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View from the channel With Greg Tuohy, CEO, Cantec Group

Irish technology provider Cantec Group was founded in 1994 as a Waterford- based printing equipment and services business by husband and wife team Shay and Gráinne Tuohy, with the help of Shay’s former Canon colleague Don Cameron, who set up Cantec Limerick (merged with the Waterford operation in 2011). Today, Cantec Group has offices in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Mullingar, employs 52 people and has a diversified product offering across three divisions: Docutec (managed print services); SmartOffice Technology (business software); and Promotive (design, web development and marketing services). In November, Cantec strengthened its software development capabilities with the acquisition of InShip, a developer of accounts payable automation solutions. Plans for 2022 include the launch of more software products and international expansion into the US and Australia. Here, CEO Greg Tuohy, who joined the family business in 1995 and was appointed Managing Director in 2011, gives his view from the channel. 

Technology Reseller (TR): How’s business? Better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future?
Greg Tuohy (GT):
Business is definitely better now than it was 12 months ago. Last year people were still trying to figure out how to operate safely in the middle of a pandemic. Now, whilst there is still uncertainty around new variants, businesses realise they have to adapt to whatever the environment is and are therefore more active than they were 12 months ago. I am very confident about the future for two reasons: one, regardless of what this pandemic has thrown at us, the business community has proven it has the resilience to adapt; and two, there is massive pent-up desire for business activity that has been so curtailed over the last 18 months. 

TR: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand?
The strongest demand we are experiencing is in our flagship automation product SmartOffice Accounts Payable or SOAP. The first thing my Dad told me when I started selling copiers in the mid- 90s was every business needs a copier! The same can be said of the accounts payable process; every company buys things, receives invoices, then pays them. For decades, we have been providing hardware to loyal customers with the aim of making their paper-based processes more efficient; we are now telling the same customers that we can make them more efficient, this time by automating processes and removing the need to handle paper. This compelling argument has led to great success in our own direct client base and with the customers of our partners across the UK and Ireland. 

TR: What recent wins are you most proud of?
What we are most proud of is being able to demonstrate to our partners that if you can truly understand the pain points and bottlenecks in your clients’ business processes, you are far more likely to succeed in designing the right solution and win their business. Building a partner channel for us has been as much about empowering their account managers and solutions architects to ask clients the right questions, as it has been about selling the features of our automation products. 

TR: Where is business proving most difficult?
Cantec’s traditional business model was built on click-based service revenue from the printing done by our customers. Our diversification into software automation was designed to gradually replace this slowly dwindling revenue source. However, the process has been accelerated by new remote and hybrid working models brought on by the pandemic, in response to which we have increased our focus on cloud- based automation solutions, which lend themselves well to new remote work practices. 

TR: How have you changed/are you changing business operations to exploit new opportunities?
We have transformed our business operations by investing heavily in our software development resources. As businesses realise that many of the manual tasks they have been doing for years can actually be automated, they are coming to providers like us to ask for help. Every business is different in the way it operates, and solution designs often involve customisation. In order to exploit new opportunities, we have built a strong dev team and made them available for such custom development. 

TR: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing channel businesses today?
The biggest challenges are created by the uncertainty with Covid-19 and the impact the emergence of new variants is having on business sentiment. People are adapting as best they can to the new environment, but hesitancy will remain a factor as long as uncertainty prevails, and this has a negative effect on channel businesses. 

TR: Could vendors and distributors do more to help you overcome these challenges? And if so, what?
They could, by simplifying their product offerings. We are in the relatively unique position of being both a direct provider and a vendor/distributor of the automated products we have developed and supply through our partner channel. After identifying that many of our supplier products are subject to complex discovery and implementation processes, we designed our solutions on a low code basis to shorten the selling cycle and to simplify the client onboarding process. This has allowed us to do more business during the pandemic, often on a remote basis from start to finish. 

TR: Are customers becoming more demanding, and if so, in what ways?
In view of all the uncertainty created by the pandemic and the global chip shortage, customers are demanding quicker software implementations with clarity over timelines. The last thing they need is a complex and protracted process of discovery, scoping and installation. We have designed our solutions to satisfy these demands, based on a simple, low code onboarding process and an emphasis on customer training. 

TR: If you could change one aspect of your job, what would it be and why?
The aspect of my job I would most like to change is entirely Covid-dependent. Far and away my favourite way to interact with customers and partners is in person – Teams and Zoom come in a distant second. While we all need to be careful with our social contacts for now, I’m really looking forward to the day when it is once again safe again to meet the people you want to meet, without any restrictions.

Pictured at the announcement of Cantec Group’s acquisition of Accounts Payable Automation Solutions company InShip are Cantec Group’s Board of Directors (From Left) to Right: Back Row – Paula O’Gorman, Greg Tuohy, Paul Towler, Éadaoin Carrick and Adrian Kelehan. Front Row – Paul Martin, Hazel Cotterell, Dara Madden and Roy Whelan.

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