Q: How’s business; better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future?
A: Business is definitely better now than it was 12 months ago. Last year people were still trying to figure out how to operate safely in the middle of a pandemic. Now, whilst there is still uncertainty around new variants, businesses realise they have to adapt to whatever the environment is and are therefore more active than they were 12 months ago. I am very confident about the future for two reasons: one, regardless of what this pandemic has thrown at us, the business community has proven it has the resilience to adapt; and two, there is massive pent-up desire for business activity that has been so curtailed over the last 18 months.
Q: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand?
A: The strongest demand we are experiencing is in our flagship automation product SmartOffice Accounts Payable or SOAP. The first thing my Dad told me when I started selling copiers in the mid-90s was every business needs a copier! The same can be said of the accounts payable process; every company buys things, receives invoices, and then pays them. For decades, we have been providing hardware to loyal customers with the aim of making their paper-based processes more efficient; we are now telling the same customers that we can make them more efficient, this time by automating processes and removing the need to handle paper. This compelling argument has led to great success in our own direct client base and with the customers of our partners across the UK and Ireland.
Q: How have you changed/are you changing business operations to exploit new opportunities?
A: We have transformed our business operations by investing heavily in our software development resources. As businesses realise that many of the manual tasks they have been doing for years can actually be automated, they are coming to providers like us to ask for help. Every business is different in the way it operates, and solution designs often involve customisation. In order to exploit new opportunities, we have built a strong dev team and made them available for such custom development.
Q: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing channel businesses today?
A: The biggest challenges are created by the uncertainty with COVID-19 and the impact the emergence of new variants is having on business sentiment. People are adapting as best they can to the new environment, but hesitancy will remain a factor as long as uncertainty prevails, and this has a negative effect on channel businesses.
Q: Could vendors and distributors do more to help you overcome them? And if so, what?
A: They could, by simplifying their product offerings. We are in the relatively unique position of being both a direct provider and a vendor/distributor of the automated products we have developed and supply through our partner channel. After identifying that many of our supplier products are subject to complex discovery and implementation processes, we designed our solutions on a low code basis to shorten the selling cycle and to simplify the client onboarding process. This has allowed us to do more business during the pandemic, often on a remote basis from start to finish.
Q: If you could change one aspect of your job what would it be and why?
A: The aspect of my job I would most like to change is entirely COVID-dependent. Far and away my favourite way to interact with customers and partners is in person – Teams and Zoom come in a distant second. While we all need to be careful with our social contacts for now, I’m really looking forward to the day when it is once again safe again to meet the people you want to meet, without any restrictions.