Atlantic, Tomorrows Office Luis Villa makes a case for why dealers should attend the EFI annual Connect conference.
(Pictured above: VUTEk output samples on display at EFI Connect.)
Luis Villa, vice president of production and industrial print for Atlantic, Tomorrows Office in New York City, is no stranger to the EFI Connect conference. He’s been attending the event for the past seven years.
He joined Atlantic nine years ago after spending three years working for Ricoh’s production print business group. At Atlantic, Villa manages 20 production technicians and four production print analysts. He oversees installations as well as handles all pre- and post-presentations and demonstrations of production and industrial print devices. For the record, industrial print at Atlantic encompasses EFI’s wide-format devices.
After socializing with Villa during the opening night of Connect, we connected with him for a telephone interview the week after to get his impressions of the conference and why he feels it’s important for dealers to send production and industrial print specialists like him to the conference.
Why do you go to Connect?
Villa: Every time I go I see something new. I see what EFI is doing and where Fiery is going and then I come back and implement it at Atlantic. I don’t think any other copier dealers go. I’ve never seen anyone.
I always take someone with me. One year I take a tech, another I take an analyst. I like to bring a tech since we have these dual roles for the front end and the hardware and we stress Fiery so much. I want our staff to see what Fiery is all about.
From what I understand, Atlantic wasn’t selling a lot of Fiery controllers when you first started working there?
Villa: When I was with Ricoh, we used a lot of Fiery on the production side, but when I first came to Atlantic, Fiery was not something on everybody’s list. We’d put a machine out with no Fiery. Then, little by little we started getting better with color and placing more Fierys. When that happened, I created a staff that primarily supports production print devices. I’ve been told we’re the only ones that do this in the whole country. Every one of my hardware and break-fix technicians is a Fiery certified professional. I have six other people who report to me that are Expert Certified on Fiery. According to EFI, we have the most Fiery Expert certified staff of any dealer in the United States, which is pretty awesome.
The Expert Certification is really good for us because we can call Fiery direct and get technical troubleshooting and information, which we couldn’t do before with the Fiery certified professionals. That’s a home run because we can go right to the source. EFI has been great. Their responses are quick and on the money.
Al Boughton, partner alliance manager, Fiery technical sales manager, and his team have been very supportive and instrumental in helping us reaching the goals I have set for my Production Print Group. He has set up training for us in the past where we were able to get six members on my team Expert Certified as well as my other team members achieving Fiery Professional Certifications.
On top of Expert and Fiery certifications we found out EFi is going to have a Fiery Pro Analyst Program specifically for technicians so they can repair the controller. That’s another thing they talked to me about at Connect and I’m ready to go. I’m going to make sure all my guys are certified on it as well.
These certifications sound like a differentiator?
Villa: Anytime we’ve done a presentation or demo and speak about how we support the customers on the Fiery, they’re surprised because I don’t think anyone else does what we do—have a dual-trained person for the front end and the hardware. Sometimes when you [visit a customer] the Fiery controllers are the most underutilized application because people are not trained properly. We train people. [When we visit a customer,] after talking about the Atlantic advantage and what we do, we lead with Fiery and talk about how important it is to set the Fiery up right, and our expertise and knowledge. When we do that, 90% of the time we win with the Fiery.
That’s why we go to Connect. They just keep giving you more information. Here’s where we’re going, we’re proven on this, and in order to stay ahead of the curve, it’s an advantage when it comes to selling Fiery.
What types of sessions do you attend at Connect and what do you get out of them?
Villa: Originally, I was attending the Fiery controller sessions. After that I started attending the MIS [software] sessions (Monarch, Pace, Print Smith), and sessions on EFI Digital StoreFront (EFI’s Web-2-Print solution). I’m now attending more wide format sessions because that’s where EFI is making big inroads.
What have you learned about EFI’s wide-format products?
Villa: I know the wide-format business, but I’m not as familiar with the higher end products and where they fit and who they compete with. The information [presented] was unbelievable. There were excellent sales and technical tips—what differentiates the EFI flatbed from an HP machine and the difference in features and costs, and how to place wide format.
You’ve developed close relationships with EFI executives thanks in part to attending Connect and those have made a difference for Atlantic, right?
Villa: We had a customer that didn’t want EFI anymore, so I asked Frank Mallozzi (EFI’s new Chief Revenue Officer and the former vice president of sales and worldwide marketing) to visit the customer. He did what he needed to do to take care of the customer. The customer ended up buying an EFI LX 3 Pro wide-format machine from EFI because Frank took the time to come in and listen to them. Now they love EFI again.
Does it surprise you that more dealers don’t send people to this conference?
Villa: It does surprise me, but you know what, if they don’t want to send somebody that’s okay. We just want to learn more and more and distance ourselves from everybody else.
What advice do you have for a dealer who is on the fence about sending someone to Connect?
Villa: It’s priceless to attend. If your mindset is to learn and improve, you can do that at Connect. It’s the place to be if you want to know where EFI is going. 95% of color machines in the world use a Fiery controller. I don’t know if dealers really understand how this plays into their business everyday unless they’re not doing a lot of color. Even on the MFPs, eight out of every 10 Konica Minolta or Ricoh MFPs that come out of Atlantic go out with a Fiery. It’s great to sell the Fierys, but if you can’t support them it means nothing—and that’s one of our strong points.
We also received comments from Howard Leung, senior production specialist who joined Villa at Connect this year.
This is my first time going to EFI connect. I gather a lot of information throughout the conference, as well as training and information about what is coming out this year with Command Workstation like the IQcloud platform and Spot Pro. I was impressed with the five EFI wide-format printers shown. I didn’t know that EFI was that big until I attended EFI connect.
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