Why we chose to build a subscription business

Picture this…

It was Christmas Day 2013, and the whole family (including the children and the in-laws) were sat round the dinner table.

I’d just finished cooking Christmas dinner. I think it was lamb with Yorkshire pudding (we’ll eat this with anything in our house) roasters, cauliflower cheese, sprouts, honey glazed carrots, peas and gravy. It was a feast to be-hold and certainly a meal worth paying for.

We all raised our Prosecco (lemonade for the kids) filled glasses for the toast. And that’s the last thing I remember…

5 minutes later, I woke on the bare wooden floor with my wife screaming in hysterics, and my children standing close by, white with fear.

My throat was on fire and I was gasping for air, I really thought this was it. But something inside me forced me on to my feet, and made me rush outside into the cold evening air.

Laying sprawled over the car bonnet, choking up (only what I could call stinging gunk), my mind was racing. Is this just a dream, I’m going to wake up any second now.

Eventually my breathing eased, my burning throat subsided, and I could fill my lungs with the fresh evening air. My wife (Nyreen) was holding and consoling me, but was also extremely shocked, worried and confused about what had just happened.

The feeling was strange. It’s really hard to explain. The world just seemed foggy. Like I was in a constant dream. My hearing was muffled. I had a constant sharp cough and the energy had just drained out of me.

6 months of tests followed. Tests for this and tests for that. Specialists (in their fields) sticking cameras in every hole they could find.

When eventually, there was nothing else left on their list, except 1 last thing…

M.E. Yes mental exhaustion. I believe some call it Yuppie Flue. But I can assure you, there is nothing Yuppie about me. So why me?

It’s not a well known illness and for those who are unsure, M.E can be severe, to the point where you may only be able to do the very basic tasks, such as brushing your teeth and you may even need a wheelchair to get around.

M.E is a strange illness too, nobody but you, can tell you have it. The only way I can explain how I feel, is like an old car battery that takes an age to charge up and loses it’s power much quicker than a new battery.

I was lucky, after working with a specialist, I was able to carry out everyday activities (such as work) but with difficulty. But had to give up my hobbies (football and running) and social activities, so I could rest in ever bit of spare time I had, which just about allowed me to carry on working and earning.

It was at this time, we sat down and assessed our lives to understand what had caused it. It didn’t take much thought to work it out…

Back then (and for many years before) we were operating a small network of stores selling printer consumables to the general public and small businesses. But, the market place was changing and we saw no future for the business in it’s current state. The only thing we could see was our business shrinking and we just didn’t know what to do about it. The pressure and stress our situation was causing, eventually became to much and my body ultimately made the decision that things had to change.

I suppose to some degree, the illness, made us think differently about our future, and how a business of the future needed to support both us and our customers.

Between us all (we have a great team), we had 50+ years of experience in the IT and printing technology industries, and our approach was to use this experience in a different way. Instead of being reactive and doing the same as the majority of the market place, we took a proactive approach, looking at the issues and problems that our customers were facing in their organisations on a daily basis.

Understanding our customers, thinking about how things might change in the future  and adopting the latest technologies, enabled us to build a unique portfolio of innovative products and services, that addressed many of the current and future issues we identified.

One of the biggest issues we continually came across was money. It’s ok having these great products and services, which may well solve many other problems. But, if our customers couldn’t afford them in the first place, our new look business is not going anywhere.

After investigating many different funding options, we realised there was a balance needed. Yes, we had to provide an easy cost effective way for our customers to adopt our new products and services, but just as importantly, we also had to secure the right level of cash flow for the business. There was a massive risk in what we were trying to do in the market place, if we can out of cash, it was goodnight Vienna. The business was over and we would lose everything.

We needed a funding solution, that allowed a low or even zero (in some cases) cost of entry for our customers, coupled with a guaranteed regular and profitable income stream for us. But was also cost effective for our customers, over the period of time that they required our product or service.

Subscription business models date back to the 1500’s, when European map publishers would invite their customers to subscribe to future editions of their maps, which were evolving as new lands were discovered, conquered and claimed. The same model was then applied to early newspapers and magazines across 17th century Europe. And today, many organisations have adapted these first models to help both their customers (to get a better deal) and themselves (to gain a regular cash flow).

Further studies revealed that there were 9 main subscription models:-

  1. The membership website
  2. The ‘all you can eat’ library
  3. The private club
  4. The front of the line
  5. The consumables
  6. The surprise box
  7. The simplifier
  8. The network
  9. The peace of mind

And each one of these can be adapted however you like, to fit your own situation. Brilliant, subscription was our answer.

Today, our customers can sign up to many of our products and services, with little or no cost of entry, and all they pay is a low fixed monthly fee. We back this up with our 30 day money back guarantee and price promise guarantee, ‘never to increase your prices whilst you are in a current agreement with us’.

And our measure of our success is simple. 95% of our customers have saved (on average) 60% against their previous office solution cost.

 

 

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