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“One-to-one” with Tressa Whitby Midwich’s Print/Document GM

PrintIT Reseller caught up with Tressa Whitby, General Manager Print, Document Solutions Team at Midwich

PrintIT Reseller (PITR): You’ve been with Midwich for almost three years now, can you tell me a little bit about your background and why you decided to join?

Tressa Whitby (TW): I joined from Epson and prior to that I was at OKI for 17 years. The strongest part of my background is definitely on the manufacturing side, but I’ve also worked in distribution before, as well as for an IT reseller.

Midwich was reshaping its document solutions division and was looking for someone specifically with a manufacturing background, to head it up. Typically distribution is very focused on resellers and Midwich wanted better insight into the OEM’s perspective, to facilitate a better engagement with resellers through distribution, it was about bringing vendors and the channel together via distribution in a better way.

They went to market and I was looking for a new challenge. When at OKI, I’d previously worked with Jonathan Francis, our Sales and Marketing Director and Midwich was a customer of mine for many years through Epson on the projector side, but more so with OKI – Midwich was OKI’s number one distributor. So my name came up, they approached me and the rest as they say is history!

PITR: How big is the print and document solutions division and what are plans for growth?

TW: There are 23 people in the division, comprising specialist product managers, external and internal account managers, on both the print and scan side, as well as sales support and administrators. In terms of growth, we are targeting growth, but there are also areas where our focus is on maintaining our share. In the scan sector for example, we have between 30-36% share, we’ve grown that from around 20% two years ago. That’s come partly from vendor acquisition, last year we took on Epson and the year before that we re-boarded with Fujitsu. But also from adding value in terms of service, understanding the end customers’ needs and not just selling the box.

PITR: The distribution model has changed from pure order fulfilment, how are you delivering a value-add to the channel?

TW: Some resellers look to distribution to fulfil orders and we will help them with that, but if they need additional support, a service, or assistance with a project rollout we can do that too. Whether it’s identifying opportunities and working with partners to drive customers’ solutions through distribution, providing training or PDI, delivery and installation services, we can help them.

I think one of our biggest strengths is our continued growth in trading accounts. We currently serve around 11,000 resellers. Within the sector, there may be others that sell more volume, but from a trade account growth basis, we’re very strong. With all the vendors that we deal with, we’re generally number one or number two. Our reach tends to be a little bit deeper. For vendors looking for leaders in acquisition, that’s where we’re very strong.

PITR: What sort of increase in the number of trading accounts are you realising?

TW: It varies by vendor, for some, growth is dependent on what kind of promotions they have running through the channel. But as an example, the first quarter of 2019 was significantly up against 2018

PITR: The print market is a challenging one, where does Midwich sit in that sector currently.

Midwich celebrated its first 40 years in business on April 12, during which time it has grown to become a £574 million turnover company
Midwich celebrated its first 40 years in business on April 12, during which time it has grown to become a £574 million turnover company

TW: We don’t supply tier one brands like HP and Xerox, but if you look at the brands we do offer, Kyocera, Ricoh, Lexmark, OKI, Canon and Brother – we have a majority share which varies from quarter to quarter. If you looked at IDC data, we’d be quite small overall, but if you look at Context data, in the firms that we supply we’re in the top two distributors.

PITR: How are you evolving your channel strategy?

TW: We are currently engaged with vendors to better understand their go-to-market channel strategy and we do meet face to face with our reseller customers as well. We have a large proactive external team at Midwich – perhaps the strongest of any distributor.

We firmly believe that when you sell several different technologies, it’s important to fully understand the offer of each brand. We have invited all of the vendors we work with across print and scan, to come in recently, go through their market share and where they are at the moment, so we can fully understand their strengths, what their aspirations are, where their focus is, their go-to-market strategy and vertical alignments.

If we take business inkjet as an example, while it’s becoming a more widely accepted technology, it doesn’t mean it competes like for like with laser. If an end customer is looking for high quality print it’s probably not the best technology, but if they need something that’s low cost and good enough, then it will tick the box. As a distribution partner, our role is to help our resellers understand the USPs and what’s unique about individual products, so they can provide their customers with the right solution based on their individual needs.

By working closely with the OEMs we are moving beyond speeds and feeds and cost per copy, digging deeper to identify the USPs to help our resellers sell different products into different areas. Our external teams will be equipped with this knowledge so when they are sitting down with a reseller the conversation will be more about vertical market alignment, business requirements and fit for purpose. Rather than just recommending a product because it’s on promo price, for example, we recommend the product that best fits their customers’ needs.

PITR: Midwich invests heavily in training, how does that translate into the channel?

TW: Distribution is much more than just selling the best priced product and training for us is key. Last year we invested more in training than in any other area of the business. We have a sales manager who has worked across the business from handling incoming service calls, as an account manager and as a print specialist. She does call coaching with the team every week, we do record our calls and they are monitored for training purposes, we don’t just do it as a protection. Within the document solutions division our print specialists are Papercut certified too. That’s really quite important, because it really is the go-to print management software.

PITR: Do you support non-specialist print resellers to deliver MPS?

TW: We did have a look at managed print last year, but it was a huge investment to go into that marketplace. Almost every OEM has a channel MPS solution and often fulfilment of the devices go through distribution. That’s where we come in.

One of the things we are doing to add value is working with managed print dealers, recommending new ways to upsell and cross sell, so they secure incremental revenue from their contract and managed print offering. One way is by building in dedicated scanners to MPS engagements, with digital transformation, scan volumes are increasing and there comes a point when businesses need a dedicated scanning device.

We’re also seeing a crossover within the AV sector, particularly in education. More of the managed print dealers are looking at AV solutions to secure additional revenue, and where they don’t necessarily have that expertise and knowledge, they look to us an expert in that field.

PITR: Looking ahead, what are you plans for the rest of the year?

TW: We constantly review our performance. The distribution marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive and swamped, and sometimes you need to consider what you need to do differently, but not always. Sometimes after a quiet quarter, you feel you need to change, when that might not be the best idea. We’re in quite good shape, we’ve achieved what we needed to achieve this year. We have the right team in place, the right vendors in place, and hopefully we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing and get more visibility out there.

I think the exciting thing for me is that no two days are the same. One day I could be with a manufacturer all day, others I’m seeing resellers. The big thing for us is that we don’t want to have conversations around what a reseller is spending, what they are buying and from whom, so we can offer a better price. Our approach is to say: we know what you’re buying, but what is your business model, what can we bring to the table in terms of additional support, services or product to deliver a real value-add to your business.