You Cannot Always Blame the Pandemic
Business is not always easy. It’s not always good. Can the pandemic be blamed?
Warren Buffett (pictured) once advised being “fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” A well-known saying in New York’s Wall Street is that two emotions drive markets—fear and greed. This underlies Buffet’s point. When the market crashes, the fear sentiment is high, and when the market rises, greed dominates.
Since December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the world. None have been spared. You may very well have had the virus. We all know someone that has been badly affected and those who have lost friends and family. But COVID not only impacted lives. It took a toll on livelihoods as well.
2020 was a tough year. Businesses and families were in lockdown. Markets were depressed. And yet, the printing consumables business was good: much better than it was in 2019. E-commerce sales rocketed and many manufacturers, distributors and retailers got involved. Did you use this channel successfully? Did you make money?
With the successes of e-commerce, 2021 promised more revenues and more profits. In the heat of all the activity, many companies producing laser toner supplies looked at related products they could also push out onto e-commerce platforms. They started to get involved in copier consumables. Were you one of them? Are you still selling copier toners and parts online? How about in 2022? Did you make any money?
In the first year after the outbreak of the COVID pandemic, the economy of many countries slowed down. Lockdowns and other tough rules protected the people, but they did not protect their businesses. People stayed at home and productivity almost died. The truth about life is that when one door closes, another one opens. It may not be obvious at first but if you seek it, you will find it. And often, it will be something so much better.
How do you feel when you sit for an exam and only get a score of 70 out of a possible 100? Students who gain the full 100% have a command of the topic. They have a full understanding. So, it is easy to quit if you only get 70. You feel you can never achieve. However, the truth is, with the right attitude, you can improve. You can progress, and so long as you work hard and smart and improve your score, you can be successful.
Nothing worthwhile is ever achieved by luck. If you happen to earn a lot of money by luck, you can be sure you can lose all that money through luck too. Good luck and bad luck are as common as each other.
At the same time, you can also believe any failure you have experienced has been due to bad luck. If you think it is luck, then you can be sure the next failure is on its way and your loss will be doubled, or even ten or a hundred-fold. When you think it is all to do with luck, you will never dig deep and look for the cause of the problem. You won’t work hard or smart. You can never achieve this with that kind of attitude.
SINO is a quality copier imaging supplies provider. When it comes to fear, greed, luck and working smarter, what have we seen in our industry?
In 2022, I visited customers in more than 20 countries. During COVID, many companies in our industry were exposed. They had problems, as we all do, but some of them suffered great losses and some went into bankruptcy. At the same time, other companies prospered, and some grew 100%.
One of the first ingredients for a successful business is having respect for the OEMs. This is undoubtedly the first and most important thing. Without it, your business is set for doom.
The second ingredient is integrity. Many might say it is positioning, strategy or business warfare. But if that is your thinking, I can assure you that is a recipe for disaster. Integrity. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. It is the only way to develop trust in your customers, so they come back for more. Repeat business is integral. No integrity means zero trust and no more orders.
Here are two examples.
- Example 1 Superior Quality: Tomoegawa is a famous brand known for its high quality around the world. The price of Tomoegawa color toner powder is around US$38-41 per 1000g. Similar Chinese-made or Korean-made toners are around US$10 to US$20 per 1000g. Even if the quality of Tomoegawa is superior, it does not mean that it is superior for every product. The Canon EXV52 toner cartridge, for example, is priced around US$55-58 per unit. The volume of the toner in this cartridge is 1400g. There are some offering this cartridge for US$25 claiming it uses the Tomoegawa toner. Really? Sure that is a miracle, or maybe someone is telling a lie. How could this cartridge—which not only includes the toner but also the chips, drum and rollers—possibly sells for this ridiculously low price? Buyers beware!
A big buyer from the UK, Dennis Haines, knows about all these nasty tricks and cheating. He shared his experiences recently in an article that was posted online at RT: Sourcing Quality Products in China at the Right Price. After reading his article, you cannot help but realise he is a real buyer and an experienced businessman who knows and understand the pitfalls and the highlights in China.
- Example 2 Testing: An article published by RT Media reported on the unprofessional and unfair test results of three compatible toner cartridges from China. The European trade association found the toners in the three cartridges, obtained on Amazon, did not pass the LGA emission test. The Association concluded that ALL products coming out of China fail the standards.
At the same time, another company sent only the black toner powder they use in a bottle for testing. Not the cartridge with all its components including chips, drums, rollers, casings, or the myriad of other items that make up a cartridge. Just a bottle of the toner they claim to use.
Do they use the same toner for all their cartridge models? If not, how could you be certain the toner sample works in the cartridges being tested?
You can assemble your own mobile phone you have made in your garage at home using the same screws as Apple does in its products. Can you send those screws to a third-party tester for inspection and verification and then say to the market “the quality standards of our company’s mobile phones are the same as Apple’s.” Even though it is only the screws that are the same?
You can condemn and fight against all products coming from China, but you can become so consumed with the battle, that the battle changes you. You cease to be professional, objective, and open-minded. Friedrich Nietzsche understood this syndrome well. He said, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
You may try to trick and confuse your enemy but is it wise to try and deceive the buyers, the distributors, and the retailers? Are you not deceiving yourself as well? The companies that have closed in the past years, such as Ocean (First Ink), AFealty, and PrintKing, among others, failed for the same reason. Nothing in the world happens by accident, and everything happens for a reason.
Look at Ninestar, the industry leader. It has worked hard to gain the trust of its customers. Honesty and integrity are the foundation stones for this very successful enterprise.
The world is changing, the industry is changing, and the trajectory of the success and failure of different companies cannot be the same. History teaches us that some will succeed, and others will not. But there is plenty that history also teaches us and mirrors back to us as we face the future.
Integrity has always played an extremely important role in the successful development of a company. Integrity must be a core belief and behavior from the founding CEO right on down and throughout the employee ranks. It must be at the core of the strategic goals. It must be the underlying principle in every contract, agreement, and transaction.
And yet it is a choice. Not everyone will see the importance of it and will be swayed by the opportunity to make quick money in the short term. But if you are looking at the longer term, the bigger picture, integrity, must be the golden key to business.
Lose that key, and you will lose your business too.
I would like to dedicate this article to the industry that still insists on integrity, especially during this pandemic.
Please add your comments below to this opinion, “You Cannot Always Blame the Pandemic” or join the conversation on Linkedin.