The Imaging Channel recently sat down with Ed McLaughlin, president of Xiphos Consulting and executive advisor to Sharp Electronics.

What’s your current state of mind?

I am wondering if dealers are really willing to make the change to a services-based business. I’m also concerned about what will happen if they don’t.

What is the greatest challenge dealers face today?

Their own success is the biggest challenge. Dealers make good profits with the existing business model. It’s also a model they fully understand. So why should they change? Mainly, it’s because the processes are changing around them. I’m not so sure that pages are disappearing; I am more convinced that the use and importance of prints are changing. Helping customers improve their business processes to take full advantage of the imaging technology is paramount to maintaining a strong business relationship, but past sales practices have not been based on knowledge as much as they have on cost, and that is dangerous. The challenge isn’t change as much as it is the motivation for change.

What do you see as your biggest opportunity?

There is an incredible void in supporting small and medium business in the IT space. I believe there is an equal opportunity to help like-minded dealers transition to IT support in their markets. I also believe that that transition is critical to developing a sustainable business model going forward.

What qualities do you look for when making key hires?

I always evaluate candidates on a “can-do” and “will-do” basis. First, do they have the experience, the “can-do”? More important is the “will-do,” which is the passion, the courage and the vision of what they want to accomplish.

What would you consider your greatest achievement?

Putting together the team at Sharp. Before we got started, most people were convinced that Sharp was on the way out. The team we assembled changed everything — (and) by that, I don’t just mean Sharp; I mean the entire industry. We set the stage for open development platforms like OSA; we set the standard for security and nine years later still do. Today, the Sharp line is among the best in the industry and the most MPS-friendly.

If your people were to describe you in three words, what would they be?

Knowledgeable, passionate, constant. Frankly, these are also my faults, but you may change that “knowledgeable” to “opinionated” when flipped to the dark side.

Managed print services or managed services?

Managed services. It’s a knowledge-based business. The objective should be to get to zero print. You’ll never get there, but to not try is to ignore the developing process trends.

What is your greatest concern for this industry?

Adapting to the changes that we are in and the even tougher ones that are coming, such as the shift to the IFRS standards in accounting. There are too many dealers that are still in the Stage 1 or 2 levels of MPS, and if they stay there, they will be sucked under with unrelenting price concessions. We have to create value to succeed, and that means customer intimacy, which means a change in sales process and rewards. Easier said than done.

How would your customers describe you?

Involved and concerned that we are providing the best support and products available.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

I’m not sure I use any particular phrases that frequently, but there are some I really dislike. The word “solutions” drives me crazy. It has become so overused, it is meaningless. “Cloud” is catching up.

Do trends exist in this industry?

You bet they do. Processes are changing every day, and the move to mobility is changing the way people work and access information. Application delivery is changing, and the changes in the accounting processes will completely alter decision-making going forward.

What is your favorite quote?

“I’ll meet you on the battlefield of ideas.” — George Washington, from his farewell speech to his staff.

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