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August 2011
“It’s really not that complicated!”
By Casey Jacobus

     When Mark Gasior started Simile Imaging Solutions in 2002, he had accumulated 15 years of experience working for Kyocera Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, in their Document Solutions Group. As regional area manager for Kyocera, he handled the mid-Atlantic territory, developing the dealer network throughout the Southeast.

     “I truly loved my position with Kyocera and the successes that came with my job,” says Gasior. “I got to travel the world.”

     But Gasior was also tired of spending 100 or more nights a year on the road and away from his growing family. Having worked closely with independent dealer owners, he decided to join forces with the company he had worked for, starting Simile Imaging Solutions Inc. as an exclusive provider of Kyocera office products and document solutions in the Charlotte area.

     “This is a capital-intense industry,” says Gasior. “Working for a big company, I was smart enough to take advantage of every opportunity to save money, so, after 15 years, I had the capital to invest in the business.”

     In addition to his own investments, Gasior secured a loan from Wachovia and, in April 2002, Simile Imaging Solutions opened its doors. Gasior chose the name “Simile” to distinguish his company from other office equipment companies, many of which had standard names like “Jones Office Products” or “Smith Copy Products.”

     “Simile was unique—one word and memorable,” explains Gasior. “It was also descriptive of our business. ‘Simile’ is a comparison using ‘like’ or ‘as’ just as a copy, scan, fax or print is ‘like’ or ‘as’ the original.”

     Gasior also designed his company’s logo carefully. He chose the color green because it represents being environmentally responsible and also stands for financial growth.

     “We love the pattern of the green and black dots,” says Gasior. “They seemed to be moving and, in our minds, represented energy and purpose, traits we encourage and promote throughout our company.”

     Simile Imaging Solutions began life in the midst of the recession that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks. However, the company was able to survive and thrive despite the economic times by attracting the business of some Fortune 500 companies and several of Charlotte’s largest law firms, many of whom are still clients today.

     As Gasior attests, “We are successful because we are persistent, we stay focused, and we are committed to the marketplace.”

     However, Simile Imaging Solutions has also thrived because of Gasior’s vision for the company and the leadership he provides. In addition to keeping abreast of the latest technology in a quickly growing industry, Gasior has led his team of employees by example.

     From the beginning to this day, he goes out in the field, on sales calls, meeting prospective clients and catching up with current customers. As a result, Simile Imaging Solutions’ revenues have increased every year by double digit figures.

 

Document and Customer Management

     With computers came the promise of a “paperless age,” but it hasn’t worked out that way. Instead of doing away with “hard copies,” computers seem to have increased the amount of paper we produce. Businesses today struggle with the large amounts of paper that circulate around an office, hand-routed, mailed, stored, and even lost. Some estimates put the amount of time businesses spend looking for documents as high as 50 percent and estimate that 7 to 10 percent of a company’s revenue is spent on manual document management.

     But with today’s multi-function devices, the paper crunch can be conquered. The standard office copier has been reborn as a network-compatible scanner and a document distribution center that can transform the way critical business documents are shared, sent and stored. Using the latest in technology, hard copy documents can be converted to various digital formats and archived in a central repository. Flexible document indexing allows for easy retrieval of any document. Multiple employees in different locations are able to view the same document at the same time.

     Using copiers like Kyocera’s TASKalfa multi-functional products, businesses can save time and money by reducing the need for costly storage space, increasing productivity, and eliminating the loss and misfiling of hard copy documents. By scanning documents directly to email, they can reduce fax, overnight delivery, and document storage costs. And they can improve customer satisfaction by providing instant access to the client’s documents.

     Gasior points out that document management can also help in the area of regulatory compliance. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2005 require medical and financial organizations to keep confidential information private.

     “The largest part of compliance is related to record keeping,” explains Gasior. “While any office can benefit from document management, medical and financial firms can see an immediate return on their investment.”

     How can a small company, like Simile Imaging Solutions compete with the giants of the industry—the Xeroxs, the Ikons, the Canons or Ricohs? Gasior says the answer lies in flexibility; “A locally-owned company is more flexible and easier to deal with than the branch offices of national corporations. Decisions can be made quickly and problems can be resolved rapidly, without having to consult someone at national headquarters.”

     “A locally-owned company can react to a situation on the spot,” continues Gasior. “There is much less red tape for a locally-owned company, allowing for a wider range of options when a situation arises.”

     From its very beginning, Simile Imaging Solutions has been focused on customer service. Its mission is “to provide an exceptional customer experience through technology, ecology, and lasting personal relationships.”

     “Every day we practice and celebrate the lost art of ‘personal service’,” states Gasior. “We bend over backward to serve our customers. When you call us, a live person answers the phone—someone who will get your issues resolved immediately.’

     Simile Imaging Solutions employees talk about customer service every week in their staff meetings and Gasior meets with the service manager every Monday to review any service issues.

     “Our average response time is 2.3 hours,” says Gasior. “That’s got to be the best in Charlotte.”

 

Duplicating Green

     Corporate environmental responsibility is a bedrock principle for Simile Imaging Solutions. The company is committed to reducing waste and the consumption of energy/natural resources.

     “We seek out products and services—ways of doing business, that are environmentally driven,” says Gasior. “We are always looking for ways to reduce waste.”

     Simile Imaging Solutions’ manufacturing partner, Kyocera, is an industry leader in environmental stewardship. Kyocera established an environmental charter in 1991 under which Kyocera commits to environmental preservation on a daily basis. Kyocera has received accreditation from numerous conservation organizations including the Green Seal in the U.S., Blue Angel in Europe, and the Ecomark in Japan.

     Simile Imaging Solutions has its own green initiatives. In addition to partnering with Waste Management to recycle all cardboard packaging, plastics, glass and aluminum, Simile Imaging Solutions recycles packaging materials and toner drums and uses bio-degradable packing material itself. It even strips down trade-ins of office machines to steel frames for recycling.

     Kyocera’s multifunctional products are Energy Star compliant. Energy Star products use less energy to perform regular tasks, and when not in use, automatically switch to lower-power modes. In fact, Kyocera products are IS 14001:2004 Certified. This voluntary certification, verified through an independent audit, acknowledges Kyocera for effective resource management and environmentally friendly practices.

     The newest office printers, like Kyocera’s award winning ECOSYS printers, are both environmentally friendly and highly economical. Traditional laser office printer cartridges contain 65 components, which are replaced each time the toner runs out. By making them permanent components, Kyocera greatly reduces the amount of waste generated by its printers, as well as cutting the cost of consumables.

     In addition to its commitment to environmental responsibility, Simile Imaging Solutions demonstrates a corporate responsibility to its Charlotte community. It supports a number of nonprofit organizations with donations and volunteer time.

     “Our employees live in the Charlotte community,” says Gasior. “We use its schools, attend its churches, exercise at its YMCA’s and shop in its stores. As soon as Simile Imaging Solutions was on its feet financially, we began giving back to the local community.”

     Among the organizations that have benefited from Simile Imaging Solutions’ contributions of time and money are Harris YMCA Community Outreach Program, Charlotte Catholic High School Foundation, Make-a-Wish Foundation, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, Liz Murray Scholarship Fund, CMS Student Athlete of the Month Scholarship Fund, Carolina Waterfowl Rescue, Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Foundation, and Trout Unlimited.

     Trout Unlimited is Gasior’s pet organization. He has a passion for fly fishing and when he’s not working or spending time with his family, he is most likely at his fishing club in the mountains.

 

Scanning the Future

     Simile Imaging Solutions is now firmly entrenched in the Charlotte community. Gasior belongs to the Board of Advisors for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Legal Administrators, the Hospitality Tourism Association, the Charlotte Regional Partnership, and the Hood Hargett Breakfast Club.

     In 2007 Simile Imaging Solutions partnered with The Pater Group, which is one of the nation’s largest independent dealer’s groups. With offices in Charlotte, Houston, Austin, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, the Pater Group has over 150 employees and annual revenues of over $30 million.

     Having survived its first recession while still in its infancy, Simile Imaging Solutions was well positioned to survive and thrive again during the most recent economic downturn. In the height of this second and more serious recession, companies were not investing in new office technology. In other words, they were holding on to their current devices.

     “In 2008, five out of 10 deals were being turned down by the banks,” says Gasior. “We were able to provide some internal financing to help our clients over the hump, but it was a struggle.”

     That situation, according to Gasior has eased. The rate of credit acceptance is currently around 85 percent. That is just one indicator that the local economy is improving. Gasior says sales figures are way up, as customers who have been holding on to older equipment are now rushing to update their technology.

     “They are trading in older machines and replacing them with the latest multifunctional products,” says Gasior, who sees a bright future for the industry.

     Technology plays a big role in that future. New applications for the multi-function devices, which include printing and scanning from mobile devices, as well as new document management programs and more print services are making business lives easier and less costly and Gasior says there are more technological advances to come.

     “Color is more affordable than ever,” he asserts. “Eight out of 10 multifunctional devices placed are doing color at virtually the same price as black and white devices.”

     Greater security is also a hallmark of the future. The Kyocera Card Authentication Solution is a convenient security option for its multifunctional products. The security system utilizes employee ID badges. With a simple swipe of a badge, users gain immediate access to their Kyocera MFP, authorizing them to use features specific to their job function. With the card authentication solution installed, corporate network resources and information can be secured, preventing unauthorized access. The system also enables administrators to track usage for reporting and accounting purposes.

     “Technology is a great place to be,” says Gasior. “Over the next 20 years, technology is going to continue to transform the way we do business.”

Casey Jacobus is a Lake Norman-based freelance writer.
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