Al Scibetta has a clear view of Ellicott Street from his office at the front of Copier Fax Business Technologies.
Having his business downtown matters to him.
"This might be just me, but I believe when you're located in the central business district of a city, it denotes strength, it denotes your commitment to the region," said Scibetta, company president.
Scibetta has also developed a clear view of his industry - and how to stay current within it - from his decades of experience, including at the company he started in 1990. Earlier this year, he and Copier Fax Business Technologies were honored with the 2011 Konica Minolta Dealer Award of Excellence, the only dealer among hundreds in the country to receive the recognition.
Scibetta was thrilled and utterly surprised to win the dealer award: he attended the dealer meeting in Las Vegas without knowing he had won. The honor is based on a dealer's financial performance, charitable activities and efforts to build long-term relationships with his employees. A top Konica Minolta executive, Alan Nielsen, shook his hand and told him, "The vote was unanimous."
Scibetta has seen plenty of changes in technology and competitors since getting into the industry in 1973. He became a Konica dealer in 1990 (Konica merged with Minolta in 2003), and has been a single-line dealer ever since, going up against the likes of Xerox and Ricoh.
Copier Fax Business Technologies operates with 26 employees and projects revenues of $5.4 million this year. The downtown space, which he leases from Rocco Termini, contains offices, a showroom and warehouse space.
Scibetta said his business has endured by remaining consistent in some ways and by adapting to the times in others.
One constant is his service manager, Jim Bodie, who has been with the business for 20 years. Some of his engineers have been with him for a decade or more.
"We try to pick talent right the first time around and then give them a place to hang their hat for as long as they want to be here," Scibetta said. "That helps in business, in my opinion, because you're not facing that costly turnover. And turnover costs a lot of money."
He also sees value in his company's steady relationship with Konica Minolta. "Our salespeople don't have to go out and tell a client to buy this model today or that model tomorrow based on the best deals they're getting from a manufacturer. We deal with one line.
"It also means our technicians only have to learn one product, so they can become real good at it. And our clients, there's stability in that. If they like the Konica Minoltas they've got from us, that's what they're going to get the next time. It also makes us earn our keep and do a good job, because if they don't like the Konica Minolta, we don't have anywhere to turn," he said.
(His business also works with Muratec, but he says that company's product line complements, rather than competes with, Konica Minolta's.)
Copier Fax Business Technologies' showroom is filled with the latest models of office equipment. The vast majority of his customers lease rather than buy. But Scibetta is quick to assert his business goes far beyond machines. "We like to say we're more than a copier company; we're a solutions partner to our end user."
One area that has fueled the business' growth is professional services, such as helping a client manage its network. "If they have three servers and 50 desktops, we can help them manage that network for up-to-date software, for viruses, for controlling spam, for launching new print drivers as they become available, everything that a company that does not have its own IT department could rely upon," he said.
The business has also grown through what Konica Minolta calls Optimized Print Services. It involves tracking a client's needs for toner and service, and keeping tabs on devices the client uses for printing, to help keep costs down.
He said many companies have embraced the practice of sharing or saving documents electronically, rather than printing or faxing everything, and copier companies have to adjust.
"For the companies that have decided to put blinders on and continue to be copier companies, the end is near," he said. "For the companies that have embraced the technology that's available and have launched a professional services initiative, a document management initiative, helping the client with all those printers that they've got out there, and go beyond selling copiers, the future's very, very bright,"
Scibetta gives credit to his son, David, the chief information officer whom he calls a "technology master."
"He understands how to pull it all together and make it happen for a client. And quite frankly, that's where a lot of those companies that haven't made the jump, the reason they haven't is they don't have somebody on the inside who can do that for them," he said.
Scibetta expects the "next big thing" for his company will be "backscanning": scanning old documents for clients, to store them electronically in a secure location.
The company's growth over the past three years far exceeded expectations, he said. "We're now convinced more than ever that based on our growth, by expanding our footprint, that we can significantly grow further than what we're at right now."