4 Questions with West McDonald
Converged services, Flat Rate billing at the heart of Canadian man of mystery
For the past two decades, Ontario-based West McDonald has pushed the boundaries of the print space as much—okay, maybe nearly as much—as his fellow countrymen Rush did in taking music to unforeseen places. From his time as Vice President of Business Development at Print Audit (now owned by ECI Software Solutions) to his more recent gig as Chief Noisemaker for Tigerpaw, he has become a valued partner to countless dealers across North America. But of course, with complex and multifaceted people like McDonald, there’s way more to the story than just that. Since January 2020 he has been the President of the Managed Print Services Association (MPSA), and he founded his own consulting company and YouTube channel right as COVID struck last year.
All these things make him a great choice to be the first “victim” in our 4 Questions series. Let’s get to it!
Carl Schell: While at Print Audit, you worked with dealers and helped many build an MPS strategy. What was the one thing you learned from that experience most of all?
West McDonald: It gave me a deep knowledge of how powerful user- and document-level data can be in the managed print sales process. In the past, my managed print assessments were pretty much like the majority of them are still for dealers today: meter reads, life counts, features, along with asset mapping. I quickly learned how turning the lens on the user could be effective in winning more MPS deals. What kinds of things are they printing? Are there digital alternatives to make the workflow simpler, and with fewer errors? A quote I often use is “People print, not printers”—that sums up the importance of moving the focus onto who is actually doing the work, not solely on the things that spit out the paper.
CS: You move to Tigerpaw, where you bring dealers into the managed IT arena as well as gain priceless intel on MSPs. This is clearly when you polished your message around converged services, right?
WM: Yes, my work with Tigerpaw has been instrumental in getting a deeper understanding of the landscape that converged services encompasses. “Converged services” represents the opportunity for providers better than “diversified services.” Why? Because dealers, managed tech providers, and MSPs aren’t just offering more services. Rather, they are blending those services as they converge and changing their business models. One example is adding managed IT to managed print. Printers are being combined with other network assets as managed network assets. The opportunities are blending or converging, not diversifying or splitting apart. Recently, I was listening to the podcast we did together in early 2020 (“A Deep Dive into the Print/IT Convergence”)—it does a great job of explaining why convergence is so important for dealers from a business model perspective.
|The man who never stops wondering, West McDonald|
CS: Then, the pandemic hits and you venture out on your own. I know you’ve been on the Flat Rate billing train, but what are the key points and how has it been to actually execute on it?
WM: When I started the Flat Rate model for managed print many moons ago, there were two factors that made me pursue it. One, customers liked predictable and fixed monthly bills in a subscription model as it had become a normal way to pay for things, and managed IT providers had already transformed their channel with the very same model. Second, years of data collection on printers and user print behaviors proved that office printing was now predictable and in slight year-over-year decline. I missed a third factor in the early days of the Flat Rate model, however, that slowed adoption: dealer pain. Dealers were still growing under a CPP model—not like they were 10 years earlier, but enough to be complacent. The pandemic changed that. All of a sudden 70% or more of the total volumes vanished, and it amplified the vulnerabilities of CPP. The pandemic was/is terrible, but it has motivated dealers to examine their business and enact change. I’ve never been busier with Flat Rate consulting than I am now, and I’ve never seen more dealers wanting to make the leap to this global phenomenon.
CS: Which brings us to your time as President of the MPSA. What changes have you overseen, and how would you like to grow the organization in the future?
WM: Heading up an organization like the MPSA during a pandemic felt a bit daunting, but it was important to me. Dealers, vendors, and OEMs were all in some level of crisis, and there was critical work to help them navigate that. Education around converged services, new business models, and the strength of peers helping peers has never been more important. I’m very proud of the work we did early in the pandemic to centralize and consolidate all the COVID-19 business resources to make it easier for dealers to access things that could literally be the difference between surviving or not. We’re also very close to the finish line on two major initiatives that I can’t talk about in too much detail yet, but they are directly related to giving dealers a level playing field when it comes to what MPS means in 2021 and beyond. These projects have taken countless hours by MPSA members to bring them this far. We’re nearly there, and I can say that users and dealers will finally have a true standard for MPS delivery and MPS RFP submissions. Regarding growth in the future, the initiatives will drive that big time. Rising tides raise all ships, and these initiatives will bring the water level up for all in our channel—MPSA members or not.
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