A3 Hardware and Print Today: Thoughts from Art Post of Stratix Systems
Our 4 Questions series welcomes another known quantity in the print industry
If there are a couple of things I’ve learned about Art Post in the short time since we met, they are that he will never shy away from a conversation about A3 hardware—and he oozes confidence. The Customer Relationship Manager has been at Stratix Systems for nearly 24 years (he had his own dealership and worked for a Minolta dealer prior). He created the Print4Pay Hotel in 2003, a resource website for the print industry that continues to enjoy good health. And, of some personal interest to me, he was the General Manager and Head Coach of a summer collegiate baseball team for almost a decade, a job which he says was rewarding because it gave him the chance to continue coaching while also chatting with the student-athletes about the business world and what would come after school.
In short, it was high time that we two Jersey boys sat down.
Carl Schell: A4 has been hogging the spotlight from A3 since March 2020, but you’re an A3 guy. Can you take us through your sales journey with copier MFPs since the pandemic?
Art Post: My wife and I had just returned from a trip to Aruba when all hell broke loose. For a month or so, we were just trying to figure it out since, of course, print devices were not being used as the majority of offices were ghost towns.
I never played much with small and medium-size businesses (SMBs). The bulk of my accounts are in the architectural, engineering, and construction (AEC) space. I knew early in the pandemic that AEC business would still be strong, what with people coming to the office, so I turned my attention to my existing AEC accounts to generate some much-needed revenue. I learned years ago that whenever business has a downturn or experiences something out of the ordinary, the focus shifts to reducing costs—especially for hardware, software, and supplies. I took that idea and made it my mantra. It worked so well that 2020 was my best year ever. Then, last year, even with the ongoing COVID situation, I did better in both revenue and commission.
CS: Of course, A3 devices come in boxes, big boxes, and we’ve had a global chip shortage and a supply chain issue for a while now. What has the impact been like on you and your clients?
AP: In recent weeks, I was turned away from on-site visits because companies pulled back due to the Omicron surge. In a way, I felt like I was back in early 2020. Many accounts are still wary of new leases, wary of bringing everyone back to the office, wary of resignations. In fact, I think we have more worries now than two years ago.
And that includes supply chain issues. Our country fell behind and has stayed so far behind. Mostly what I hear is that there is no relief in sight until 2023 so long as things continue to run the way they are. Get the National Guard and the Navy involved to unload ships. Goods will get delivered.
Many manufacturers have already changed their offerings and accessories for MFPs to help get items to dealers and clients faster. This has hurt many dealers, however, because they had other problems with not being able to get the right accessories. Many dealers have now been waiting three months—or much longer, in some cases—for devices.
CS: Many dealers today strive for a 50/50 split between print and IT, including Stratix Systems. But what’s the one thing you think the print industry needs to do to improve moving forward?
AP: Simple: Our industry needs to simplify MFP offerings. Each manufacturer offers in the neighborhood of 12-16 A3 MFPs between black and color. All have some differences when it comes to speeds, feeds, and accessories. How do you expect even the best of salespeople to understand all the models and accessories in a few short months?
Our industry needs to offer just one A3 MFP in lieu of 16. We can offer clients annual subscription print speeds (20-65 and even a variable print speed), then we offer clients an annual color subscription. Having all these models also puts a drain on manufacturer resources, dealer resources, and sales resources. This will eliminate pain with dealer/client upgrades when there are multiple years left on a lease.
CS: You are someone who likes speaking with people and helping them. Where did this come from, and how have you grown that aspect of who you are?
AP: People took the time to help me when I was a rookie in the business. It’s always been a good thing to pay it forward by helping others.
One of my key accomplishments in this industry was to start and continue to work a website were all industry people can share stories, ideas, and knowledge with each other. To this day, there is nothing like the Print4Pay Hotel in the print industry. I’ve long since thought that not enough of us were there to help others become better at what we do—whether it’s selling or marketing or fixing or analyzing. That’s really the main reason I wanted to create this place where people can go to learn, think, and ultimately, take the knowledge with them.
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