Bob Goldberg Has Some Advice for the Industry

Veteran industry lawyer Bob Goldberg is planning to step down as BTA general counsel after almost five decades guiding office technology companies through a constantly changing legal landscape. He will, however, remain a familiar face in the industry and, for the next year or so, offer guidance to the BTA’s new general counsel, who, not so coincidentally, is also named Goldberg. Goldberg’s highly accomplished son Greg is slated to take over as general counsel shortly. In the meantime, Goldberg shared some wisdom with the companies and leaders in the industry at BTA’s Capture the Magic Event in Denver.

Connect with your peers

“I want to encourage everyone to get into some sort of peer group,” said Goldberg. He said there is no shortage of opportunities to grow your network and tap into industry knowledge. The industry will benefit from more communication, especially about wins and how they were achieved, not just cautionary tales of what not to do. Diversity of views doesn’t hurt, either. Bring in an outsider, even if it’s just your attorney or accountant. They can still add valuable insight even if they don’t have industry expertise. It’s also a two-way street: adding an outside voice to your Board of Directors or advisory board could be your ticket to serving on their boards.

A growing challenge

“Mega-dealers are becoming a real issue; they’re getting bigger and bigger … and growing,” warned Goldberg.  As an example, he mentioned some that were trying to set up a nationwide service organization that would support a host of office technology products, regardless of geographic location. If you’re trying to take this opportunity to sell your company, make sure to get advice from folks in the industry who can help fairly value your business.

Staying ahead of new technology

The industry’s future is one of new technology, from software solutions to the cloud to AI. Staying abreast of these developments is key. According to Goldberg, AI may not be ready for prime time, but it’s developing quickly. It’s important that office technology suppliers address client confusion and concerns over something like AI.

With AI rules and regulations virtually non-existent right now, companies using AI would be best served by adopting a corporate policy statement with quality and human oversight assurances. Foremost, this will offer some legal coverage in the event of any AI mishaps, but it will also raise your level of sophistication in the eyes of the industry.

The ESG opportunity

There’s an opportunity for the industry to help companies with their environmental, social, and governance goals (ESG). It can help measure ESG progress and contribute with sustainable and lower pollution products. This assistance will also help get companies in front of clients and build trust. There’s also opportunity in the form of considerable tax incentives in place currently for businesses willing to invest in electric vehicles and their chargers.

You can’t be too safe

“Cybersecurity is not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” Goldberg advised. Between businesses transitioning into the cloud and the ever-growing list of potential vulnerabilities in modern offices – mobile, internet of things applications and appliances, and ever more common ransomware attacks, to name a few – cybersecurity cannot be overlooked. Once again, it’s a customer concern that can be mitigated with proactive measures like endpoint security training for management. Goldberg also stressed that every business should have cyber insurance to cover damages from any cybersecurity breaches, with those policies usually requiring claimants to have firewalls, multifactor authentication, and other basic measures; as with any insurance policy, pay close attention to exclusions and remember that in the event of a claim, the insurance company’s attorney works first and foremost for the carrier. Goldberg’s bottom line: Look at cybersecurity for both yourselves and for your customers.

Mission and purpose

A coherent mission and purpose that can be shared by every employee is critical to long term success. It doesn’t matter if your top salesperson brings home over a million in business if they simultaneously destroy the motivation and allegiance of other employees. Investing in employees – for example, paying for educational classes – will help retain the best and brightest. Break down silos and get employees talking to each other across departments. These initiatives are critical at a time when employees put more and more emphasis on work/life balance and happiness. Don’t overlook some of the excellent programs to hire veterans in the industry. These unique programs can provide a valuable pipeline of reliable, well-trained talent for businesses, noted Goldberg.

The times they are a-changin’

The industry will need to update its drug policies, with marijuana legalization here to stay. Depending on the state, it may be illegal to fire employees for off-duty use. (BTA members can get legal advice on these matters for no cost.)

Non-competes are fading away

While more states have been banning non-compete agreements in recent years, the latest FTC proposal would ban them nationwide. It’s a major change since non-competes have helped businesses protect their trade secrets, such as customer information. Much of the details of the FTC’s proposal remain in flux, such as whether it will apply to non-solicitation agreements that help prevent poaching. Confidentiality agreements will become even more important.

I for one cannot imagine this channel without Bob Goldberg. His measured and steady guidance has been relied upon by so many in the channel, including me. Thankfully, I suspect he will continue to make appearances, be ready with a rapid-fire bon mot and a smile and some sage advice. We are lucky to have him with us.

Patricia Ames is president and senior analyst for BPO Media, which publishes The Imaging Channel and Workflow magazines. As a market analyst and industry consultant, Ames has worked for prominent consulting firms including KPMG and has more than 15 years experience in the imaging industry covering technology and business sectors. Ames has lived and worked in the United States, Southeast Asia and Europe and enjoys being a part of a global industry and community.