I wasn't planning on blogging tonight, however the recent course of events today has left me with an urgency to post my thoughts/
Earlier on LinkedIn I posted this, "Big changes at Ricoh USA Today, what's old becomes new, what goes around comes around. It's 1986 again" .
For some, today was Black Friday @Ricoh USA. After speaking with one colleague, it was stated, "it's all about what number you have to dial into". With so many people working remotely, the best way to communicate is through that call-in number. I'm giving thanks already that I've never had to do that in my career. I'm guessing many were told of their re-assignments, many may have been told that their job did not exist anymore, and others were happy that they still had their same job.
You see, back in the eighties selling copiers was a lot easier than it is today. In 1986, I opened my first dealership, with two other partners. One was my brother and one was my best friend. The copier company that we worked for had just gone belly up and two companies formed from the ashes. Twelve years later, we were all married, got our wives into the business and the rest was a **** show. I got out in 1998 and have been selling Ricoh products for almost twenty years now.
It was a simple time back then, in the NY metro market we had Xerox direct, Minolta direct and the fledgling Ricoh direct channel and more dealers than you could shake a stick at. In those days we were focused on GP, there was no revenue crap. You sold a box, you made a decent profit and you moved on.
For a few weeks the rumor mill was swirling with stories that something BIG was going to happen with Ricoh US. Don't we just love rumors? In fact most of them come true, maybe we should be addressing these as leaks.
Today and alert popped from the Cannata Report that there were BOLD changes underway at Ricoh US. What interested me the most was how Ricoh was re-aligning their SMB Channel. My interpretation of that paragraph is that all SMB Ricoh Direct accounts will now be handled by Ricoh dealers and what Ricoh calls their U.S. based Sales Channel. Not sure what the U.S. based sales channel will sell, but I sure hope it's not going to be a Ricoh web store for moving A3 & A4 devices. Maybe someone from Ricoh can post a reply and tell us what that means.
On Friday of last week I spoke with a Ricoh Dealer Principal that told me all of the NJ based SMB accounts were being offered to one dealer. I don't want to report who just in case that story is not true. In addition, another birdie confirmed that there was an acquisition of SMB accounts.
Don't Give a Damn
I don't really give a damn about who gets what. What I care about is the chance to make a decent profit again without the annoyance of the Direct Channel pricing equipment below my floor cost.
For years, I've seen the damage that was done with the Direct Channel. Ricoh was able to achieve awesome results in the Enterprise Channel, but pretty much ruined the SMB channel for those of us that sell in that space. In many blogs I've often touted that the Ricoh Dealer Channel subsidized the Direct Channel and those profits allowed the Direct to sell on price. Hey, I'm allowed to vent my two cents, right?
Thus, Ricoh US seems to be following the lead of Xerox. Moving those SMB accounts to Global Dealers and Xerox Agents. After speaking with friend today he stated that Global Channel now produces more revenue for Xerox than the Xerox Direct Channel. We can only hope and pray that the same holds true for Ricoh Dealers.
Lower profits, and declining sales revenue was most likely the reason for the change. Increased dealer revenue will result in higher profits, and Ricoh US will benefit from lower labor costs that were associated with their Direct Channel is my guess.
So, What's Next?
I'd like to think that tomorrow I'm going to feel like a kid in the candy store again. I want it to be 1986 again, I want to be able to pitch an account without the fear of my manufacturer direct channel cutting price to get a deal.
There's going to be some smart ass, who thinks or will reply with, "stop, you didn't get the deal because you didn't sell value". And I'll say, BS, you try competing in one of the largest market in the US with pressure from every direct branch and two to three of the largest mega dealers in the country. Try doing it for thirty seven years, once you've done that you can then tell me about value.
Plain and simple, there are those that value our services and those that do not. We pick and chose what we want to win and what we need to win. If you're in bumpfuk wherever and there is limited competition, you can walk from those that prospects that don't value our services. Here in the Northeast we don't have that luxury.
Sorry, a bit of a ran there. For me, it could be 1986 again, yes I'll still have the pressure from the other Direct Channels and pressure from the Mega's, but at least I can feel a little bit more at ease about submitted a fair price for excellent service and support.
To Ricoh US
Indeed it was a bold move today and somewhat gratifying for many of us Ricoh dealer salespeople that have hung on to the dream that one day, yes one day that the Direct Channel would just go away. While we did not see the Direct Channel go away completely I believe after today we all feel better about where Ricoh US is going and their commitment to the Dealer Channel.