Managed IT and Document Solutions Not Just for Large Dealerships
Advanced Business Systems puts this into practice
Watertown, New York-based Advanced Business Systems may seem like your typical small-town office equipment dealership, and (in a lot of ways) it is. But don’t let that fool you: The organization stands out with its emphasis on managed IT and document solutions.
“Solutions and our Advanced Network Care program have really been the key to keeping things moving and keeping conversations going with customers that might otherwise be kind of stale right now,” said owner Ryan Jones, who took over the business from his father, Ned Jones, about three years ago.
|The exterior of the Advanced Business Systems location in Watertown, New York|
Ned Jones and his partner started the dealership 29 years ago with a desire to innovate and not just do things the “old-school” way. About 16 years ago, it expanded into IT services—acquiring a small local computer repair company and focusing on break/fix-type work to start.
“Quite a few years ago, we decided that’s really the best business model,” Jones said. “The managed services approach is a much more effective business model and is much more effective for our customers. So we’ve been really focused on changing the way our IT department operates for quite a few years now. And we’re in a great place.”
ABS’s managed IT offerings include voice over IP, computer services, backup solutions, network security, and remote work enablement. While Jones had to lay off over 60% of his staff at the beginning of the pandemic (before eventually rehiring them), the IT staff stayed busy.
“In fact, I think their workloads almost doubled during the initial two months of the pandemic, just trying to quickly get as many people up and running at home as possible for all of our customers,” Jones said.
Staff focused on setting up work phones systems at people’s homes, configuring remote access into a work computer and/or setting up VPN connections, as well as ensuring firewall and email security. Customers are more interested in security than ever, having heard examples of local security breaches on the news (e.g., two major hospital systems in the area).
“The idea that an employee could just click on the wrong thing and type in their username and password just once and completely take down your entire network is a concern,” Jones said.
Beyond hardware and software measures, ABS provides end-user security training and spam testing for customers. While managed IT represents around just 8% of the overall business, Jones expects that it will surpass the copier business in revenue within the next five years.
|The Advanced Business Systems showroom features plenty of A3 and A4 Kyocera products|
The pandemic has also created a need for document solutions, though ABS had been selling them for a while now. According to Jones, his operation has been among the top five Kyocera dealerships in the country for selling solutions and document management platforms, despite its smaller size.
“That’s something we’ve continued to push big time during this pandemic, and being able to demonstrate it remotely was the biggest challenge initially, but my solutions specialists and the sales team has really figured out a good approach using (Microsoft) Teams and being able to remotely share the operations panel of a device,” Jones said.
Popular solutions include Kyocera’s DMConnect for document management (which has multiple levels of offerings) and MyQ for output management. MyQ gives workers remote print capabilities and control, allowing them—for example—to print documents from their homes to the office as needed.
Jones emphasized that solutions like these for small dealerships/customers make all the difference. Unlike solutions like Square 9 that are targeted to larger organizations, DMConnect has similar functionality for small-office needs.
“We have a lot of one-copier customers,” he said. “We have customers with hundreds of machines, but most of our clients are one- or two-machine kind of customers, up and down the street small businesses.”
ABS has been focusing on bundling its offerings together into a single monthly payment (through Great America), including copiers and associated service, an IT contract, phones, and document management software.
“I think it’s very refreshing for customers to put all of that in one place and not have to think about multiple vendors for those different offerings,” he said.
ABS is always exploring new opportunities for growth, leveraging input from team members—who Jones considers the foundation of his business. The culture of ABS is very family-oriented, with family considered the priority followed by work.
“We don’t have a lot of people come and go here, for the most part,” he said. “I’ve got multiple employees that have been here more than 20 years. And multiple employees that have been here more than 15 years. We just have a great team. And it’s definitely been a team effort to come up with new and innovative ways to do what we’ve got to do every day.”
As ABS looks for growth in neighboring counties (it has about 50% market share in its traditional, tri-county area), it is relying on its diversified offerings, engaged employees, and excellent service levels. Generally speaking, smaller dealerships can offer better value as well as service, Jones said.
“It’s a big differentiator being a local company,” he said. “With the history we have, the story we can share, and the offerings we can bring to our customers.”
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