For many people printing is a part of everyday life they do not think much about, but for Bruce Koefoed it is his lifeblood.
As owner and managing director of HP-centric printing provider Laser Plus, Koefoed is as passionate about printing as he is about running his own business.
What drives Koefoed is the desire to shift printing from the periphery to the centre of his customers’ business.
Since buying Laser Plus five years ago Koefoed has transformed the company from being a “box-dropper”, to having a consultative selling approach that rivals major multinational competitors.
“I’ve moved Laser Plus from being a traditional, box-dropping printer sales company to a complete documents solutions-based company where the focus has gone away from product. We are very much focused on a consultative selling approach, as opposed to a tradition hard-nosed box-selling approach. We are now more customer-focused.”
Koefoed joined the company in 2003 with the aim of taking over the business.
At the time he was general manager of marketing at Onesource for both its document and telephony businesses – Konica Minolta and Cogent, respectively. But he was ready for his next challenge.
“I was at a stage in my career where I got to the top of the corporate ladder and the options were to stay in the corporate scene or do something for myself.”
The opportunity to buy Laser Plus spurred him into action, says Koefoed.
“The previous owner was looking for an exit strategy. I saw the opportunity and decided to make the move.”
Armed with 20 years of experience in the copier industry, Koefoed says he has moved Laser Plus into a position where it now rivals the large vendors such as Fuji Xerox, Ricoh, Konica Minolta and Canon.
“Five years ago the major competitors never knew who Laser Plus was – they certainly know who we are now.”
And to compete against the large traditional copier makers, Koefoed has taken a page out of their book.
“I’ve taken a lot of the ways that the copier model has been run and adapted those to this business. Twenty years of experience in the industry gave me a real sense of where the market was going, what the competition was doing and what Laser Plus needed to do to play in that space.”
Being locally owned and operated has also been of benefit, as many customers like that they are dealing with a New Zealand company, says Koefoed.
“A lot of our corporate customers, who have dealt with the big boys, find it is not all it is cracked up to be,” he claims. “They’re all huge multinationals – we are a New Zealand-owned and operated company that is small and flexible; that designs and delivers solutions based on our customer’s needs, not on some overseas directives.”
Koefoed’s customers also like the idea that they can talk to him as managing director when something does not go to plan. “Given the complex technology and the size of some of our relationships, things don’t always go right, but they can get onto the phone and talk to me.”
Another major change Koefoed implemented is helping Laser Plus take on multinationals – focussing mostly on HP. “In the past we had relationships with many vendors. HP was one of them, but in the past five years we made deliberate plans to focus most of our business and relationship with HP.”
Laser Plus is a premier HP partner and the largest reseller of HP’s corporate printing and copying products in New Zealand, Koefoed says.
Having the backing of the dominant printing vendor adds to the company’s kudos with local customers, he adds. “Customers can have the confidence that behind us, supporting us, is the biggest imaging and printing company in the world – HP.”
One of the company’s biggest successes with HP came two years ago when it won the contract to standardise all of Massey University’s multifunctional devices and printers on HP. “Massey is now the first university to go exclusively HP for printers and multifunctionals. We displaced two of our largest competitors. We were very proud to win that contract against the odds, given the size of our organisation versus the size of our competitors.”
Laser Plus has installed more than 300 multifunctional devices across Massey’s three campuses. “It is probably HP’s largest contract within the tertiary market in Asia Pacific,” says Koefoed.
Even though Koefoed is today a successful business owner, this was not his original career ambition. “I wanted to be a senior manager in the technical side of the business.”
He started out as a technician working for Dutch copier maker Océ. From there he moved into a technical management role at Ubix, which took over the local Océ agency.
But when Ubix later became Onesource, Koefoed decided to move away from the technical side of the business and took on a marketing management role, completing a marketing degree part-time at the University of Auckland.
“I realised I had more strengths than just nuts and bolts. It was more about strategy, managing people and dealing with customers.”
Running his own business was a natural progression for Koefoed. “Being a senior executive at an organisation like Onesource, which is a $100-million business with 500 people, is in essence no different to running your own business. You have to be very committed, extremely passionate and be prepared to put in the hard yards.
One aspect Koefoed enjoys most about running Laser Plus is that he spends the majority of his time dealing with customers, as he is the account director for the company’s largest customers. “That is what I enjoy and is where my strengths are. Whereas working in a corporate because you are up the ladder so far, you have become removed from the customer and it was only on the rare case that you dealt with a customer.”
Having a technical background meanwhile still has its benefits in Koefoed’s current position. “Where it does benefit me is that I am not afraid of technology. I certainly know how the technology works and I can speak with some level of confidence. When it is appropriate I mention to a customer that I come from a technical background and I think that gains a certain level of credibility.”
Outside of work, Koefoed spends time doing “normal family stuff” with his wife Lauren, who also works at the company, and their two sons, aged 12 and 14. This includes water activities such as jet skiing, while the boys are avid soccer players.
And Lauren is not the only family member involved in the business – the family’s golden retriever, Molly, is the resident “guard dog” in the Laser Plus warehouse...
Q + A
What is your favourite gadget?
My Palm Treo 750 mobile phone/PDA.
What is your favourite website?
What is your favourite sport?
Snow skiing in winter and jet skiing in summer.
What is your favourite cocktail?
I’m not a big cocktail drinker, but I do enjoy a cool beer or a nice Pinot Noir.
If you could have a cup of coffee with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
What has been the most important technological advance in IT?
Advances in broadband.
What book is on your bedside table?
Blue Ocean Strategy by W.Chan Kim.
If you were not in technology, what would you be doing?
Marketing tomato sauce – seriously, many years ago the name ‘Koefoed’ was synonymous with manufacturing and selling sauce.
Who is/was your mentor?