole article here.

With shady tax dealings in Japan and former CEO Mark Hurds strange "not exactly" sexual harasement situation you have to wonder, what is up with HP lately?

Perhaps the problem is within HP's less than stellar Marketing efforts...

From Death of the Copier

"I've said it before, HP is great at making really cool things, but marketing, not so much.

A quote from Ellison,

"...The H-P Board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago. That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn’t come back and saved them. H-P had a long list of failed CEOs until they hired Mark who has spent the last five years doing a brilliant job reviving H-P to its former greatness..."


If there are any doubts, Ellison crystallizes with this,

"...Publishing known false sexual harassment claims is not good corporate governance; its cowardly corporate political correctness. Those six directors caused H-P to lose a nearly irreplaceable CEO. Those six directors who voted against Mark can try hard to hide behind a claim of “good corporate governance” but their decision has already cost H-P shareholders over $10 billion … and my guess it’s going to cost them a lot more..."

Read the whole article here.

I am honestly wondering when HP's Reality TV show will go into production. Perhaps they could get Ben Stein to Host it...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Destroy Your Printer Contest 2 Winner!

The winner of our second annual "Destroy Your Printer Contest" is Matt Soper of Matt Soper Marketing. Matt is an independent marketing professional from Brookfield, MA.

Matt has decided to give his toner cartridges to one of his customers, Dennis Mccurdy of Mccurdy Insurance. In addition, Matt has selected "Calling all Crows" as his charity of choice for the additional $100 prize.

Congratulations Matt!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Vacation Bound

Well friends, I will be off next week and will most likely not be posting to the blog (but you never know). Just an FYI.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ontario to hire "Printer Police"

Protecting the community from toner bandits and copier salesmen...

According to

"According to local paper The Hamilton Spectator, the employee would help the city save up to $700,000 a year in printing costs.

The employee would be required to control printer purchases, make sure staff use duplex printing and only print in colour when necessary.

The position was reportedly recommended in a report to city councillors outlining a five-year, $6 million printing contract with Ricoh."

Man, you think mall cops get made fun of? This guy is going to be the laughing stock of Ontario...

"Freeze! Drop your toner!"

"You there! Stop that single sided printing or I'll Shoot!!"

"Refrain from using color in that document or you will be tazzed!"

"Sir, do you know how fast you were printing? Try to keep it under 20 ppm next time..."

You can't make this stuff up.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

MPS has a touch of grey

Grateful Dead

Yesterday I read a post at DOTC about elements of Bruce Springsteens career as an allegory for the future of managed print services.

A great read indeed however, I must offer my own perspective on musical metaphors in regards to MPS and I believe that the Grateful Dead as a whole make the perfect allegory for managed print services past, present and future.

Trust me this will not be as abstract as you may think...

In many ways the early years of managed print services reflect those of the Grateful Dead (at least from a business standpoint). Only a handful of dedicated folks knew of the band and expressed a true passion for the group and their music. This is comparable to the early years of MPS circa 1989. No one was doing MPS then right? Wrong! Printelligent claims working in MPS then and the following year our CEO Luke Carpentier signed his first managed print services contract.

For 15+ years this industry was owned by small companies around the country who pioneered managed print services, their customers a small yet dedicated base of people who could see something special about managing their document output in this way. In this sense, not unlike the dead heads, they were doing things differently and for some this provided the sense that "we have something special".

MPS was for a time, a grass roots movement. While our industry was not built on trading free live recordings of a band in the way which the Grateful Dead accrued their growing fan base, folks like our founder had been offering his products door to door, one customer at a time, getting them to "turn on" to his program by spoiling his customers with the best service and products to the extent that referrals from his current customers started to generate new customers. In many ways these two "sales" tactics are the same.

Give your followers, or customers rather, a reason to tell others about what you have to offer and why it is awesome. If what you have to offer is truly awesome, then it will start to sell itself.

(And that way you won't have to get Ben Stein to try and sell your products for you)

For a long time the glory days ruled the scene in respect to both managed print services and the Grateful Dead. However, when a scene gets to big, it gets bad and problems occur. While drug addiction and serious health problems won't be the downfall of many MPS outfits as they have been for the band, sudden and unexpected growth in the amount of supposed "MPS experts" will be the demise of those who only see the potential yet lack the ability to achieve the goals needed to make an MPS practice profitable for the provider and valuable to the customer.

When the Grateful Dead had a random super hit in their 1987 single "Touch of Grey" their fan base exploded to a size of great and weary proportions, forcing the band to move from playing amphitheaters and venues of that size to performing in football stadiums. From a financial point of view this may seem like a good thing and yet this sudden growth separated the band from its fans physically (as to how the stages in the stadiums had to be so massive for various reasons, there was a much grater distance between the first rows and the band) and for some, emotionally.

In a similar way it seemed like come 2008-2009 everyone from the big boys such as Ikon, Canon, HP, etc. to Staples and Office Depot (meh!) to copier salesmen to grandma Elly and cousin Roy had decided that getting in to MPS was "the thing to do".

Now that sounds good doesn't it? A get rich quick scheme that might actually work!? Great, we will send our sales team to Vegas for a week and when they get back we will be "experts" in managed print services...

Now who really gets hurt in this situation? The real managed print services providers who have been in the trenches for 20 plus years? Sure, but the real shame is that there will be good honest people out their who sign contracts with these inexperienced and uneducated fools. So while sub-par MPS "experts" line their pockets and true MPS providers slam their fists on their desk in frustration, the most important people in the equation are at the greatest risk of being screwed.

Sounds bad I know, however...

On August 9, 1995, at 4:23 AM Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack due to complications with drugs, sleep apnea and weight problems. While this was the saddest and most miserable moment in the history of the Grateful Dead Jerry's Death forced the band and the fans into a much needed break that would dismantle the scene for a time, alowing for some to find healing, and recovery and also for many to find jobs... ( I have met doctors, lawyers, professors and many other highly educated and successful dead heads who in their younger years had been just as wild as many who had taken the road to destruction via trying to make the party last forever which for many, leads to a fate similar to that of Garcia)

Since Jerry's Death the remaining band members have reunited in multiple emanations of the original lineup and have also spurred their own bands and subgroups that have and will continue to carry the positive and beautiful aspect of the group (namely the music) onward through multiple generations.

In the same way many in the managed print services industry will hit hard times. They will crash and burn. They will fail. Hopefully some of them learn a lesson. On the flip side of the coin, this difficult yet necessary refining process will leave behind the tried and true. The best that the industry has to offer. The true "managed print services experts".

And despite all the bad, in the end, the good will go on. Sure, things may never be the same as the glory days, the early years, those magic times when it was all new and only a select few knew what amazing things would come, but as any mature individual knows, change is the only constant.

We will get by, we will survive!

Josh said...

After going over some older posts at a few of my favorite industry blogs I stumbled over Greg Walters "Managed Print Services Conference 2010, The DOTC Take Aways: Impressive" post over at DOTC.

Even after the second reading I must say, I really enjoyed this post. As usual it was relevant and had some great humor in it.

Reading this line from the article about the possibilities at the 2011 MPSCon "imagine a sea of Leopard Headbands...glorious, simply, glorious." I couldn't help but think the only thing that would make this scenario better would be to see such a crowed getting down to a live version of "Why can't you fix my printer" performed by the Expert Laser Services MPS all star band.

I also loved this quote from Greg
: "I am rough on copier peeps, because I once was one. Ok, well I am one, you can never really get out, once you're in. It's like the Mafia, which never existed, by the way."


And while the there was a lot more excellent perspective on MPSCon 2010 as well as numerous other tasty bits to this piece, I would say that this comment from "Josh" was the highlight of my reading experience in regards to this post,

Josh said...

It is still interesting to me that 50% of the presentations had the old "The customer hides printers under their desk" story.

My personal takeaway from the conference, from an end user perspective: I got to see glimpses behind the curtain of how this service is offered and sold; the things that are sometimes exploited, and how the ones doing it right can shine, even amongst a ballroom full of industry experts.

Emphasis mine.

Haza, Josh... Haza.

Office Depot drops the ball

From see the quotes below...

"Office Depot has agreed to a $4.5 million settlement with Florida Attorney General (AG) over allegations Office Depot overcharged government agencies"

"The supplier allegedly switched certain local government agencies and private non-profit organizations in Florida to a different pricing plan without letting them know, potentially resulting in higher prices."

Just a heads up for anyone considering buying their "MPS in a box" offering.

Dell enters hall of shame

Does being a "big boy" give you the right to be a bully? Dell seems to think so...

According to this article from the Dell has been placed in The Forum of Private Business's late payment Hall of Shame after the company extended the time it takes to pay suppliers by 15 days.

Below is an excerpt from the article.

Forum spokesman Phil McCabe said: “Small businesses continue to suffer from the blight of late payment, which devastates cash flow and forces firms into administration. Companies like Dell have a responsibility to pay promptly – failure to do so can mean the whole supply chain seizes up.

“When they receive a letter like this, smaller suppliers have no choice but to agree and stay silent. There is little room for bargaining. For the sake of small businesses and the economy the new government must prioritize tackling the culture of poor payment, addressing the bullyboy behavior of these bigger companies.

“In the meantime we will continue to give small firms a voice by holding them to account publicly in our late payment Hall of Shame."

Here's to those who fight for the little guys!

Green without Green

I recently re-read Ken Stewart's What Is Process Black and Green All Over? Your MPS Message Better Be! post over at MPS insights and while I would love to believe he is spot on I can not help but feel that he is not. While I pride myself as being an employee here at Expert Laser Services which is very much a green MPS provider, to take some of the assumptions of this post as actual possibilities seems more akin to that of a pipe dream than anything else, at least at this point in time.

Part of Kens post reads:

"If the enterprise generally leads the SMB market in business trends, get ready for your customers to begin requiring line items be included in proposals offering how your offerings will reduce their carbon footprint or impact their carbon footprint."

Emphasis mine.

Please take notice of the text in black italics...

You would think that in this day and age where "going-green" has become so popular both due to the fact that its trendy yet also seemingly important enough in the minds of so many that this prediction would be true. However, do you honestly think that if said company requested the above information that said company would sign a contract with the green MPS provider if there was a less green MPS option with another provider who offered greater cost savings than the greener company?

In a perfect world maybe, but lets face it, this is not that world. As much as I would love to see companies go for the green plan, I would bet that many will not. The simple fact remains, the only green that really matters in the corporate world is cold hard cash. Sure if an MPS provider offers a plan with greater savings and it happens to be green then great, looks good on the press release.

Here in the real world, places like Guiyu China exemplify greed masked by the supposed nobility of being earth friendly which all to often is merely an elaborate and well played production of green washing used to make a corporate entity appear green, when in fact said corporations true colors more than likely resemble those of blood and oil.

Seem a little grim? Well it is. While not all companies are fiends in that respect it would be silly to think that even the majority of the best companies out there would opt for the greener option if it was the more expensive of several other possible MPS plans.

The truth may be hard to swallow but facing it and digesting it is the only way to utilize truth as a tool to make things better than they are or rather better than the reality behind the veil.

If we as a race are ever truly going to "go green" it will be when the majority chooses to sacrifice dollars for the greater good of the earth. Until then, going green will remain in the realm of propaganda and lies.

Lego Printer?

MPS Interview #4: DOTC

AIOI: What company do you work for?

DOTC: Death Of The Copier - one of the premier niche publications in the world.

AIOI: How many employees does your company have?

DOTC: We currently employ millions.

AIOI: How do you personally define Managed Print Services?

DOTC: Anything and everything the person on the other side of the desk says that it is.

AIOI: How long have you been involved with Managed Print Services?

DOTC: Its not the age, its the mileage. Let's just say, I have been in MPS longer than Staples has.

AIOI: What benefits does your MPS program offer your customers?

DOTC: We at DOTC try to tell it like it is, we may not always be correct, but we don't care.

Also, most people in our industry/niche are some of the most dynamic and fun folks to work with or be around - so why can't we show this off to those outside the industry?

Do we really need to be so...bland?

Copier nerds? Yes! Toner-dudes? Of course! MPS Geeks? Sure, why not? Belly up and share some stories.

In addition to the blog, we assist dealers, new MPS practices and individual Selling Professionals in "translating the corporate dogma" being spewed from consultants and the "big boys". We boil down or negate the propaganda, for the Selling Professional.

The Death Of The Copier, currently, has no "sponsor" - I don't advertise or engage Infotrends, so it is unlikely that you will ever see, "DOTC" in the upper right Quadrant. So, I can afford to be a rogue, a provocateur as you will. Suits me just fine.

AIOI: What are some of your major successes?

DOTC: Ok, now we get serious.

I have had the honor to advise an MPS selling team at a dealership, somewhere in the south - this client, who shall remain nameless, engaged me (yes, a check was made out to "The Death of the Copier) to simply "talk" about my successes and my failures in MPS - he wanted to get a real, from the trenches, no bullsh*t view of MPS. He had been a paying customer for some of the more well known copier consultants.

After talking for a couple of weeks, we moved to 1:1's with the selling staff.

Here's where the success comes in, during one discussion, I was able to pontificate and advise this selling professional on one specific account. I told them what I would do in that situation.

Well, I'll be damned if they didn't take my advice, say what I said to say in the way I said to say it, resulting in a close, a sale. I was stunned, flabbergasted, proud.

To me, this is the greatest success in the world. I know now how the consultants must feel or at least had felt back in the beginning.

It is weirdly fulfilling to have somebody take your advice and see results in the form of dollars, because they did what you recommended.

AIOI: What separates your MPS program from your competitors?

DOTC: In many ways, I have few, if any, competitors.

My uniqueness is my history: I started selling B2B solutions, accounting systems, back when the AT was still a viable device, when Epson 24-pins where all the rage and connected via parallel ports. I was in that niche for nearly 7-8 years.

I have sold uniforms, excuse me, I mean, Corporate Identity Programs and AFLAC insurance, excuse me again, I mean, pre-tax, self-funded employee benefit programs; again, all B2B.

Add to this my stints in the Office Equipment Industry, sprinkle in a little, Detroit smart-ass and viola!

In the end, my true "competitor" is Time.

MPS is a NASA Crawler

NASA Crawler

From the MPSA website:

"Why is moving to selling Managed Print Services (MPS) such a challenge for so many? Of course if it were as simple as adding a new product or service to your existing portfolio of offerings, it would be significantly easier. However, it’s more than adding another product or trying a new sales approach. Moving to an MPS model is really a significant change to what you sell and how your business operates. It entails moving from hardware sales to selling professional service contracts, which in turn, affects product, cash flow, sales, operations and customer relationships. It’s a big change."

The red text above speaks volumes about the assumptions many would-be MPS providers have made. For a while now I have been talking about the "mps bandwagon" which, is a myth in and of itself.

There is no bandwagon...

If MPS is comparable to any vehicle it would be the NASA Crawler. The NASA Crawler (pictured above) is a gigantic, slow moving tank like transportation device. It is the vehicle that moves rocket ships into place for take off.

In many ways MPS is (in a metaphorical sense) comparable to the NASA Crawler. People who think they are just going to launch there own MPS program because the iron is hot and it seems like "the thing to do" are in effect deciding to build and man a crawler, mistakenly thinking that it will be a simple, cookie cutter process... enter the bandwagon....

CRUNCH! What was that?

That is the MPS crawler crushing your presumptions.

For those who have been in the trenches of MPS since the early 1990's MPS is not a challenge. However, that is because it has been developed for years through trial an error by companies like Expert Laser Services, Printelligent, and other industry veterans that have in effect, created and evolved MPS to what it is today.

It took a while, the crawler moved slowly, one contract at a time. Until finally the launchpad was ready...

5...4...3...2...1... BLASTOFF! < Getting to this point does not come from adding another product or trying a new sales approach.

While there is a wealth of knowledge about MPS and organizations like the MPSA and the Photizo Group to help those who are serious about entering this industry reach their goals, the process is still a major commitment. MPS is not a fad, it is not easy. You can not go to Vegas for a week long seminar and expect to return as an MPS professional.

As we move further into the future the trenches will reveal who the real MPS providers are.

If you are considering signing a contract with an MPS provider, once again I implore you, do your homework and ask yourself, does your provider drive a wagon or a crawler?

MLS - Managed Laundry Services?

Washing Machines


Managed services are everywhere...

A few months back, midway through the second stage of an analysis for a local college, the IT guy and I stopped to engage in a short conversation about the MPS program that my company would be implementing at the school with a lady from the library.

Much to my surprise, about halfway through the conversation a parallel was drawn between our MPS program and the way that the school plans on managing it's... laundry?

Yes, indeed.

The school plans on implementing what I refer to as an MLS plan.

All service, supplies and repairs are included in the cost of the plan with a fix it or replace it guarantee (whoa, deja' vu).

The company (of which the name the IT guy did not know) will provide the machines to the school all of which will be under contract with a CPL "cost per load" plan. Monthly visits from washer and dryer techs will ensure all machines are running at optimum performance levels and will undergo repairs or cleanings when necessary.

As mentioned earlier all soaps, powders, dryer sheets and additional supplies are included in the price of the plan.

Students will be prompted to buy a "laundry pass" which will save them money on their weekly laundry should they choose to do their laundry on campus, while any profits will either be funneled back into the MLS plan or go to benefit other campus needs.