Julie Ritzer Ross
When Supplies Network opened in 1991, the business functioned solely as a wholesale distributor of computer and imaging supplies. As competition heightened and its customers demanded a more comprehensive menu of services, the company evolved into a managed print services (MPS) provider, with the CompTIA Managed Print Trustmark playing a role in its success.
Moving Into MPS
Headquartered in St. Charles, Missouri, Supplies Network carries products from more than 70 manufacturers and generates more than $550 million in annual revenue.
Its distribution centers — in Dallas, St. Louis, Fresno, California and Carlisle, Pennsylvania — ship products to several thousand reseller partners and customers headquartered throughout more than 98 percent of the U.S. The company also provides device monitoring services and third-party logistics services for products outside the managed print realm.
The company’s original business model worked well, but management decided the company could stand up to the changing market conditions and stand out from the pack with a move to MPS. “Our goal was to create an MPS infrastructure for dealers — a backbone for those without the funds to put together their own MPS program and a way for them to offer MPS via a turnkey solution,” said Barney Kister, Supplies Network’s senior vice president of strategic relationships. The company wanted to take the worry and human error out of the supply chain equation by, for example, getting toner to where it needed to go just in time rather than having the end-user worry about whether there was enough on hand.
“We didn’t want anyone thinking about supplies,” Kister said. “We just wanted the supplies to show up when they were supposed to, without any headaches.”
This vision became a reality in 2006 with the creation of a separate MPS group inside the company and the debut of an MPS solution that was initially called CARBON SiX, later rebranded as mpsSELECT. But Solutions Network didn’t stop there: Management opted to pursue the CompTIA Managed Print Trustmark. The company had participated in the development of the Trustmark as active members of the CompTIA Managed Print Services Community, which works to create training and educational resources to improve the MPS industry.
“Given our part in developing the CompTIA Managed Print Trustmark, we felt it followed that we should earn it ourselves,” Kister said. “However, we also knew that as a vendor-agnostic, Good Housekeeping seal of approval for the industry, it would serve us and our reseller partners well in the future.”
Trustmark Trumps Claims of Competency
Supplies Network earned CompTIA’s Managed Print Trustmark in December 2012. The vendor-neutral credential validates the company’s ability to deliver MPS in an efficient, effective manner that meets industry standards and reflects best practices defined by industry leaders, according to Kister, and it yields the company a level of credibility it would otherwise be unable to attain. The CompTIA Managed Print Trustmark distinguishes Supplies Network from its competitors, many of which only claim to have the necessary qualifications for executing top-notch managed print services.
“Any infrastructure provider can claim to do a great job with MPS,” Kister said. “However, the CompTIA Managed Print Trustmark proves we have the knowledge and strategies in place to do so, especially because it isn’t loosely defined and awarded to just anyone, but is instead the result of two years of collaboration among representatives from all facets of the industry.”
Supplies Network’s reseller partners benefit from the CompTIA Managed Print Trustmark, too, with shared access to resources that help promote and run an MPS. Reseller partners have access to sections one through four of the Trustmark resources, which cover a standardized code of conduct governing ethics, customer relations and advertising practices; the business competencies needed to operate as, manage and finance an MPS provider entity; and sales skills.
“In taking advantage of our CompTIA Managed Print Trustmark to achieve their own, our reseller partners ensure that best practices are followed and, in turn, guarantee an outstanding experience for each of their customers,” said Ron Alphin, Supplies Network’s director of MPS operations.
Just as significantly, Kister said, the CompTIA Managed Print Trustmark validates the existence of a “complete chain of MPS competence” that extends from Supplies Network to its resellers. “Reseller partners can say, ‘We have this credential and so does our infrastructure provider. We’re all recognized, certified and able to meet every printing need,’” he said. “At the same time, we know that our resellers haven’t committed to doing what they cannot do, and they are assured of our commitment to supporting them as they fulfill their promises to customers.”
Kister and Alphin believe the level of competence and credibility afforded by the CompTIA Managed Print Trustmark will eventually compel end-users to engage only those resellers that have attainted it. “We’ll see it on request-for-proposal documents, as is the case with CompTIA certifications,” Kister said. “The CompTIA Managed Print Trustmark is and always will be a key ingredient of success in the MPS business.”
For more on CompTIA Trustmarks and how the business credential can differentiate your company as a leader with proven best practices and consistent customer service, visit the newly revamped CompTIA website.