By Andy Slawetsky – Ricoh held their dealer meeting in Las Vegas November 18 – 20 and it was the beginning of a brand new era for the Japanese technology company.
A major refresh in hardware earlier this year, a recent significant solutions acquisition and the addition of senior executives has reinvigorated Ricoh and the once struggling OEM is now firmly in the midst of a nice turnaround.
This year’s format was quite different than past shows, which had gotten bigger every year as dealers started bringing more and more of their people. Many dealers had used past events as incentive trips for their top sales people. Not this time.
This year, Ricoh decided to make it more intimate, bringing only about 400 people to the show in an effort to focus on the top executives at their dealerships. This seems to be a growing trend as other printer companies have started doing the same at recent events.
While they lose a bit of the big show “glam,” they get much more one-on-one time with key people within the dealerships. And let’s face it, they must save a ton of money with this approach compared to what they have spent on past shows. But, have any of the competitors had arm wrestling at their events? I don’t think so. Montana was clearly in the house!
While there were many familiar faces on stage such as Joji Tokunaga, Jim Coriddi and Steve Burger, who is finally back from Japan after 6 years of working on a special 2-year assignment, there were several new faces in key roles who had not been part of the Ricoh family at past events.
Ricoh CMO Heather Loisel, who previously spent time at SAP and other well known companies had her coming out party to the Ricoh Family Group of dealers (Ricoh, Lanier and Savin). Heather spent time talking about Ricoh’s transformation and new services that are now available to dealers.
Gavin Jordan-Smith was unleashed on the second day of the conference. Now running the production print group, Gavin spent time talking about production print and how it’s driving value at Ricoh as well as with their dealers. “Production print is an exciting place,” he told attendees during one of his sessions.
Suzanne Payer, a long-time Ricoh director was bumped up to VP of Channel Marketing in 2017 and is now VP of Channel, Field and Marketing Communications and this year’s event saw her in front of dealers quite a bit during the course of the conference. I don’t remember her having such a prominent role in previous Ricoh shows and she did a great job leading the general sessions.
The fresh faces brought a renewed energy to this year’s ConvergX, but where it really showed was with the steadfast core of executives that have been with Ricoh through it all, no doubt taking their lumps in the past when things looked grim.
What a difference a few years makes as Tokunaga, Coriddi and Burger were standing in front of this crowd, with no need for apologies and actually thumping their chests a bit as they reviewed positive growth in a variety of key areas.
Indeed, there were a lot more smiles on that stage than I have seen at any Ricoh event in recent memory and deservedly so. At one point, there was some funny banter between Joji taking credit for the turnaround, followed by a video from Ricoh Inc. President and CEO Yoshinori “Jake” Yamashita who stated that while Joji was probably taking credit for it, it was actually him who turned things around. It may sound a bit cocky the way I’m describing it, but it was meant in jest and was quite funny.
Mr. Yamashita then went on to give greater details on their improved profits and growth in 2019, which can be seen in his speech below.
The product fair was scaled down considerably from a hardware standpoint as Ricoh took the approach that dealers need to see the future, and the future isn’t hardware – it’s much more than that.
This was crystal clear as you walked onto the show floor right into the DocuWare booth, which was one of the largest at the fair. DocuWare is going to be a critical part of Ricoh’s portfolio going forward and I liked what I heard in response to my questions during the press briefing. Unlike other acquisitions Ricoh has made in the past that have arguably fizzled, like IKON and MindShift, Ricoh seems to be letting DocuWare continue to run as a standalone company, at least for the foreseeable future. Rather than integrating them into Ricoh, as they’ve done in the past, they seem content to let them keep their innovative edge.
While there was certainly less hardware than past shows, the floor looked nicer than it has at the last few ConvergX’s, with high booths making it feel fuller and with a better flow than they’ve had in recent years. I thought Ricoh did a decent job of getting dealers into the product fair with many of the breakout sessions concluding with a trip to a booth for further information. They also had cocktail events in the room as well. Nothing gets dealers to a product fair like an open bar!
The challenge Ricoh faced, and most OEMs also deal with this at shows of this nature, is when dealers go to the breakout sessions, the floor is essentially empty, leaving their partners to sit and wait for extended periods with very little traffic. The cocktail approach was a great way to improve on this shortcoming, I think our industry needs to find better ways to get people in front of these partners. It’s not an issue that is unique to Ricoh.
The real “problem” at this show was that the breakout sessions were actually very good, so dealers were attending them in great numbers. I rarely go to breakout sessions, but I went to 3 out of 4 of them and truth be told, there were several more that I would have liked to have attended; there just wasn’t enough time.
There were certainly a lot of great partners there for dealers to chat with. ecoprintQ and PaperCut had an excellent booth right in the center of the floor. They were not to be missed in their lime green jackets (and even shoes). If you were lucky enough, you got to hang with this crew after-hours in the cigar bar as they bought drinks and handed out Cuban cigars until the wee hours of the evening. My jackets still smell from cigars!
That PaperCut/ecoprintQ team was all over the event and they brought out their key executives, including Joe Rubino from PaperCut and Alfredo, Evers and Dominick from ecoprintQ.
ESP / AMETEK also brought several people to the show to talk to dealers about power protection technology and monitoring tools and it was great to spend time with them at the booth and of course, where else, but at the cigar bar, where everyone seemed to wind up at the end of the night.
In fact, as that bar was right next to the elevators, it was almost impossible to slip away with an “Irish Goodbye” at the end of the night (I tried several times to no avail). There was simply no way to leave without being spotted and corralled back for one more.
GreatAmerica was among a large number of Ricoh leasing parters on the floor at the product fair and as has become typical of the GA team, they were there with a theme. With so many great leasing companies at these events, it’s tough to stand out, but somehow GA always finds a way!
While they were all decked out during the day, they ditched the hockey jerseys at night as they hung out with some of the industry legends that were at this event. Ricoh has some of the biggest dealers in the US and they were all here at this show.
Ricoh did bring a bit of their big iron to the conference and one aisle was dedicated to their production print hardware. This stuff is massive and it must cost a fortune to bring, set up and tear down for a two day event. They had some pretty cool products in that aisle. Partner EFI was there showcasing several solutions, both for the office as well as production print. If you’re in production print, you’re surely working with EFI.
This was a couple of days well-spent and dealers that I spoke to had no complaints, other than with the hotel, but that’s another story and isn’t really a reflection on Ricoh. I got the sense that these dealers have (once again) weathered the storm and they’re very excited for the future. Ricoh seems to have a bit of momentum now and coming out of such a dark period, they look lean and ready to roll.
Their dealers are fired up and there’s a renewed excitement coming from this executive team. The smaller show format absolutely gave Ricoh the ability to get more face to face time with key people in dealerships. Did I miss all the hardware they usually bring to these events? Yes, but I have toner in my blood. I didn’t hear dealers complain about it. I do get what they were doing and understand their reasoning. The dealers didn’t seem to miss it and since their A3 refresh came 10 months ago, everyone had already seen it. So why bring it all?
I feel like Ricoh was on the verge of possibly going away at one point. There were several analysts I had heard predict just that within the last 18 months. Nobody is saying that anymore and Ricoh is now stronger, more profitable and ready to make some noise. Those who counted them out were clearly wrong and now they’re eating their words. Make no mistake about it; Ricoh is back.
SOURCE Industry Analysts Inc.