[EXCLUSIVE] A WHIP Interview with Ricoh SVP Glenn Laverty
I just got off a call with Ricoh SVP of Marketing, Glenn Laverty. Glenn is also President and CEO of Ricoh Canada, a post he has held for 10 years. An industry veteran of 36 years, he has a good understanding of the dealer channel, running his own dealership for several years, before Ricoh acquired it.
Ricoh had a big week and Glenn wanted me to know What’s Happenin’ at Ricoh. Let’s start with the announcements. Here’s what I received from Ricoh earlier.
This week, Ricoh USA, Inc. updated our sales engagement model, aligning more closely with customers and investing millions of dollars in additional intellectual resources to help our customers solve their constantly evolving business needs and challenges.
We remain committed to our core business of print and print related solutions. In fact, we achieved our current market leader position by refining customer engagement, while innovating our products and solutions. By refining how we engage customers, we can continue to deliver new insights into how technologies and solutions can be leveraged by our customers.
As part of this alignment, Ricoh is investing in:
– Industry Expertise – Building on our industry knowledge with additional experts and resources in the areas of healthcare, financial, legal and higher education, to name a few.
– Portfolio Alignment – With a deeper focus on services, Ricoh is aligning its portfolio to center on solving customers’ business challenges by leveraging its competence, expertise and intellectual property.
– Technology Services – Building a single, world-class customer service organization to support all Ricoh products, solutions and services; providing a unified team focused on delivering flawless support to our customers across our entire product, solution and services portfolios.
– Research and Development – Driving innovation through R&D investments. Ricoh Company, Ltd. plans to continue investing more than 5 percent of net sales to R&D.
Through existing relationships, customers are able to explore the wide range of Ricoh services and integrated products to help them empower their digital workplaces.
Glenn told me that Ricoh has been working on this new architecture since last August. We saw a major piece of this strategy implemented with announcements Ricoh made in April. This past week, Ricoh initiated the last phase of their strategy with the above announcements. Like the earlier one, this one also involved a headcount reduction, but Ricoh is hopeful as many as 30% of these displaced employees will find other positions within Ricoh. Ricoh would not share the reduction number.
A big part of Ricoh’s strategic shift involves their transition away from direct sales in SMB to a stronger reliance on their dealer channel. I estimate about 21 Ricoh dealers picked up the branch MIF (machines in field). Ricoh won’t confirm that number officially, but that’s my guess. Overall, dealers are ecstatic about the move. A few are sore they didn’t acquire any, but even those dealers are thrilled they no longer have branches in their backyards, undercutting them and telling their customers it’s better to work with the OEM. Ricoh has an inside sales group of “highly skilled Ricoh sales professionals focused on the SMB market within key verticals. The Inside Sales team has been serving our U.S. customer base for 15 years. Based on a flexible go-to-market strategy, Inside Sales supports SMBs across all regions of the U.S., and boasts a higher than average tenure rate. The Inside Sales team professionals are excited about this expansion of their responsibilities, and eager to deliver more value to a broader base of our SMB customers,” according to Ricoh. They further went on to say, “Customers’ buying habits have changed significantly in recent years, and this change is accelerating as Millennials continue to join the workforce. Our customers are researching and forming their buying decisions online, and then deciding to engage with live or personal support. We must evolve with our customers’ changing demands – a shift commonly referred to as Buyer 2.0. It is important to note that we will continue to engage Ricoh sales reps (including RFG dealers) for in-person meetings with customers, when appropriate.”
With more focus on the dealer channel than they’ve had in years, Glenn tells me that Ricoh is working more closely with dealers than ever. They understand that for Ricoh to grow they need their dealers to grow and they want to open a dialogue that discusses how Ricoh can help. I get the feeling that the new Ricoh is going to be much more hands on with their dealers. The competition internally and in the field between RBS and Ricoh dealers is gone. It’s all about the dealers now.
We then shifted the conversation to growth areas for Ricoh, such as production where they are growing headcount. Glenn said, “that growth engine has tremendous upside, we’re excited to grow our stake in that business.”
According to Glenn, Ricoh is making a big investment, “We’re broadening what we’re bringing to the marketplace and how we’re bringing it…we’re going to focus on the customer and how we think the customer wants to be related to,” he said. They have a “different” approach coming. In the past, they often had multiple people in accounts that were not connected. They are moving to a cohesive approach and they’re going to invest in their back office to provide customers exactly what they’re looking for. They’re tightening everything up both behind the scenes and in front of the customer.
In the end, it was a big week for Ricoh as they rolled out this phase. The pieces are falling into place and the realignment to the sales structure is complete. They’re completely focused on their dealers and they have to be.
This move, while painful, has changed the face of Ricoh, their approach and their relationship with their dealers. I have concerns for Ricoh with respect to the acquisition frenzy that’s been occurring the last two years. We’ve seen loyal Ricoh dealers like MT Technologies get picked off just recently by Xerox’s Global Imaging. Going forward, Ricoh will have to make sure their dealers are not the ones getting acquired, but the ones doing the acquiring.
I look forward to the next Ricoh dealer meeting when we can see the financial shift and impact these changes will have on the organization.