Caring for the Environment Is Second Nature to Thermocopy
A Q&A with Company Executive Mark DeNicola
Saving customers’ time and money is the name of the game for dealers, but for Thermocopy it’s also very much about saving the Earth. Since 1964, the company has been a leading technology provider in the mostly mountainous region of East Tennessee. And for the past decade, it has made eco responsibility a key plank in its all-encompassing strategy, one that is centered on the office but also includes production and managed IT, to name two other areas of focus. As such, to celebrate Earth Day 2017, we spoke with Mark DeNicola, Thermocopy’s CFO and Executive Director of Sales and Marketing, to discuss the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability.
|Mark DeNicola, Thermocopy’s CFO and Executive Director of Sales and Marketing|
Carl Schell: What is the “state of the state” of Thermocopy?
Mark DeNicola: We are in the best place we have ever been in our over 50-year history. Our 2016 revenue was approximately $14 million, we have been delivering the best customer service in our market as evidenced by our Net Promoter Score of 96+, and our service response times are the lowest they have ever been. We have the processes and resources in place to embark on our retooled 5-year plan and, most importantly, are living up to our core values: One Team, with Integrity, driven by Excellence, creating Raving Fans.
CS: The “green” message is obviously important to your company, as there are not one but two pages on your site dedicated to it. When did Thermocopy make environmental friendliness a part of its strategy, and how did it all come about?
MD: Our stance on the environment really grew out of our nomination in 2007 for a Pinnacle Award, which recognizes excellence in the East Tennessee business community. The submission process required us to provide a lot of background information and review our mission statement, which is when we realized that we were meeting all of our commitments except for one: the environment.
When we crafted our mission statement in 1995, we said we would be an eco-responsible business partner. This meant, for example, that we would dispose of toner in a proper fashion. A decade later, we understood that more could be done and we wanted to make that happen. So, we asked for volunteers to form a committee to look into our business processes and recommend ways to improve our environmental efforts. Our Greenworks program is the result of all that hard work, and it covers everything from document management to recycling, using recycled media to the reduction of electric, water and gas usage, as well as bio-fuel use for company vehicles, “green” cleaning products, and community support and education.
We supply recycling containers for paper under every office worker’s desk, along with providing bins in common areas for glass, aluminum, paper and plastic. In fact, we encourage employees to utilize our containers for their recyclable items from home. I am a believer in the wise saying “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it,” so an important element in the program is our tracking site, where employees and the public can view the results of our efforts. Included here is an extrapolation of what the environmental benefits would be if 50 percent of the businesses our size would implement the same type of program and experience the same type of results.
To reach the community in general, we founded GoGreenET.com, a free, online resource created to guide East Tennessee businesses and other organizations towards being more environmentally responsible. The site provides basic information about products and services that can help organizations go “green.” The goal is improvement, not perfection. GoGreenET.com also encourages businesses to look for ways that go beyond the basic first steps presented on the site.
CS: Has this message resonated with your customers? Did it take some time for them to really buy into what you were saying?
MD: At first it was a difficult sell, but some verticals, like education and government, did embrace the message right away. For many companies, the message had to be prefaced by the inherent cost savings that come along with sustainability. Now, to assist with the adoption of “green” practices, we provide an Environmental Impact Assessment as part of our Printworks+ program. Through this process, we guide our clients to move towards more environmentally friendly printing practices, such as default duplexing on office equipment and the use of toner-centric printers, all while lowering costs associated with printing. Of course, as more companies have included sustainability in their respective mission statement, embracing the message has become more prevalent. The true message is that sustainability makes bottom-line business sense and is just the right thing to do.
CS: Environmental sustainability has of course been a bigger deal in other parts of the world, namely Europe. Why do you think this is?
MD: I believe it is a combination of things. Europe and Japan, which were considered the early adopters and the leaders in the movement, went through wars that devastated their economies and their land, which is a situation that has never occurred here. They were forced into a more conservative approach to material waste. Thus, the conservation movement was born—not of altruism, but out of necessity. Today, it is a way of life for them and, of course, the right thing to do as the world population increases.
CS: Beyond traditional things like automatic duplexing and toner-save mode, what features and tools do you encourage customers to take advantage of?
MD: Well, the MFPs we sell are the onboarding process for converting paper to digital files. Our Printworks+ program includes information flow analysis, which advances the idea of the “less paper” office. Through Centriworks, our solutions company, we have the print tracking programs and the document management and storage systems that can make that happen for businesses. We have the capability of implementing these solutions and providing the ongoing training and future touchpoints necessary to ensure the systems are installed are effectively utilized by the business. We do not just install and walk away!
CS: How much do your sales reps address eco responsibility in the sales cycle?
MD: The subject is broached upon the introduction of Thermocopy to a business. We have business cards advertising GoGreenET.com that are handed out with traditional business cards. We offer to help them apply for the Green Achievers certification that gets them listed on that site. It is an integral part of the Image Output Analysis that provides the Environmental Impact Assessment. So, eco responsibility is addressed throughout the process, from beginning to end.
CS: Your company has been recognized in various ways for your “green” efforts. Do you feel like these awards and otherwise have made an impact?
MD: We have won several awards for our efforts, including a Keep Knoxville Beautiful Environmental Achievement Award and the Governor’s Environmental Achievement Award for excellence in public education. Our efforts have certainly been a differentiator. In basic dollars and cents terms, the recognition has provided thousands of dollars in free advertising and has enabled us to win business that we might not otherwise have. But, as Henry Ford once said, “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business.” We are believers in corporate responsibility. We are proud of the respect that we receive in our community and our efforts to positively impact the community both now and for future generations.
CS: Is there one business you’ve worked with that really embraced the eco angle? What kind of results did it wind up with?
MD: Tindell’s comes to mind. Tindell’s Building Materials began in 1907 as a sawmill business. They now own and operate building materials sales and warehousing facilities throughout East Tennessee. They saw the market moving slowly toward a more eco-friendly building model. Because of that, several of the company’s employees obtained LEED certifications. The company also became FSC certified in an effort to lead its industry in environmental initiatives. However, making a conscious effort to seek out and market environmentally responsible products didn’t stop with building materials—Tindell viewed its efforts as a company-wide commitment that included “green” back-office solutions.
The challenge was every Tindell’s location had multiple copiers, printers, and fax machines, and as a fiscally conscious company, it should go without saying that cost was a consideration when Tindell’s started looking at ways to improve office efficiency. The company was leaning toward the purchase of a competitive product instead of staying with us, attracted by the fact that the brand they were looking at was so inexpensive. We met with management to discuss Thermocopy’s commitment to environmental initiatives, including our Greenworks program, and the negative impact that going with a product that might be less expensive—but also less environmentally friendly—would have on business goals.
We replaced old equipment with one MFP in each of Tindell’s four locations so all printing, scanning, copying, and faxing could be done from the same source—one machine means just one plug, which helps reduce energy consumption. The whole exercise of streamlining Tindell’s processes is having success as well. Instead of receiving a plethora of invoices every day in the mail and dealing with file cabinets, the company gets electronic invoices and processes them using technology. Today, they rarely touch a piece of paper.
CS: What’s your advice for other dealers that aren’t as dialed in to the environment as your company is?
MD: I believe that our industry should be the ambassadors for environmental sustainability initiatives. We have received black eyes over the years for our contribution to the problem due to the huge carbon footprint from the printing process. As good corporate citizens, it is our responsibility to educate our clients on how to reduce their carbon footprint and the resulting cost decreases that occur because of their efforts. I do not know why dealers wouldn’t dial in to this critical effort.
CS: In closing, is there anything you’d like to say that we haven’t covered?
MD: Other than saying I don’t know why a company would purchase office equipment or digital solutions from any company other than Thermocopy? Sorry, just had to say that.
We have covered a lot of ground in this interview. I would like to emphasize again our commitment to educating the community about the best practices pertaining to eco sustainability. Thanks so much for the opportunity to tell our story.
|Thermocopy is headquartered in the heart of Volunteer country in Knoxville, Tennessee, with another location in Johnson City.|