A Q&A with e-dox AG’s Marcus Putschli

Thinking Positive in Difficult Times

06/08/2020

 

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e-dox AG was one of the first German dealers that posted anything about keeping customer service up and running through the pandemic. That was on the 13th March, when Germany officially went into lockdown. Now 10 weeks later, we spoke to Marcus Putschli, e-dox AG’s Founder and CEO, to hear how business has adapted and/or changed in the short term and for the long term.

 

Marcus Putschli, e-dox AG’s Founder and CEO

 

Deborah Hawkins: The pandemic is raging; everyone has reverted to their homes. The country has been in lockdown for 10 weeks now. What has happened? How has your business changed?

 

Marcus Putschli:  Initially, many people panicked. We all didn’t know what to expect and were worried about catching the virus or protecting ourselves. We had no idea what would happen to our businesses and livelihoods. Now 10 weeks down the line, we are all more practiced. The dust has settled.

 

Thankfully, I did not have to let any of my staff go and none of our customers have filed for bankruptcy. We had the odd request coming from companies suggesting they don’t want to pay their contract, but we were able to stifle most of those as we continue to deliver the service in terms of supplies and maintenance. We have some reserves that we were able to fall back onto and, right from the beginning, we instilled a positive mode of thinking, which makes us focus on the opportunities [that] might open for us, rather than dwell on what we might lose. We spent the time where normal business was down focusing on broader internal issues that were always on the agenda, but often got waylaid from the list of priorities. For example, we worked on some updates to our website and how to conduct client meetings per video.

 

DH: Tell us about your daily business. What was cancelled versus just postponed?

 

MP: We had several clients that cancelled some sales meetings with us during this time as they scurried to protect their businesses. We spoke to every single one of our clients and asked if we could help. Quite surprisingly, they did not need that much assistance setting up home offices or, better said, they more often turned to their IT provider to extend software licenses for staff working at home. Although we are a Microsoft supplier, we are seldom the main IT provider for our customers, so they don’t come to us enough when considering cloud or workplace solutions. That’s something we still need to work on, and which will take time. Although I have heard from other dealers that some customers asked devices to be shifted from office to home locations, none of my customers requested this and, quite frankly, print figured pretty low on the list of priorities in the home office.

 

DH: So print needs are subdued at this time. What did you focus on instead?

 

MP: As time has progressed and clients have shifted from a protective mode to a more transformative one, we see activity around more long-term projects that had previously been put aside. The digitization process has really taken on momentum during this pandemic and customers are asking us to help them with implementing document management solutions. Suddenly, we have the management’s attention. There is also now clarification that working from home really can and does work. [There] were many sceptics out there, but when forced it really was doable. We are all now faced with the prospect that further lockdowns and/or second waves might happen and now we are more prepared for it, and there is a great deal more acceptance for new methods of doing business.

 

We were able to take quite a step forward during this time and work on new methods of client acquisition. Something previously unheard of in our industry: we are making inroads approaching prospects online with a range of video pitches, which has helped us to expand our territory and scope.  We understand that our business has a lot to do with relationships and building them from a distance is something we all need to get adapted to. Video has become an important medium to connect at a different level. Bandwidth is crucial as an enabler. The relationship element is one that we as an industry can really build on at this time, and understanding that element of IT projects. No IT projects are just about IT, they are also about the people, the teams, the communication, the collaboration.

 

Plus, not being in offices, the social aspect of working together is often missing. Part of our new service offering is around allowing and encouraging informal exchange. From our work in the software and apps space, we already have a lot of experience with agile and scrum skills we can work with. This, coupled with the appreciation for people and their habits, are ideal skills to help organizations change how they work with people, with teams, and to joint goals. This will serve as a good base for both types of customers going forward: those intending to return to their prior locations as well as those that will remain physically distanced.

 

DH: That sounds are though you have not been resting for 10 weeks. I am very happy to hear that you have such a positive attitude and have invested your time in change management.

 

MP: The world has changed already in these past 10 weeks, but the future brings a lot of opportunity for the office equipment industry in transition. We were already on a path to expand our scope beyond print. The pandemic has illustrated a very rapid transition and made us all wake up to the reality that future business is about opening new opportunities. We will expand our digital offering. We will see new competitors. We will expand our territory. We will do business online.

 

 

e-dox AG is a Xerox Partner and located in Leipzig, Germany.

 

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