Above: Frank G. Cannata (far right) moderates a panel of manufacturer executives at the CDA meeting.
Last month CJ and I were invited to moderate a panel of senior manufacturer executives for CDA’s (Copier Dealer Association’s) Fall Principals meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida. I have many old friends in this group, as I attended my first CDA meeting in 1982. It was good to see them again.
Besides CDA, we have been asked to moderate executive panels for other independent dealer organizations, such as SDG (Select Dealer Group). We are incredibly fortunate to have manufacturing executives who highly value their relationships with dealers. They always attend these meetings despite busy travel schedules. They consider spending time with some of their respective business partners worthwhile. Most important, they are candid and responsive to the questions we pose. Speaking of which, the dealers suggest those questions, while our Annual Dealer Survey results inspire others.
What is on dealers’ minds? Let me group the most important questions—the subjects of most interest. Those include:
- Supply chain issues and when will things get back to normal?
- Where is this industry going, and what will dealers sell in five to ten years?
- Diversification, including what are manufacturers doing with their direct operations?
- Will technology continue to impact MFP design?
- Are more price increases anticipated in the current fiscal year?
- Acquisitions; are they good or bad for the industry?
- What print management software should dealers utilize to be most effective?
- What percentage of the office workforce will be virtual in 2023-2024?
- How can dealers address the shortfalls caused by declining clicks?
- Will transportation and damaged goods continue to be a problem?
This list comes from over 100 questions we have collected in the past year. If we had to assess the most critical question for dealer owners, we would say #2, where is the industry going, and what will dealers be selling in five to ten years? There is an overwhelming interest in understanding the sustainability of an industry in decline. What do they sell now? Do they continue to acquire and sell later? The latter question was not asked, but this is my interpretation of what the dealers are asking.
None of these questions should come as any surprise. We would love to give you the answers we received from our distinguished panelists, but we are asked not to share anything discussed at the meeting with our audience. We must respect that.
BTA had a similar panel moderated by Bob Goldberg, and I am unaware of any other organizations providing panels of industry executives to their members except CDA and SDG. Now that the meeting schedules are being released, we should see or hear more about these. This is the value of the independent dealers who have created peer groups to share best business practices and create a forum where their concerns are addressed and their questions are responded to.
If you are not a member of American Coop, BPCA, CDA, ICDA, Pro Dealer Group, SDG, or BTA, you should be. Each provides additional benefits to members. Some members belong to the BTA and one of the other groups.
Fundamentally, these groups operate on the same basic premise. Paul Shields, who owned a dealership, Copytronix, in Jacksonville, Florida, was the inspiration behind CDA. He started in the copier business in 1972 and became a Canon dealer in 1975. They parted company for reasons that the older CDA members know. From there, he moved to Minolta and was their leading dealer until his demise from ALS in September 2004. CDA is undoubtedly a significant part of his legacy.
In 1976-1977 Paul began reaching out to dealers and asking them if they would like to join him and form an independent dealer organization. The precursor to BTA was NOMDA, and Paul believed that the organization did not understand the needs of copier dealers. Typewriter dealers founded NOMDA, and although many eventually started selling copiers, typewriters were still essential to the discussion.
The basic premise for all the groups came from Paul. He introduced a non-competitive membership so dealers would be comfortable sharing best business practices. He advocated inviting speakers to present on relevant subjects. CDA was born in 1977.
Tom Johnson, who started Global Imaging Systems in 1993, loved the opportunity to speak at CDA meetings. He unveiled his benchmark concept there with the mandate that dealers bring 15 points to the bottom line. At one meeting, both Tom and I were on the agenda. I was scheduled to speak after him. When he saw me in the audience, he said, “I see we have press in the room. Put your pencil away, Frank.”
I do not make a note of any kind. I learned a great deal from listening to Tom. After the session, I asked him why he was so free to explain what dealers should be doing and why. “It is a good audience, and I may end up buying some of them,” was his response. He did end up buying a few.
At the 2022 CDA owners’ meeting, 47 dealerships were primarily represented by their owners. Some brought other members of their organizations. CDA is a great forum to tell a story, and they have many sponsors. The agenda covered much ground, and based on what we heard; it was a successful event.
Congratulations to Chris Taylor of Fisher Technologies in Boise, Idaho, who stepped down as CDA president to make way for Gary Harouff of Advanced Imaging Solutions in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The seven independent dealer associations are the backbone of the industry. That is why we recommend to our clients, especially those new to the industry, to get on their meeting schedules. It is expensive but worth the effort and the cost.
We look forward to presenting at the ICDA meeting in Phoenix from November 30 to December 1. This group has graciously made Carol and me honorary members. We are grateful to Jeff Ragusa, president of ICDA, for the invitation.
We expect to address other groups and keep you informed about our schedule. All these groups have value for the independent dealer, and many more dealers should join. This is a time for dealers to search for answers, and there is no better way to obtain them than by becoming a member of an independent dealer organization.