Julien Guerrand – Community Manager IMPSGA: Tibor could you quickly present Print Partners?
Tibor Brunclik – CEO: Print Partners is one of very few independent MPS providers in the Czech Republic. It has been operating in the Czech market for nearly 25 years.
The company was founded 3 years after the so called Velvet revolution (late 89) by Colin MacDougal, who was introduced to the printing industry by HP in the USA and brought not only industry expertise, but also the sales and marketing know-how, which at that time was still quite scarce in our country.
We started as a cartridge remanufacturer, later on refocusing primarily onto the original printing supplies business, to become one of the country’s first independent MPS providers around 2009.
I joined the company quite early on, in 1995, as a high school kid on a summer job. I started as a telemarketing sales rep. I liked the business very much, but hardly could I have guessed I would become its General Manager in 5 years, Managing Director and minority owner in another couple years, and finally buy out Colin in 2017, who has been back in the US for the last 15 years. It feels pretty incredible to sum up my professional life in so few words, but you should also know that I managed to get my masters in business at Pittsburgh University (08), and met my wife and had our daughter during those years, just to make the picture more complete.
JG: So what is the current business focus?
TB: Well, we still have the majority of our business in printing supplies, but with double digit growth in the MPS / MDS business this may change in a year or two. And that is my primary goal. However, with printed page volumes undoubtedly declining across the world, we are considering utilizing our ‘Managed Service’ experience in the IT infrastructure. Given the competitive landscape of the Czech Republic, we intend to keep our focus on larger SMBs and smaller enterprise customers.
JG: Speaking of the market landscape, how would you define the MPS market in your country?
TB: Certainly quite different than it is in most of the Western European countries. This is because of two country specific factors.
First of all you have to realize it is pretty small playground. The country population is little more than 10 million. – which is not that much bigger than the population of Greater London. Still you have the same number of major printing business brands present in the country with their direct and indirect sales forces.
Second, the MPS adoption by customers is slightly behind WE / NA. It is pushed by OEMs or from the other side pulled by international customers, who have adopted MPS in their WE locations, and who, due to their global presence, with little decision making power in the Czech Republic, are quite naturally served by OEMs. So arguably, the space for a local independent MPS provider is limited within those international enterprise customers. On the other hand, we are pleased to see the Czech based companies’ appetite for MPS growing, as well as demand for the document solutions, which is the primary driver of our MPS/MDS growth. The definition of an MPS service is still quite blurred though – and very much distorted by the OEMs‘ desire to place new units of HW on the market.
So very often, rather than as a comprehensive service intended to control and optimize the printing environment and further the document related processes, it is understood merely as the leasing of printers with some level of proactive maintenance. There is not even an equivalent term for MPS in the Czech language, and so sometimes it is quite a challenge to get agreement on what is an MPS service.
JG: So in this competitive environment, how do you really make a difference?
TB: Independence is the key and main differentiator. Unlike OEMs and their one color resellers, we are ready to take over multi-brand fleets. Currently our remote monitoring system covers more than 10 printer brands. We don’t necessarily push replacing efficient HW, just to serve the interests of any one HW brand. We don’t always stick to the original supplies for the same reason. In short, unlike the OEMs, we serve the customer not the brands. Yet we are very important partners of the major brands in the country, primarily HP (or Xerox or Koycera), able to get special pricing and MPS dedicated HW options. Thus the customer can expect more value from us.
JG: Is there any news regarding your company you would like to share?
TB: There are many items all the time, but I would probably mention three strategic moments in 2017 for our business. We signed a partnership with Nuance, the world-wide leader in secure printing and document workflow technology. We are thus one of very few to deliver Nuance sw solutions (e.g. SafeCom, eCopy) in the country. Second, we have entered the Slovakian market with our supplies offering and already have a couple of MPS contracts there. And last, but not least, we have been certified as an HP MPS Premier partner, which allows us to deliver the brand new A3 portfolio.
JG: Do you see any disruptive technologies or business models relevant for your market?
TB: I am not sure if you can call it a disruptive technology, but wide array inkjet printing is significantly redefining the standards of cost per page and those manufacturers (primarily HP) who have invested in it seem to have a significant competitive advantage. Cost of color pages is an important factor, which has the potential to change market shares and drive printing fleet innovations. If we speak about business models, the document digitization and management of it is a big topic. We expect the document management, regardless whether we speak about printed or electronic, is going to shape the service offers of providers in the next couple years. Plus we expect the convergence of MPS and IT infrastructure management services of course. But you could not call that disruption really, but a natural evolution of business models, quite precisely following the trends in WE.
JG: So how do you see the future of printing in let’s say 2020 in your country?
TB: I think the printed document cannot decline forever. In fact I believe the biggest reduction of printed pages, primarily black and white transactional documents, is behind us. Further major cut of printed documents would have a negative impact on the office workers’s comfort. Printed pages will probably stabilize, with the ratio of color (more expensive) pages increasing. Thus the volume may be slightly lower, but the value will be the same or bigger. Certainly something like paper-less office is not to be expected. There are studies proving that the latest generation of office workers is actually more in favor of paper than expected. Young people are printing their school text books, despite the attempts of their publishers to completely avoid paper based text books. And look at the recent success of the hand held photo printer HP Sprocket. Who do you think is buying it? Of course it is the young people, who have grown up with smart phones and tablets.
Paper is a very natural media for text and pictures and I am quite optimistic about its future.