Sunday, July 12, 2009

RiKON, IKON’s struggle for the right to exist…

Ok, October 1st 2008 has come and gone. And so have the IKON fiscal year, and our Pantone 185 Red. Now we are the step child to the one world leader in business technologies and equipment manufacturing. Xerox's Anne Mulcahy mentions IKON/Ricoh as the new threat to Xerox's supremacy in one of her last talks to the corporate shareholders. So now that we are donning a new Red in our logo (Pantone 186) and have a new phase tagline on our business cards "IKON a Ricoh Company" what does the future hold for us?

I can still remember the year prior to the acquisition and the marching orders that we had. Looking back I can see the signs that should have signaled the takeover. Looking forward I am seeking the signs that will indicate my future. Now after a complete quarter in the new Ricoh fiscal year the signs that I see are not as descriptive as I would like them to be. The mantra of protect the base and explore the new world are really just warmed up battle cries from previous generation. What I do see is a lot of shuffling, maneuvering, positioning, and jockeying for the privileged positions in the new one world leader's house. As the days of IKON come to a end, so will the legacy of the world's largest independent distributer of end to end business technologies.

I see leadership poised to make quick and many times knee jerk reactions to the ever flowing economic hard times ahead. One thing that I have noticed about IKON is that they are not scared to make a quick decision. They will uproot you in a second. One day covering one account and another day another, in some senses this ability to move quickly has brought them to a position of greatness. But in another sense it is why no one seems to have any ownership of their own success. They are only successful in the task of the day not in the overall success of their position. Maybe I have a very narrow view coming from just one IKON marketplace. Now almost 2 years into this adventure I am one of the sales survivors. I am now a tenured veteran walking the hallowed halls quietly for fear that I might awaken the sleeping giant.

Now a Ricoh company we see that our chest beating over the Canon product was just another marketing ploy that we used on our clients and eventually came to believe. It is funny to spread a lie what is even funnier is when you actually believe it. What we have learned is that people really bought from us and not a product name? So what Ricoh really purchased was a network of people and relationships strategically located in 400 unique locations around the world. I was on an international conference call with the IKON of the UK and found that they too are just like us and are engaged in the fight for world dominance just like we are. They ask the same questions and provide the same solutions to their clients as we do.

Amazing how we all are fighting the same battles, with a lesser or greater degree of success. We are now learning to sell a new product (or at least new to us) this new world of Ricoh innovations. What I am finding just like I did selling Konica Minolta or Canon is that Ricoh has products that when placed in the right environment with the right enablers they do wonderfully (even in the print for pay market.) There I said it Ricoh products can be used in production environments, did you disbelieve? Did you really think that Xerox and the others we all have come to know and love were the only ones privileged enough to make good production equipment?

Watch the evolution of the engineering as the new 7 series comes out. Hide and watch as the group formerly known as IKON comes to market unified under the RiKON banner. Many rats have scurried and left what they thought was a sinking ship only to have their A*s' handed to them by what they said would be an inferior product. What I say is it must be embarrassing to those reps that fled to Canon to only be beaten like a red headed step child by the product that they swore could never grace the floor space in tandem with other greats like Xerox and Canon; only to find out that their new MIF is slowing going away to these new raiders of the lost copy machine.

So is it the product? Is it the people? Is it the process? Well I will let you figure that out. What I am interested in is what to expect in the next generation of RiKON. They are taking over our internal processes, Shipping etc. So how will this all shake out? What is to become of the IKON of old? How will the sales territories be realigned and divided up amongst the corporate raiders? Will IKON's leadership be incorporated into the Ricoh world or will they just cut the head off of the monster to let it die a quick death?

Watching the slaughter going on at Konica Minolta now that they have cannibalized the Danka people puts me in a bit of distress. They (Konica Minolta) have shown their Minolta roots. Minolta was a strong down the street company. They did not need fancy analysts and strategy sessions. What they needed was feet on the street and quick turn business. They were not interested in anything that couldn't be closed inside of 30 days. Really 21 if you expected it to get delivered in the same month. Konica's deep thinkers have all but been sacrificed and it looks as if they will do the same to Danka's people. If you do not have Minolta blue running through your veins your chance of survival in that pit of vipers is not very good, so be forewarned.

Now so how does that relate to IKON and Ricoh will PMS185 or PMS186 prevail? Will the darker red over take the pirates of IKON? One thing is for sure there are a lot of similarities in the Konica – Minolta merge and the IKON – Ricoh acquisition. Both engagements have a strong hunter and farmer component; although financially different Konica – Minolta was a merger, do not forget that IKON – Ricoh is an acquisition. We are an owned piece of property. So will the same be true here that IKON pirates will slaughter the pleasant farmers of Ricoh or will they show their teeth and push back the boarding marauders?

What I have witnessed is that everyone is scared for their job. No question that every employee has thought once or twice what they will do if their job becomes disposable. As we all are very well aware we all can be replaced in a second and without much thought. One thing I will say is that many have come to grips that this is the new program and they are executing. As we push forward we see how well this new equipment is holding up and that people really don't care whether or not they have a ball an X or red words written on their equipment. What they care about is when they call will anyone answer? And if someone answers will they be able to fix the problems that come us as they most certainly will (it is just a machine).

Before we were searching for the ultimate top line, now again we are concerned again with the bottom line, and soon we all will be walking the line as Ricoh puts the firing squad out to lean down into the fighting machine they will have to be to survive this economic holocaust. So are people still buying; of course they are, in upturns and downturns this business continues to provide alternative solutions to cost savings and automation with ultimately provides for real top line and bottom line revenues as productivity goes up and we learn to do more with less.

As for me I am glad to have a job that provides for me and allows me to continue the battle. Tomorrow again I will pick up the battle axe and let out a cry this time the name is different the red is darker but the result is the same; Victory! Stop at nothing less.

Just a bit of inspiration from the RiKON ship of warriors; from the man known all around the world as Pirate Mike…

Happy Hunting…

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