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60 seconds with… Gary Smart, Managing Director, Smart Office Solutions

What’s currently having the greatest impact on your business?

Acquisitions by large dealer groups and manufacturers of smaller regional dealers are opening doors for us with customers that still want to work with and be looked after by a local/regional MFP dealer. Some customers can feel more like a number than a valued customer when their MFP dealer gets swallowed up, which ultimately makes them far more receptive to doing business with companies like ours. The same also applies when recruiting experienced staff, many people prefer to work within smaller organisations where they can breathe, develop and flourish.

Where do you see the next big opportunity?

I see two areas of opportunity – firstly 3D printing. UK businesses have always been good at innovating and designing new products and 3D printers have made this process significantly easier and quicker. The way our business operates we are perfectly set-up to supply and service this technology within our existing infrastructure.

The second area of opportunity is inkjet technology in terms of affordability, quality and durability – and this applies not only in the graphics industry, many other market sectors can now benefit from using inkjet printers too.

What would make your day job easier?

Bad press in the past created by a small minority of rogue dealers has created an element of mistrust with some end-users. I believe an improved trust of the industry would make life easier and provide a more positive environment between MFP dealers and our customers.

What’s the best bit of business advice you’ve been given?

Work for yourself and start your own dealership.

If you had had a crystal ball, would you have done anything differently?

I would have started SOS up five years earlier. I have learnt some lessons on the way which to be honest you can only learn when you are in the saddle so to speak. I have also learnt to value good relationships with my suppliers, not just manufacturers but financial service suppliers too.

Describe your most embarrassing moment?

A good few years ago I inherited an account. I was eager to introduce myself so I arranged a meeting, when I arrived, the lady I met was just finishing her lunch at her desk, she then packed her lunch things away and the conversation began. I noticed she still had a piece of what I thought was lunch on her cheek – so I politely pointed this out to her…her face dropped… she glared at me and said “It’s my mole”!

What was your first job?

An apprentice welder at Faversham docks working on the construction of the channel tunnel project.

What would be your dream job?

Manager of Liverpool Football Club.

Fine dining and good wine, or curry and a pint?

Although I like both, I’d have to say chicken jalfrezi and a pint of peroni.

Favourite holiday destination

Barbados, with my family and maybe a cocktail or two!

How do you like to spend your spare time?

I enjoy my family time. I religiously watch Liverpool FC, I only get to a few matches a season as we’re based down in Kent. I also follow Formula 1 from my armchair, although I’ve been fortunate enough to attend both the British and the Monaco Grand Prix’s in the last couple of years. I can also recommend going to the Goodwood Festival of Speed…in a helicopter!

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