Friday, April 10, 2009

Amidst the slaughter rises Xerox Technology

Xerox has been considered a leader in document imaging equipment and software for many years. In a press release on Xerox's website claims that they earned "600 new patents in the year of 2008." Xerox Chief Technology Officer and president of the Xerox Innovation Group, Sophie Vandebroek says companies must keep the innovation pipeline flowing even in a lean economic climate or they will face huge product gaps in future years. In her quote, "You cannot sacrifice tomorrow to save today. Our investment in innovation guarantees Xerox leadership in our core business and creates opportunity to grow in new markets," said Vandebroek. "It's also a source of pride for us. More than 2,300 employees, past and present, have been granted five or more patents – an extraordinary accomplishment." Xerox has been issued over 55,000 patents worldwide since it was founded. They mentioned that 18 scientists have earned the 100 patent mark. That is a tremendous feat. In our economic environment technology companies live and die by their research and development. Those that quit developing and forging on quickly go by the wayside.

I am always amazed at Xerox's tenacity and sheer bulletproof-ness. The old saying, "no one ever got fired for buying a Xerox," is one of those phrases that I have actually had someone say when they were not going to buy from me and didn't know why. It is a fallback statement your prospect uses when you didn't do a good enough job building your "Value Proposition."

As the economy tightens up and the financial markets "right size" themselves we will see true competitive natures come out. The only people that can survive such environments are true warriors. Many will be sacrificed over the next few years as the "great consolidation" occurs. With so much talent on the street jobs will go to the "lowest bidder." Companies are looking to "upgrade" their talent and cut costs while doing it. I have seen jobs offered at 30-40% of what they were just a few years ago.

As the number of competitors decreases the quality of our competitors gets more intense. It seems like I get closer to all of my enemies every day. Over the next year I am sure I will meet the rest of them face to face as I dig my feet deeper into the sand and prepare to get down and dirty with them.

All the while I am also meeting people that I admire and can learn from. As I get closer to the sources of information I am learning much more about the business that I could ever imagine. Innovation and the ability of a company to package that innovation and convince others of how it can benefit them is the key measure of their potential of success. Xerox is no stranger to a "good package." I have always been amazed at "team Xerox's" ability to sell iGen's. Almost everyone that I run into is grossly underutilized. And not only did they up sell the customer they got their asking price in many of the older examples. Canon, Ricoh, HP, and Konica Minolta are making them think twice about their pricing strategy and how they "brainwash" their new and current customers.

They must have a good training program, I have not had the benefit of such training other then the down the street training I received at Minolta. I am ready to put my thinking cap on and become a student of the business again. I am interested to what mother Xerox does in such trying times. After Xerox lowers their profit forecast by 80% and cuts 3000 jobs in 6 months worldwide in an attempt to get things under control. Even the company's executives are starting to "right size" along with the markets. Top level executives including Chief Executive Anne Mulcahy's have come down considerably, Anne's 2008 total pay fell to $10.9 million from $13.5 million a year ago.

So what does that mean for the global giant? Can Xerox live long enough to bring their new ideas to fruition? Or will the ideas die along with the inventors as they enter the market as over qualified Walmart greeters? As one of their competitors I have mixed emotions. Just as bad as I would like to be the one to slay goliath, it will be a sad day in history as well. Will the reorganization make Xerox leaner and meaner? Will they bring these new innovations to market instead of hide them in research journals and patent office's?

Only time will tell if they have what it takes to rise from the fire once again. As a warrior I love a good competitor. Just a few thoughts from your favorite copier pirate…

Pirate Mike

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