LDI Color ToolBox Dealer Profile

Commitment to Collaboration and Partnerships Elevate Company’s Value Prop

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07/07/2016

Carl Schell





Fast Facts
History in Brief: Offers a variety of hardware (including 3D printers), software (Platinum partner of Nuance), and professional services (MPS, managed IT, national account program); created in 1999, is currently the No. 1 reseller of Canon production devices for all independent dealers in the United States

Headquarters: Jericho, New York

Locations: 6 (New Jersey, New York, Southern California, Southern New England)

Employees: Approximately 275

Hardware Partners: (A3) Canon, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba; (A4) HP, Samsung; (Production) Canon, Sharp

Noteworthy Software Partners: Drivve, EFI, MaxxVault, Nuance (Copitrak, eCopy, Equitrac), PaperCut, Sepialine


Jerry Blaine is a funny man. Busy, too. “When people ask me if I see my five grandkids often, I tell them ‘Nah, only three or four times a week,’” he said. “They’re a little gang, from age three to eight, and it’s usually best if you don’t get in their way. I do the same things with them as I did with my two daughters, just slower.”

Blaine doesn’t have time to move in slow motion as President and CEO of LDI Color ToolBox, though. The company he founded is already knee-deep in its “2020” initiative, which was inaugurated at the end of last year. To him, LDI’s current strategy starts on a personal level: He challenged all employees to tell him both where they want to be in five years and their vision for getting there. “This is a wonderfully sustainable business, and we’re growing at a double-digit rate every year,” he said. “If that continues we’ll hit our target by 2018, 2019 the latest—and it will have been because of our team.”
 

Jerry Blaine, President and CEO of LDI Color ToolBox
Jerry Blaine, President and CEO of LDI Color ToolBox

LDI is a classic example of how many successful technology dealers operate today. The company has six branch offices in four states and, through strategic partnerships, a national service program. Seven years ago, it acquired a dealer in California after Canon, which didn’t have the representation it desired in that market, approached LDI to help solve the problem. “LDI had several hundred machines already under contract in need of better service delivery than our current partners were providing,” Blaine said. “We realized we needed a team of high performers with industry experience and we looked at many dealers to find the right fit: a culture of client and employee retention and the strong desire to grow the business.” Both revenue and headcount have doubled in this location since the acquisition, and the company achieved the underpinnings of the country-wide network of dealers it sought.

Then, in 2013, LDI formed KÔTA with the Mohegan Tribe of Indians of Connecticut, who wanted to expand and diversify beyond hospitality and gaming. This has allowed LDI to extend its coverage into southern New England (“Boston will soon be in our sight”), experience the benefits of having a minority business certification and recruit some of the industry’s top guns, headed by current KÔTA President Tod Pike. Pike, a natural choice to grow the business to its full potential as he’d led the efforts for Canon, Samsung and Xerox, returned to his roots with a familial business model consistent to both parents. “KÔTA” in Mohegan means “close association,” and because of LDI’s independent status, customer-centric approach and unparalleled expertise in integrating solutions, the new business venture establishes a gateway to meet even more potential customers.

Ongoing training and education, not to mention constant collaboration, have also had starring roles for LDI. Each member of the salesforce must achieve four internal certifications every year, with the syllabus and content designed by the head of the company’s Systems Engineering Group. A passing grade is 90 or higher—“And you must pass,” Blaine said. “Still, it’s not entirely on our salespeople. We provide them with plenty of pre- and post-sale support, through systems engineers and even specialists when applicable, like with production, visual communications, 3D, and workflow applications. The bottom line is that our employees are creative and work together to give engaging and impactful presentations to clients and then deliver on them.”


“This is a wonderfully sustainable business, and we’re growing at a double-digit rate every year. If that continues we’ll hit our [2020] target by 2018, 2019 the latest—and it will have been because of our team.” –Jerry Blaine

As Blaine explained, the company is always looking to supplement its product offerings and stays on top of what’s available on the market to determine which organizations would make excellent partners. Along with Canon, the company represents the best of the HP, Samsung, Sharp and Toshiba product portfolios. “The printer is becoming a lot less of a play in the solution in general—remanufacturers are taking away share,” he said. “But the hybrid approach can work, and we’ve been able to build new accounts by bundling Samsung A3 and A4 hardware into deals, for example.

“Tying in software is also very much on the rise,” Blaine continued, adding that the goal is for the application to bring out the best in the printer or MFP. “We’ve had the opportunity to get first looks at a number of products and exclusive, pre-launch windows for selling them.” This occurred with the legal software products originated by Ipro Tech, EFI’s Digital Storefront for web-based job submission, and Samsung School (interactive learning products for the education vertical), to name a few. “It’s exciting to implement learning management systems, with collaboration tools and interactive whiteboards, to help a school change and grow.” LDI was certified by Autostore, Copitrak, eCopy and Equitrac before they were acquired by Nuance, and has enabled them to become one of just a few Platinum partners of the software-for-business giant. “Hardware can only get you so far.”

Isn’t that what it’s all about, anyway? Change and growth? LDI has been in the 3D game for a number of years and is having conversations with organizations in the AEC, education and healthcare verticals, but more on a “prosumer” basis. According to Blaine, some of the company’s employees really immersed themselves in the technology in order to understand it and, he feels, the same can be said about managed IT—it’s enabled LDI to protect its turf and deepen the discussion with customers, to show that the company is examining what both today’s business looks like and tomorrow’s office will be. “We’re gaining ground with managed IT, with success in the financial, legal, and general corporate markets, and we’ve come a long way from learning from several firms to rolling out LDI Connect, our IT brand,” he said.

Visual communications is a third area in which the company has been evolving, thanks to its partnership with Sharp, Toshiba and Samsung (also sells Samsung tablets, PCs and Chromebooks). “Displays have been doing better,” Blaine said. “They’ve given us another avenue to leverage digital office technology and satisfy the demand for customized solutions,” Blaine said. “However, the returns in 3D and managed IT have been disappointing. We’re spending a lot of time on them and, to date, these spaces haven’t matured as quickly as we all would have hoped—the ROI just isn’t there yet.”
 

At LDI’s state-of-the-art facility in Times Square, customers have the opportunity to simulate their own environment to understand how integrating the company’s partner technologies can help solve everyday problems.
LDI’s State-of-the-Art facility in Times Square

Blaine’s experience in production print goes way back to relationships with Kodak and Heidelberg. He’s been part of the space’s copious peaks and valleys throughout the last four decades, to now, where LDI is the No. 1 reseller of Canon production equipment out of all U.S. independent dealers—and it’s doing so by focusing on corporate clients and in-plants rather than simply in print-for-pay settings. What’s more, at its office in Times Square, the company recently hosted an extremely successful event to launch Canon’s newest production print engines and EFI’s new Direct Smile relationship.

“Consistent, organic growth in one of the biggest—if not the biggest—growth segments, that’s the story on production,” Blaine said. “We’re always worried that the next advancement will propel the competition ahead of us, but we’ve enjoyed much success in production print.”

Surrounding robust hardware with productive workflow technology and color graphics solutions has been a mainstay of the operation since the inception of the Color ToolBox. “The whole concept comes out of the production arena,” said Brian Gertler, LDI’s Senior Vice President. “The ‘Color ToolBox’ isn’t about how many pages can be printed at the lowest cost—it’s a product, an integrated solution. It’s holistic. It addresses both the engine and everything we surround it with to leverage the finest color on the market for, among other, graphic designers and the ad industry.”


“Hardware can only get you so far. It’s exciting to implement learning management systems, with collaboration tools and interactive whiteboards, to help a school change and grow.” –Jerry Blaine

Aside from work, and his grandkids for that matter, Blaine spends time chairing the board of two organizations, including The Corporate Source. This not-for-profit agency assists people with intellectual and other disabilities in finding employment in both the public and private sector (cleaning government buildings inside and out, washing postal trucks, food services at the US Open). “My philosophy is that you can be extremely fulfilled when you have a great balance in life,” he said. “But you have to be involved.

“It’s this same sense of involvement that we promote to our employees, and by keeping them engaged, both they as individuals and us as a dealer will grow,” Blaine concluded.