Can you go from a struggling channel partner to one of Xerox’s largest European Platinum Partners in just four years? Zerographic Systems Limited did, and their story motivated me to share it with you in this blog post.
Zerographic Systems Limited were formed in the spring of 1991. By 2011, they were a growing business providing office hardware, supplies and three types of services: managed print, commercial print, and production print.
From an exterior perspective, the enterprise seemed to be doing quite well, though from an interior perspective, Zerographic was growing faster than management could keep up with and lacked the sort of internal control or discipline needed to move forward. Stuck in a small-business mentality, they needed to shift towards a more enterprise approach.
From small business to double digit managed print services growth
Kevin Corbett, CEO of Zerographic, recognised that the business was working harder than before to get ahead but this extra effort wasn’t yielding more profit or a greater return. Using a fresh methodology, the business, at a root level was reshaped. Senior managers were empowered and given a stake in the business so that they conducted themselves more like an owner. This formed the basis of a long-term plan. By 2014, Zerographic celebrated an impressive 112% growth in managed print services, helped by winning business from major accounts including a leading retailers, manufacturers and commercial printers in the UK. Executing on their original plan put Zerographic in the position they are today. For those who might be facing similar challenges in their own enterprise, Kevin Corbett, shares the critical steps that made their evolution possible.
Starting with the basics – develop a long term strategy
They started by developing long-term goals that included looking at costs to see where too much or too little money was being spent. Their ambition was to become a pure corporate business rather than an owner managed small business, often with limitations for growth. Sales and financial plans were introduced which created discipline, hierarchy and business measures for success. The idea was to implement the plan over the course of five years but once they started, the impact was evident instantly; the restructure took place over 2 years with years 3, 4 and 5 dedicated to finessing the business model.
Change your focus, change customer perceptions
Zerographic then looked beyond hardware sales, by leading with managed print, they were able to re-engage with customers, and raise the bar on customer service. “We wanted to delight our customers and give them a real first class experience” This new focus on managed print allowed for deeper conversations about the customer’s business goals and helped shift customer perceptions about Zerographic. “Customers are no longer simply purchasing equipment. They’re purchasing peace of mind and ways to make their business run more smoothly.” Says Corbett. “The technology inside the printers and MFPs we supply informs us when ink is low or service is required, and in turn, we can respond immediately, often before the customer realises they have a need“.
Four steps to transform from a struggling business to a managed print services powerhouse
Ask your vendor for help and get the right expertise to build your plan
Finding the right management and process was crucial to forming a plan that set a struggling channel partner on the right path. Zerographic worked closely with Xerox for advice, and support leading to the turnaround in fortunes.
Ask questions that focus on your customers
Focusing on customer needs and asking questions helped turn customers into a business partners and create long-term business relationships. Corbett said, “We asked ourselves; how are we treating them? How do they want to be treated? Are we going to be hands-on or are we simply there if they need minor support?” Corbett added, “Selling a product is the easy part, the difficult part is building a relationship that will blossom.” Through this method, Zerographic boomed and bloomed.
Embrace digital marketing to uncover new opportunities
From here forward, the plan with Zerographic is to focus on marketing activities and engage in new ideas in marketing strategy. With a concentrated focus on inbound marketing, content marketing and digital & social engagement, previously unseen opportunities are already presenting themselves.
Change your mind-set for a better relationship with vendors and customers
Originally, Zerographic saw themselves as middlemen who sold Xerox products and occasionally Xerox services. Now, they are a trusted partner to their customers, and a valued channel partner that Xerox can turn to and count on to create business and foster relationships with ease.
Is your channel partner business in the same position?
In the eyes of their customers, Zerographic are anything but a zero, and as a vendor, we are delighted that they are reaping the rewards of the hard work and transformational changes they have implemented in their business. If you can recognise any of the traits Zerographic had in your business, take heart that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Amongst other things, you need a long-term plan that puts your customer at the centre of your business, the discipline to execute and a willingness to embrace the digital world we live in.
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Top image used with the kind permission of Zerographic Systems Limited