Canon UK & Ireland has recently opened two new Canon Business Centres (CBC) in collaboration with platinum partners SOS Systems, headquartered in Crawley, and Munster-based Cantec Group. Michelle Ryder spoke to Natasha Wrighton, Channel Development Manager at Canon, and Chris Sills, Managing Director at SOS Systems about the move
The Canon Business Centre (CBC) model is essentially the pinnacle of the OEM’s hierarchy of partners. It represents a close collaboration between Canon and a mono branded Canon technology partner who understands the local market and has a local presence. Canon Business Centre Munster (CBC Munster) – the first CBC in Ireland, and Canon Business Centre SOS (CBC SOS) opened their doors on January 17.
In Europe, Canon Business Centres are a much more established model. There are currently 197 CBCs across the continent and in 2022, Canon opened a total of 14 (including SOS Systems and Cantec Group). In 2018, it opened its first UK CBC, through its partnership with DMC Canotec, but that has since disbanded. IT@Spectrum opened as Canon Business Centre North East in 2020 and with this latest development, Canon UK&I now has three CBCs in the region.
Key focus area
Wrighton said that further expansion and the opening of more Canon Business Centres is an important part of the company’s strategy. “We see this as one of our key mid-term plan initiatives from both a European and a UK perspective,” she explained, adding: “It’s something that we’d like to expand in the coming years and it’s a key focus area for us in 2023 and beyond.”
In order to qualify to become a Canon Business Centre, the partner has to be a platinum partner and as the model enables them to trade with the Canon brand, they also have to commit to being a single-line reseller.
Like other OEMs, Canon’s partner programme is tiered and it works with its partners to help them grow their business and move through the tiers. “We have strong relationships with all of our partners, but the CBC is an even deeper level of relationship and one where we see strong growth for both companies,” Wrighton explained. “CBCs are a community, they have an open dialogue with all other centres, they can share best practices and build their network across the continent.”
SOS Systems has a customer base which stretches throughout the South of England across multiple sectors. The business was established in 1985 and prides itself on its high levels of customer service, flexibility and innovation expertise. It currently delivers print, document and information management solutions to its customers and guidance on wider business initiatives such as digital transformation.
The team completed an MBO in early 2021, and speaking to PrintIT Reseller at the time, Sills said the company had an incredibly strong relationship with Canon, was committed to maintaining its single-line status and was looking to strengthen the partnership further.
“Becoming a Canon Business Centre was absolutely part of our vision. In fact, we were at the preliminary stages of discussions with Canon at that time, although we couldn’t disclose that then,” he said.
Sills added that SOS Systems is a name that’s been around since 1985. “We will most definitely retain that brand and CBC SOS will be the Canon Business Centre arm of the parent company,” he confirmed.
“Collaborating with Canon on this exciting project marks a huge step
in our 32 years of working together,” he continued. “Today more than ever before, local businesses are seeking out ways to save costs, boost profits and optimise processes – our new CBC SOS supports this ambition and we’re looking forward to helping local businesses grow and succeed.”
Growth on the cards
Growth is firmly on the cards for SOS Systems. Sills said: “We are looking to grow the business in a number of ways and CBC SOS – the first centre in the South of England – is a key part of the plan. There is a huge synergy between both of our businesses and we both want the same thing – to grow. CBC SOS is a valuable route for SOS to achieve its goals, along with other aspects of what we’re looking at as a team, such as acquisition.”
He continued: “We are very proud that in 2022 we moved sales forward by £1m. Our business performance is slightly ahead of plan despite what have been difficult trading times – amidst COVID, the war in Ukraine, stock issues etc.
“One thing to mention is that as a vendor Canon was amazing when it came down to stock issues, and that’s just one example of why we chose to open a CBC, because it is a true partnership. It wasn’t easy, but they were fantastic about communicating where we were and we knew that by managing the situation together, we would ride out the storm. It’s during difficult times when you can best measure the value in a relationship, and this has definitely been one of those times!” he added.
“What we tried to be at Canon was open and honest at all times. For all
of our sakes, we didn’t want to over promise and under deliver,” Wrighton said. “And that’s the deal with our partnership. So long as we’re honest and open with the dialogue then Chris can manage his business and his customers’ expectations effectively.”
SOS Systems operates globally and over the years through its partnership with Canon, it has built a network of contacts outside of the UK. In a somewhat unusual move for a dealership, the company has extensive experience in project management and has partnered with other Canon resellers across the globe to offer clients what is essentially 24/7 service coverage – what Sills calls ‘follow the sun’ support.
“CBC is like a community and that’s one of the big attractions to our business,” he said, adding: “We do have a lot of global clients and we do a lot of business across Europe. We see the CBC as a really valuable tool in growing that area of our business. We have been very successful outside of the UK and we want to continue that, so having relationships with other like-minded Canon mono brand businesses, will be very beneficial to our organisation.
“Another value-add that CBC brings to our business is the ability to attract talent. We have in fact recruited Elliott Shepherd, a well-known and respected figure in our industry as a Director. He will head up CBC SOS and I firmly believe that the Canon Business Centre status was a relevant element of him joining us.”
SOS Systems has enjoyed significant growth within the solutions side of its business and this is very important to its overall growth plans. Sills told PrintIT Reseller that the business plans around the growth of its solutions function during the pandemic exceeded expectations, particularly within cloud printing and applications.
The business strategy is focused on expanding both its print hardware and solutions business, but also on growing its digital services portfolio where it partners with brands including DocuSign and MFiles – this does raise the question whether becoming a CBC will impact how the company interacts with other partners outside of the Canon family?
“We have been very transparent with Canon that there are other software solutions that our business sells, which actually aren’t print related and therefore don’t conflict with any of Canon’s software, so they will remain on our portfolio,” Sills explained, adding: “We won’t be pushing them via CBC SOS, obviously.”
“The solutions side of our business has continued to grow. It’s been a big focus area since we last spoke and we have moved over to a cloud-based SaaS sales model, centred on recurring revenue streams. We are on plan with that element of our growth strategy and we’d like to do more,” he explained.
In conclusion Sills said: “As a Canon Business Centre, our clients benefit from the agility, responsiveness and expertise of a local and trusted partner combined with the strength of Canon’s portfolio of products and solutions. What we’re offering is the best of the best if you like.”
Wrighton added: “We share the same company values, and that’s why we partnered not only with SOS Systems but equally with the Cantec Group. We’ve got long, long, loyal relationships with both parties and with IT@Spectrum as well, which is really important to us as a business. The CBC strategy works not only for the customers, but equally for our partners and their teams and for Canon. Internally we refer to it as customers getting the best of both worlds – from the local expertise that our partner delivers, to the best of Canon as a leading brand.”