Last week, I took leave of spring like weather here in The Villages, FL to enjoy spring like weather in Orlando, FL. First, I have to tell you that the venue (The Grand Floridian at Disney World) was spectacular! Old Florida plantation styling, huge lobbies, live Dixieland bands, tons of restaurants and, of course, Disney characters everywhere.
Of course, I wasn’t there for the ambience, although it didn’t hurt. I was there to reach out to old friends and make some new ones. In that, I wasn’t disappointed. The BTA event was actually a joint session with International Business Products, Inc. (IBPI), with some of their members staying for the BTA sessions. Good planning strategy, given that there is significant overlap in the goals of the two groups.
In all, BTA had 129 dealer organizations attending, along with 43 exhibitors. It was a nice crowd, given that this was a regional gathering. In fact, Brent Hoskins, Executive Director, indicated that this was the largest group ever for a meeting of this type.
On arriving Thursday evening, I was invited to join the board of directors for a casual dinner. Good laughs and fruity drinks galore. Thanks, gang!
On to the meeting. All of the publicity for the Spring Break referred to a “surprise” keynoter. Now, I’ve run meetings like this and when I listed a “surprise” speaker in the program, it was because the original speaker dropped out. So, naturally, I was wondering who they lost. Well, the speaker was really a surprise. He was introduced as Dr. Anderson Payne, a member of the Council of Economic Development. It took me about ten minutes to realize that I didn’t understand a word this man was saying. Looking at the faces of other dealers, I quickly realized that they were as lost as I was. I thought to myself, “Well, he’s an economist. I never understood economics in college. Apparently, I still don’t.”
Then, the “surprise” was revealed. Our speaker was really Derwood Fincher, a noted double talk artist. I still didn’t understand him, but, at least, I felt better about it. There was no inspiring message, no sales strategy, no motivational theme. Just an hour of fun. Maybe that was the message. In any event, I thought it was a great way to start the event
Next up – Bob Goldberg, my perennial favorite. More than anyone I know, with the exception of my son Andy (he made me say that), Bob continues to have his finger on the pulse of our industry. This time out, he spoke about the fact that, while pages are in decline, information is not. Our value add as an industry is to help manage that information by updating transactional documents and data.
He went on to discuss the need for a Master Services Document to limit dealer liability for all services. This is especially important, according to Bob, as dealers continue to move into IT services.
Consolidation is on the increase on the part of both vendors and dealers. Bob shared data showing that there were 11 dealer acquisitions in the month of December alone. Further, we now have at least three dealers generating more than $250 million in annual revenue – each!
Next, we heard from Jack Duncan of BEI who discussed strategies for reducing parts cost that included salvaging parts from junked MFPs. Jack indicated that the industry benchmark for parts cost is 17.5% of service revenue.
We also heard from Gil Cargill (hiring strategies) Mark Hart (mobile printing) Lindsay Kelley (sales and marketing) and Ed McLaughlin (adjacent product opportunities). Ed stated that we can afford to lose monochrome pages if we increase color volume. Interesting perspective – you can lose 5 – 6 monochrome pages for each color page captured. He was also the first marketing executive I’ve heard that minimized the impact of 3D printing for our dealers. He stated that the technology has nothing to do with the office. You have to call on engineers, which, according to Ed, we don’t. I agree.
Given all of this in just a day and a half, when were we able to visit with exhibitors? There was a plan. A good one. BTA set time (45 minutes) between each speaker and the next (including our “economist”) to visit with exhibitors. Add to this a two-hour reception on Friday night, and we had plenty of time to visit and network.
Saturday afternoon was spent at Disney World so we could see what a real “Mickey Mouse Operation” was like.
All in all, a great event. Dealers weren’t limited to the South. They were from as far away as Alaska (picture 24 dogs and a cat). So, when a regional meeting notice pops up in your mailbox, do yourself a favor. Sign up. Learn. You won’t be sorry.