Bay Copy celebrates 50 years by remaining true to its roots.
On June 15, Bay Copy of Rockland, Massachusetts, celebrated its golden anniversary. Given that few office technology dealerships reach that milestone, what does it take to last 50 years? Even more impressive is that Bay Copy is not much larger than many of the SMBs it serves.
Above: Bay Copy was presented several state and local government citations in honor of its 50th Anniversary and Ray’s leadership. From left to right, State Senator John F. Kennan (Commonwealth of Massachusetts citation for 50 years of service); Rockland Selectman Tiffanie Needham (Town of Rockland certificate of recognition); Sue Belanger, Ray’s wife (Massachusetts House of Representatives citation in honor of Ray’s 40 years leading the dealership); Ray Belanger with a citation from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker acknowledging the dealership’s “Active presence in the South Shore Community”; State Representative David F. DeCoste (Commonwealth of Massachusetts citation); Doug Lapp, town administrator, Rockland; Peter Forman, president, South Shore Chamber of Commerce; and Rockland Selectman Lori Childs.
Bay Copy was founded in 1972 by Ray Belanger, father of the current owner and president, Ray Belanger. At the time, the senior Belanger worked as an office manager for A.B. Dick. Frustrated in that position, Belanger wanted to become a branch manager for the company. Unfortunately, that career path required a sales background, something he lacked. However, fate stepped in, and he found an opportunity to start a dealership selling A.B. Dick duplicators and mimeograph machines. His original plan was to partner with someone with a sales background. However, at the last minute, the prospective partner backed out, leaving Belanger to get the business off the ground on his own. He already had a solid financial background, an asset for operating a business, but as for sales, he had to learn on the job. Thanks in part to the Yellow Pages, he scheduled a few demos, and with the assistance of his former prospective business partner, who agreed to help Belanger sell, the business was off and running.
Ten years later, Belanger’s son Ray joined the business but not before a stint with an IT company selling computer services to Fortune 500-type accounts. Ray was successful and ambitious, and had plenty of opportunities for advancement in that organization—except he wasn’t interested in playing that game. “I saw what was happening to people going up the corporate ladder—dissolving marriages, never being around—and that wasn’t for me,” recalled Ray. A 9–5 sales position at Bay Copy was more attractive, especially since the dealership was also selling copiers and was one of the first dealers in the country to sell computers for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). “We did well but quickly learned that selling computers wasn’t going to be profitable because there was no aftermarket,” said Ray.
Copiers were another story by then, and Ray was equally adept at selling those as well, leading to a promotion to sales manager. After his father retired in 1992, Ray took over as owner and president. “We had a buy-sell agreement, and I bought his shares. Ironically, he worked 20 years in the business, and I’ve worked 40.”
What Bay Copy Does Best
Over the past 50 years, Bay Copy’s customers have remained pretty much the same—mostly SMBs and what Belanger described as “mini majors”—local hospitals, banks, and large non-profits. These accounts with large print fleets drive Bay Copy’s MPS business. The company’s territory encompasses Boston and its surroundings, down to southern Massachusetts and Cape Cod.
Above: Tiffanie Needham (left) and Lori Childs, members of the Board of Selectmen of the Town of Rockland, MA, present Ray with a certificate of recognition acknowledging Bay Copy for 50 years of service.
Spanning decades, Bay Copy sold numerous copier brands before settling on its long-time A3 provider Konica (now Konica Minolta) in the mid-1980s. The dealership has a strong MPS business, buoyed by Lexmark A4 machines and Lexmark’s BSD program. Bay Copy was also a long-time and successful Muratec dealer. “They were a great vendor,” said Ray.
Diversification isn’t exactly a dirty word at Bay Copy, but despite the ever-present hype about diversifying beyond traditional office print, the dealership remains true to its core offerings. Ray has debated diversifying, but he’d rather sell products with recurring revenue and aftermarket opportunities. “Because of our size and scale, we focus on what we can do well,” acknowledged Ray.
Above: Massachusetts State Representative David F. DeCoste presents Ray with a commendation for 50 years of service.
For Bay Copy’s customers, A3 and A4 MFPs, printers, and MPS meet their primary office technology needs. “MPS is the main driver, and we’re trying to get more MPS accounts,” said Ray. “We want to drive our aftermarket through MPS. We took some lumps early on with MPS, but do it well and have a good handle on how to be profitable.” Bay Copy’s primary strategy for selling MPS is engaging at high levels within a customer’s organization.
Like many dealers, Bay Copy was considered an essential business and remained open during the pandemic. “We kept running as normally as we could,” said Ray. No one was furloughed or laid off. “I wasn’t going to cut people who have been working for me for 25, 30 years, or more, not knowing how long we were looking at and how much it was going to hurt,” said Ray. “It worked out. Fortunately, we had a good aftermarket base. We had to make some adjustments because volumes had decreased, but we had a lot of contracts on minimums so that helped a lot.” What also helped was the government money that was available during the first year of the pandemic. “I can’t imagine what would have happened if they didn’t roll out these programs,” said Ray.
Having a tenured team is an asset, and Ray hasn’t had a problem finding new people when a long-time team member retires, which isn’t often. Bay Copy recently had a dispatcher that retired after 20 years with the dealership. Ray thought that position would be tough to fill. After placing an ad on Indeed, he quickly found a strong candidate to fill that position. “When we had our 50th-anniversary celebration, I purposely wanted to recognize our employees,” noted Ray. “I’ve been here the longest, then 39, 34, 25, and so on, and our new person had been only here one month. She’s doing great so far. It’s difficult coming into an environment with people who have been here so long.”
Above: Celebrating Bay Copy’s 50th anniversary are (left to right) Aimee Wetzel, vice president of external affairs, Cardinal Spellman High School; Dave Hazlewood, Bay Copy, technical services; Mike Usowick, Bay Copy technical services, and Dave Newton, Bay Copy director of technical services.
The reason most people stay is the culture. “We have a tight-knit group of people. We support each other. I’ve got their back, and they’ve got mine,” said Ray. “When COVID first started, everybody pulled together.” During the first couple of weeks when everything was shutting down, the Bay Copy team installed 500 machines for a client. “It was all-hands-on-deck and doing whatever was needed to get the job done,” said Ray.
He expects the company to be profitable this year despite backorder challenges, and perhaps up over last year if those challenges are resolved. “We had a big backlog in orders at the end of 2021 that we’re still working through,” said Ray. He appreciates Konica Minolta’s openness about the situation. “They’re doing the best they can,” he said. “It’s been difficult, we’re getting through it, but it’s certainly nothing I would have expected, but who would have expected any of this? What I’m most encouraged about is we’re starting to see some of our customer’s images come back, and with some of the new customers, we’re seeing our aftermarket go up again.”
During the past year, Bay Copy added some new customers, which had a positive impact on profits. “There’s always a silver lining with every cloud,” observed Ray. As competitors have been acquired and consolidated into larger organizations, he feels many of those dealers ignored their customers. “I don’t remember seeing this since I’ve been in the business—where you have good size customers that once you engaged with them, they can’t get someone to service their equipment, and with the supply shortages, being told point-blank, sorry, we can’t get you supplies. We’ve picked up some nice accounts because of that.”
That doesn’t mean competition isn’t intense, especially against larger entities which tend to flex their much larger muscles and tout the size of their organizations. Ray said his competitors repeatedly pitch, “Why do you want to do business with them? They’re only a small local dealer.” Bay Copy’s strong marketing and PR efforts counter that perception, along with five decades in business and references from organizations that have purchased hundreds of machines from Bay Copy.
After 40 years of personally selling office equipment, Ray is approaching his sunset years but currently has no intention of going anywhere just yet. He still enjoys the work and the people. Ray laughingly observed that he isn’t sure what he wants to do when he grows up. Right now, that does not include retirement. “I don’t think my wife wants me around the house,” he quipped. In the meantime, he plans to continue leading the company into its second 50 years.