The copier industry is constantly evolving, and owners of dealers must evolve with it. Since entering the market, copiers have gone from introducing a revolutionary function to businesses to becoming a misunderstood commodity.
Let’s face it, the average person thinks they understand copiers, and accurate or not, that reality is well understood in the industry. Copiers were basic machines that scanned and copied for decades. This changed as advancements in document management created a trend in business to use less and less paper.
Printing is a copier dealer’s friend. It’s how they make money, but companies are actively finding new ways to print less and less each year. Many copier dealers are still growing, but at the cost of other dealers, ultimately resulting in smaller companies being acquired. The reality, though, is that the industry isn’t expanding.
So, is this the end of the copier industry?
Of course not — at least, probably not in our lifetime. People still need to print and it’s unlikely that everything will one day shift to paperless. Still, the question dealers should be asking themselves is whether they have a sustainable growth strategy or have set realistic long-term goals for themselves. That’s just good business. But what does that growth strategy look like in 2019? As with so many things, we can learn from the past.
The best answer is the one staring you in the face
In the early 1990s, copiers went digital. Internet access and personal computers were becoming cheap enough for families to begin to afford it and copier manufacturers were keeping up with evolving trends. For the first time ever, customers could scan documents with their copier and turn them into electronic files to be stored on a computer. Copiers were now connected to the internet, which meant copier dealers now needed to know more about the networks they were connecting to.
In working with other IT departments and third-party IT companies for their clients, it became clear to technicians at our company that it was easier for a copier dealer to understand how to solve copier problems on their network than it was for the IT person to do it. It also became obvious early on that in many companies there was a skill and service gap between their IT support and what we could do. As it turned out, many IT specialists for their clients only knew slightly more than the owner about how to properly manage a company’s network. As a result, they were the most knowledgeable person in their company, but not necessarily qualified for such an important position.
As strange as it sounded at the time, it made perfect sense. In the 1990s computers and the internet were still very new things, and each were developing at a breakneck pace. It was nearly impossible for a single person to be in an expert in all things related to computer and network technology. As technology became cheaper and faster throughout the years, we realized it wasn’t a matter of if we should offer the service to clients, but when. In 2013, we officially launched managed IT services as a product line.
A perfect fit: Benefits of being an MSP
As it turns out, copier dealers are naturally positioned to be effective at managing a company’s network because of their knowledge of networks (having worked on them for decades), resources, and being positioned to most effectively serve customers due to the nature of fixing mechanical, on-premise equipment (aka copiers, printers, etc.).
Many copier dealers offer printers, phone systems, and of course, copiers. Providing a full offering of office technology services and products and “owning” a company’s network makes operating a managed services company an intelligent addition.
Many businesses charge their resident IT specialist with the responsibility of selecting and managing vendors. Offering managed services to clients protects the risk of a vendor easily switching to another copier or phone vendor without prior indication. It also serves as a benefit to the client because it streamlines their process for solving technology issues in their offices, resulting in increased efficiency.
Becoming a managed services provider: Questions that need answering
Hopefully by now, your mind is racing with the possibilities this line of business could provide your copier dealership. The IT services industry has been consistently growing year over year, and according to Statista.com, the IT services industry is expected to reach $748 billion by 2020.
As cybersecurity awareness becomes more and more prevalent as corporation after corporation is hit with a network breach, expect managed services to become even more popular.
So what questions need answering to make the leap into managed IT services?
- How much do managed IT services cost? What should we charge?
- Do I want to outsource my help desk or have in-house support?
- What services will I offer (network monitoring, data back-up, disaster recovery, server virtualization, etc.)?
- What legal considerations should I be aware of?
- How will I ensure I hire the right people?
- Will I train my current sales team to sell managed services or will I hire new sales professionals who will specialize in this segment?
- Who will manage this new department?
- How will be our growth strategy for expanding this new line of business?
- How will I scale this business to maintain service?
- What is my projection on this venture being profitable?
When is the right time?
If you’re a copier dealer who has determined after an exploratory process that you have the capital necessary to start a managed services division, then there’s no time like the present. Simply put, if companies do not continue to reinvent themselves, they will slowly wilt away.
Daniel Gray is the Marketing Manager at Standard Office Systems in Atlanta and is responsible for all digital content produced by the company. At SOS, his mission is to create content that is helpful and meaningful to others through creative writing and rich media. He has spent the past 14 years writing and designing for a myriad of industries in addition to office technology.