Friday, May 13, 2011

This is an exciting and scary time for reprographers. What should you be looking at, and can you benefit from an “outsiders” help, advice, assistance

This post is intended for owners and senior managers of reprographics companies. This is going to be a fairly long-winded post. For those of you who have the attention-span of a gnat, don’t read on. For those of you who lack the passion to read anything other that “tweets”, don’t read on. For those of you who do keep an open mind to insights and advice from others, read on…..

In a recent previous post (which, apparently, has disappeared for now due to "issues" Google had (May 11th and 12th with its "blogger" service), I mentioned that there’s been a discussion going on, on LinkedIn (in the “Apprentice Group”), for the past few days. Quite a number of people have been participating in that discussion. The discussion was started off by Trevor Hansen of Thomas Reprographics. He started things off by saying this …..

“Today IRgA announced this years tradeshow will be the last. The cheese has moved... who will adapt and who will go hungry. This is an exciting and scary time for reprographics.”

If you aren’t a member of LinkedIn, I would encourage you to join LinkedIn (basic sign up is free) and to then join the “Apprentice” Group, so that you can follow, and participate in, the discussion that’s going on. (There are other “groups” you might wish to join, such as the IRgA Group.)

Although there have been several very interesting comments – and interesting “food for thought” - in the particular “discussion” I’ve mentioned, one “comment post”, in particular, was not only eloquently written, but very much to the point. I’ve received permission from the author of that post (Roberto Roque) to post his comments on Reprographics 101. However, to put his post-comments in complete context, it would be best if you would read his post-comments (and the other previous and subsequent post-comments) on LinkedIn, but, since I know there are lots of reprographers who are lazy, I’m going to post his post-comments here:

“Not long ago I had a discussion with a principal from a large engineering company in Spain; he was challenging (in a friendly way) the merits of a solution that I proposed. He mentioned that his company had just invested "large sums of money" on a leading edge document management system, and he was wondering what my modest solution could deliver that his recent acquisition could not do.

I asked him who managed the system and he said that it was him and two other trusted individuals because... the system was too complex and they did not want anybody else messing with it. I could not resist... I asked him how much was the hourly rate of a VP and two senior engineers combined and how much time they were all spending on managing projects. The puzzled look was priceless, after a few seconds of silence I told him that I could do some/most/or all of the same work a lot cheaper and just as effectively. More importantly, he followed up by saying that I had a valid point. The key issue in relation to value added is process, not necessarily technology. The same value arguments apply to BIM and IPD.

This experience validates a lot of your comments. Reprographers have always organized and delivered updated construction information. Now the medium has changed; prints may be going out of fashion but there is exponential growth in "information" and someone has to organize it, distribute it and track it. Why not any of you?

Many companies are investing heavy sums of money on systems that they would rather not have given different options, and I believe this is still an opportunity for reprographers.

There are some challenges in the way but many of you have suggested really good and viable approaches; at the end of the day this is less about technology and more about business process redesign for your companies.

Joel brings up the acquisition of new skills such as a CDM certification, not only a great idea but I believe it is absolutely necessary to play in this new environment.

New skills go hand in hand with the implementation / acquisition of document management technology. Plan rooms are obsolete. What kind of solution? Start focusing on Scott's A B C's; these are simple but relevant issues.

The next big barrier is image, as in "reprographers are all and only about prints". This is a great disservice to the industry because the value of proper organization and quality control (so important) are overlooked, but unfortunately paper is the sacrificial lamb and guilt by association is rather inevitable. Repro has to create a new image as "Construction Information Experts" and "Solution Providers". One of the speakers at the IRgA suggested: "Visualization Experts". I think he was onto something as well. The answer lies with a good marketing and re-branding effort.

One last key challenge is sales. Paper was relatively easy and straightforward math; its value is self-evident. Solution selling is different; it demands an approach with is counter-intuitive to the traditional repro sale. The objective is not only to find (or train) a qualified sales person, but to create a culture within the organization that supports consultative selling. Some (or a lot) training may be in order across the board.

It was good to see again (and meet) some of you at the IRgA. Despite the news, I do believe that there is a future and plenty of opportunity for reprographers. Let me know if I can be of assistance. “

Roberto Roque

Joel’s further comments:

Unfortunately, I did not take the opportunity to get to know Roberto when I was at the IRgA Convention. However, based on what he wrote, he’s not only a gifted writer, he, evidently, well-understands the issues that reprographers are facing, in spite of the fact that he’s never owned a reprographics company or, for that matter, never worked for one. I would imagine that he and his TritonStreet associates who attended the IRgA were there to drum up business for the consulting practice they are engaged in. Just my “general observation” about “reprographers vis a vis consultants” ….. there are not many reprographers who will seek consulting advice, even though most (and even larger companies) would benefit from advice and assistance from consultants. No one knows everything. Let me repeat that – no one knows everything. That applies to the owner of the smallest reprographics company – and to the CEO of the largest reprographics company – and to everyone in between. We are all error prone and we are all subject to “missing something.” There’s an old adage that goes something like this, “you can’t see the forest for the trees.”

According to “”, this is a literal interpretation of that adage:

“You cannot see the big picture, as your are immersed in the details. You have to get out of the forest to see it, because while you are in the forest, you only see the trees that comprise the forest; but you cannot see the forest as a whole. When you are focusing on details, it is more difficult to see the issue as a whole, as you can only see the details that comprise the issue.”

Or, for those who prefer a “twit” or “tweet” length interpretation:

“You cannot see the big picture.”

Anyone – anyone – who thinks he (or she) “knows it all” is – sorry to put it this way, but I will - an idiot!

It is not wise to rely “just” on your own internal team to review how your business is doing, or to develop (and constantly tweak) your strategic plan, or to finalize your marketing and branding “pitch.” You and your internal team members may well be too close to the trees to see the forest. And, that’s where “knowledgeable, smart” consultants can play an important role for your company. How many of you have hired outside consultants to help you with the “big picture?” How many of you have an “advisory” board of directors, one that includes “outsiders?” ARC’s board of directors includes several people who, before they joined ARC’s board, had not an ounce of experience with the issues reprographers face. Yet, they are in a position to contribute to ARC’s review and planning processes, because they are smart people and because they are not too close to the trees to see the forest. I don’t care how small or large your company is; every company, no matter its size, can reap benefits from having “outsiders” involved in review and planning.

The “key”, though, is selecting the “right” consultant(s) and/or the “right” advisory board members.

After I read the post-comment that Roberto Roque wrote and read TritonStreet’s “consulting services” menu, I corresponded with Roberto to ask him to provide me “five key points” that would address this question, "why would the owner of a reprographics company want to consider engaging Roberto/Triton?"

Roberto’s reply:

“….. given our background, we believe that we understand what is ailing this industry, and we believe we are able to come up with good strategies to bring about change and profitability.

Five key points:

1 - We know reprographics inside and out and we understand its potential as integral part of the construction business.

2 - We can help reprographers to:

a) - Assess their existing business model and propose ways to improving their image, expanding their customer base, and generate new revenue.

b) - Identify needs and create and structure a training/education path to expand executive/employee skills (training and education).

c) - Help to identify, evaluate and align technologies to business needs (technology aligned to opportunity and business needs).

3 - We can assist them to develop a "solution oriented" sales process.

4 - We can help with their writing, presentation skills and overall communications.

5 - We have a track record of results.

Joel’s final comment: the reprographics business isn’t getting easier, it’s getting more difficult. Changes are coming about faster than ever before. Reprographers must thoroughly evaluate their current business models and must make a determined effort to develop appropriate strategies to adapt to change, to remain relevant, and to remain profitable (or to return to profitability.) Reprographers who don’t do these things will not survive. Any “outsiders” viewpoint and assistance may well prove to be the difference between “staying in business” or “failing”.

p.s., giving credit where credit is due. In Roberto's post-comment, he said.... "Joel brings up the acquisition of new skills such as a CDM certification, not only a great idea but I believe it is absolutely necessary to play in this new environment." That idea is not mine, but rather was an idea (suggestion) put forth by Jared Willis.

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