Facing Uncertainty as a Community

23-Mar-2020 2:25 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

by Gregory Brisco, Vice President, MPSA

Over the course of the last few weeks we have witnessed our entire world transform right before our eyes. Not that long ago I was serving with my DFW team at the North Texas Food Bank, and later that night hosted a customer appreciation suite at the Dallas Mavericks game. Yet, before the end of that game we learned that the NBA season was suspended indefinitely due to players testing positive for COVID-19. Over the course of the next 12 hours the country awoke to school closings, businesses shutting down, and everyone trying to understand this foreign concept of “social distancing.” I’m sure my story is no different than anyone else reading and we’re all trying to learn how to cope. How do we navigate in this world amidst a constant state of paranoia and hysteria that is completely foreign to our usual way of life?

My first recommendation is to not panic. I live in Houston, TX, and we had three “1,000-year” flooding events that devastated the region over a course of about 18 months. Although that had a regional impact as opposed to global, one thing I learned is that crisis brings communities together more than any other phenomenon. We just have to remain vigilant on where we are getting our information from during this crisis. I’d certainly recommend taking precautions that are recommended by the CDC and other reputable sources only. So practice common sense, good hygiene, and adhere to the precautions set forth by the professionals. We all have a responsibility to do our part to reduce the spread of this virus and ensure that we continue to thrive as a global society.

Next, we must understand that we have a social responsibility to each other and the companies we represent. This is an unprecedented time in business right now. Organizations within the office equipment channel and all over are making strict cuts.  Employees are being furloughed and businesses are shutting their doors because they simply are not prepared to handle such a tragedy. And the true “casualties of war” are the families being affected by these actions daily — the families that thought they were stable, until a couple of weeks ago when their world was turned upside down. We are currently all in survival mode. How can we help ensure that our families and colleagues have the supplies they need and are not exposing themselves or others to this virus? How can we ensure that our clients and partners are safe and that the well-being of their families are intact?

There is a human component here that must be addressed at the center of our organizational strategy. So how can we help the people behind the organizations become prepared to face issues like this? One lesson I’ve learned from an innovator in the human capital industry, Scott MacGregor, president and CEO at Something New, is that, “as leaders of an organization it is essential to have a people strategy. Not just a hiring strategy, but a people strategy.”

Once we establish our people strategy, we have to reflect on this “new normal.” What does it mean for the future of our business, industry, and the world as a whole?  I have come to a few conclusions, the first of which is the world as we knew it before is extinct. Obviously, some elements will resurface, and I’m not proclaiming that social distancing will become the norm going forward. Yet, I am saying that COVID-19 has forced us to examine how we live and thus, how we do business. More importantly, in my personal opinion, there are some positive changes that will come once the dust settles.

Historically, the office equipment industry has done a poor job of adopting new technologies and incorporating them in our current offerings. Yet, the present landscape has forced us to embrace some of these new technologies that increase efficiencies. For a lot of dealers, e-mail is the most popular way to communicate and lots of projects are driven by spreadsheets, yet we tell our customers about robust document management systems that will allow them to streamline their workflows and maximize productivity. A lot of us are still printing and scanning our own expense reports in to our managers each month for approval, yet we sell automation services. Maybe it is time for us to adopt the same technology we are providing for our clients to run our own businesses.

How many of us reported to a brick and mortar office Monday through Friday and made phone calls and sent e-mails trying to convince someone to buy an A3 copier? If more companies are going to adopt a remote strategy, how will that impact the type of devices they need? More importantly, how can companies ensure the integrity of their data amongst these remote employees?

How many of us are still using cost per print as the ideal billing model and complaining about competition increasing while margins are decreasing? What issues does this model present if more employees are working remotely, and how do you resolve them?

Historically, most people in our industry agree that overall page volumes are decreasing anywhere from 1%-6% (depending on who you ask) per year. So the common conversation has been, how do you protect your margins in the long-term? COVID-19 has shifted this conversation to, how do you mitigate 50%-70% of volumes decreasing in a matter of 30 days (numbers that are projected)? That’s swift disruption at work and a real-world problem that we are all currently adjusting to.

COVID-19 is forcing us to become innovative to address these questions and several others, not only during the “social distancing” phase of our response, but even afterward. How do we look at our business practices now and how will that differ going forward? Can we confidently say that we have a continuity plan in place to protect us from a future crisis?

These are some of the matters that we are discussing in executive board meetings within the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA). How can we look at our current state and better equip ourselves, our families, and our businesses to navigate the waters of uncharted territories? How can we facilitate discussions among OEMs, software providers, leasing partners, and the dealer community during and after this crisis? We are in a world that has changed very rapidly and continues to on an hourly basis with new findings concerning COVID-19.

It’s an honor to serve with some of the brightest minds in the industry as we tackle these and many other issues that are relevant to our quality of life. The MPSA is experiencing the same rapid change and evolving to serve the needs of our members. We are a community of trailblazers that readily embraces change in order to lead us in the future. I echo our president and visionary West McDonald, “This is Not Your Father’s MPSA,” and I’ll add that it is a totally different world as well. I welcome anyone who accepts the charge of tackling the most challenging issues and collectively solving them in ways that may not have even existed in the past. We understand that this is an uncertain time and we strive to be a resource to everyone in the industry.

So first and foremost, please stay safe and take heed of all of the recommended precautions: meticulous hand hygiene, sanitizer, cough/sneeze in your elbow and social distancing.  I genuinely believe that we are all better collectively than any one of us is individually. We just have to “connect” through several alternative mediums for now. Undoubtedly, together we will come out of this much stronger on the other side.

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