Monday, March 21, 2011

How has the economic downturn (the recession) changed the way your GC customers do business?

In the latter part of 2010, the C.T.O. of the reprographics company we sold in December 2007 decided to change careers and moved to the I.T. industry. He is now a “sales engineer” for an I.T. company. Inasmuch as he had been in the reprographics industry for some 20 years (give or take a few years), it was a very difficult decision for him to make. I’d like to share with you a recent e-mail (slightly edited) that I received from him.


Interestingly enough, and not surprisingly, some of our I.T. customers are involved in the A/E/C industry. Most are struggling, but, for some reason, one of them, in particular, is not struggling.

Last week, I was in a meeting with the two principals of a construction firm that is doing well; we were discussing their need for an upgrade. Their servers are out of storage space and are around 5 years old. After taking a tour of their new office (which they are in while they build their own building), I noticed that something didn't add up. First, they have work, and, second, there were very few prints. There were a few books of half size prints (not done by the local ___ office) on a couple of desks, but that's it. Not the typical "rolls and rolls of drawings" that I’m used to seeing at a GC’s office, and no sign of the typical plan- room with a copier, plotter, FedEx containers, etc.

After questioning them about their work, I mentioned my prior career. At that point, they both went, "ah ha!, that's where I recognize you from!” They, then, stated that they can understand how the reprographics world took a one - two punch with the recent economic downturn. First, they stated that everyone suffered from the downturn, and, second, they stated that they really don't use prints much, anymore. They don't have a plotter... and, their clients don't want to exchange prints, …. or pay for them. And, their subs don't get prints. And, they hate FAXes, to the point that, if their subs want to use the FAX machine instead of the computer, they won't use that sub anymore. One of the principals then said that they used to budget $10K for repro expenses on a typical project, but, now, they don’t budget anything for prints at all. They, and their subs, are almost totally electronic. It seems this firm used the downturn to modernize, learn new technology, and were able to modernize their internal operations. They also have forced their subs to do the same.



Joel's comment / question:

Reprographers, if your GC customers are ordering fewer prints - if the number of sets they are ordering is down from what it used to be - are you sure that the recession is the only reason for that? Or, are your CG customers finding it unnecessary to print, per-project, as much as they used to print? Have you surveyed your customers lately to find out what they are doing regarding the printing of plans and specs?

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