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View from the channel

Justin Willis, Sales & Business Development Director, ASL

Q: How’s business; better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future?
A: We finished last year in a very strong position, even though we were coming out of the end of the pandemic. As

with many of our competitors, service revenue dropped significantly during COVID however it also created many opportunities to help customers consolidate and make some critical cost savings. So overall, things were not too bad a year ago. During the last 12 months we have seen significant signs of recovery; we recorded a record year in sales with an increase in units, revenue and gross profit. ASL has started our new financial year full of confidence with a full order book and an exceptionally healthy pipeline; this coupled with our acquisition plans, means we feel positive about the year ahead.

Q: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand?
A: Whilst we have diversified our offering, expanding into UC and IT, our core business remains MPS and we are continuing to experience strong demand here. Many of our customers are migrating core IT applications to the cloud and we have seen a huge uptick in demand for software solutions that enable them to make print part of their cloud-first strategies. Sustainability is another key growth area; customers are making decisions based on the environmental benefits of the hardware we provide, and they are also looking closely at their supply chain. We’re winning here as we have implemented a number of initiatives designed to reduce and minimise the carbon impact of our own operations – from migrating to an electric/hybrid vehicle fleet, using green energy and reducing packaging and waste for example.

Q: How have you changed/are you changing business operations to exploit new opportunities?
A: In two main areas really. Firstly, we have developed a ‘bids and frameworks’ team, an area we have previously not really focussed on at ASL. We see this being an area where we will make some significant increases to our MIF over the coming months and years and is a major part of our organic growth strategy. Secondly, the focus on non- core products and complementary services. We have a large, happy and loyal customer base who trust us with their managed print, so unified communications will be brought in- house as well as strategic alliances with IT partners.

Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing channel
businesses today?
A: For us, we see it as the (incorrect) negative perception of our industry and print in particular. Talk about declining print volumes and doom and gloom isn’t helpful to any of us – we know that print is NOT in decline, our print business is growing and it’s profitable – that’s what we want to shout about.

Q: Could vendors and distributors do more to help you overcome them? And if so, what?
A: Absolutely, they could focus more on promoting and championing our industry both internally and to a wider external audience including the City, encouraging investors to look at our industry as a vibrant and growing sector. That will in turn translate into new business and success for all of us.

Q: If you could change one aspect of your job what would it be and why?
A: As we keep on expanding, I think I need to change my company car to a company helicopter to get around everywhere! (I won’t hold my breath on that one)!