PrintIT Reseller met up with Phil Jones, Managing Director of Brother UK to talk about the challenges facing businesses and what this means for printer resellers
PrintIT Reseller (PITR): What are the big challenges facing businesses today?
Phil Jones (PJ): Well I think in 2017 and as we move into 2018, businesses in any area are all dealing with the environment we now find ourselves in. We use the three Vs to describe it: it’s all about the volume, the variety and the velocity of change that we are all experiencing.
There’s a huge whirlwind of things going on and all businesses are trying to figure out really where they are and how they are going to position themselves for that period ahead. So for any business, whether it be Brother or whether it be one of our customers, I think people are trying to find certainty in uncertainty, and the businesses that are going to survive and thrive are the people that get that nailed down.
PITR: How are these trends manifesting themselves in the printer industry specifically?
PJ: The printer industry I think has had quite a challenging year. It’s really been a year all about the chess players and the chess pieces. We’ve seen a lot of consolidation going on. We’ve seen the elastic snap actually for some major customers with continuing mergers and acquisitions. The strong continue to get stronger and that in my view is the people who continue to invest in services, who have high degrees of customer intimacy and are rapidly adapting their business models to the new environment we are all trading within.
PITR: And how is Brother itself responding to these challenges?
PJ: Two years ago, I set in place a new strategy to react to the challenges I could see forthcoming in the market. We called that Transform 2018 – which was a three year vision really to reinvent the business and particularly to reinvent our portfolio around recurring revenue products, so ‘print as a service’ particularly.
Now, that required us to make quite a lot of investments in various different things including platforms, people and our processes. But having that direction of travel clear, meant that we knew what we could decide we were going to be investing in. And we’ve made significant investment in those three things as well as opening a state-of- the-art technology showroom at our HQ in Manchester. So we are now in a position where we are winning some of the largest managed print services deals we’ve ever won in our history. Really demonstrating this fantastic new capability that we have.
PITR: Have you been successful in bringing resellers on the Transform 2018 journey?
PJ: Resellers are a very important component actually of our Transform 2018 journey. Brother is a channel orientated business and as a result of that, of course we want to make sure that the people partnering with us can also deliver our promises to enterprise and SMB customers who are buying either our basic printer service solution or our fully managed print service solution.
And, you know, that’s been quite an educational journey because some people are at different places in their lifecycle as a reseller. So they might have the ambition to want to do, for example, managed print services business, but they might not have the platforms, to do for example, recurring billing. They might not have the salesforce with the relevant skills to perhaps do financial based selling.
So, there’s an awful lot of hand-holding needed, if somebody wants to mature into becoming a competent partner there. And it’s part of our job to walk with them on that process – very much the ‘Brother at Your Side’ philosophy. And we’ve seen some super success with partners who’ve chosen to take that journey with us.
PITR: As part of your strategy of getting closer to the customer, are there specific vertical sectors you’re really concentrating on?
PJ: Yes, Brother has become quite well known actually as a real powerhouse in vertical marketing and the team do a fantastic job in this particular space. So in the last perhaps, three to five years, we’ve been very busy developing sector solutions and some of our most popular sector solutions are places like the electrical market, where we’ve developed some products and labels specifically for that marketplace.
Brother is a significant provider into the primary healthcare market for computer printers primarily. But we are also now seeing a significant vertical sector emerge with our scanning products where we’re doing an awful lot of scanning straight into systems and making legal practices more productive.
So we campaign on a few themes at Brother around productivity and digitisation particularly.
PITR: How is Brother helping end-users meet the challenges they face?
PJ: Brother as a company try and stay very close to what’s going on with our customers and we talk about that world in two different ways. One is about the trading environment that we’re all within and then there’s the climate within the environment. So every company has got a slightly different climate relevant to the external environment that they’re operating within.
Some people perhaps have growing pains even in a rapidly changing environment they’re growing rapidly. Other people might be moving, others might be actually having problems adapting. So what you’ve got to understand is actually what climate each customer is experiencing that you can help them with.
For some, it is actually about providing a technology or solution which allows them to scale and because they’re growing very quickly it gives them that comfort to know that they can grow with you. For another company, that solution could be that we just need to rapidly reduce our costs or get more productive. For Brother, I try and make sure that as a company we never go out with a one-size-fits-all solution. What we’re about is listening deeply, understanding the pain points that people are experiencing and then making sure we have a permission to play to try and help them resolve them.
So for me, it’s all about the relevancy of our offer and just making sure that what we bring generally makes sense to somebody and helps them solve the problems they’re experiencing at the particular point in time they’re experiencing them.
PITR: Does a more collaborative relationship encourage customers to buy solutions as a service?
PJ: More and more customers want to buy products from us on a service-based model nowadays. So we kind of have it in our minds as BaaS – Brother as a Service – so what is it you want to buy and how do you want to buy it? Some people just want a scalable financial solution where they can deploy that or depreciate that over a few years, and other customers are still just like we’ll buy it and run it.
But we are seeing a very strong trend now towards more print as a service. We have a couple of offers there – obviously our basic print service where somebody with as few as two printers can buy a basic print services renewable billing, monthly agreement from Brother, using the cloud for many of our resellers. So we can do that almost like a plug and play solution and we can get you as a small business, going with a product like that. Right the way up to very large enterprise solutions that we’re providing which can be 500-600 sites, with a full project management service built-in, quarterly reviews, estate management, silent device management – a full catalogue of services that a customer might be able to buy from us.
So for me, part of our Transform 2018 strategy was actually beginning to ‘portfolio-ise’ the services that we were previously bringing to market, attaching a new value to those and then presenting them in new ways to customers, and the markets reacted very well to that.
PITR: As you say it’s a time of great uncertainty and change, are you confident about 2018?
PJ: Oh, I’m very confident about the future, even though it looks quite uncertain. One thing I talk a lot to our own people about at Brother is we know our ‘dot’ on the horizon and that’s an acronym for actually ‘direction of travel’.
So we know exactly what we want to be, we know where we’re strong, we know what we’re trying to build as an organisation, and we know where our resources need to be directed to deliver our future. And that’s been a very galvanising moment for us, because we are all kind of rowing together, looking for one common cause. I think what that will do is bring certainty to our environment, so regardless of how the external conditions might be, we’ve all got our heads down, working to deliver the future that we’re designing for ourselves.