Thinking of purpose

Thinking of purpose
Andy Berry, new CEO at Ricoh, believes once printers have determined their purpose they can build a winning strategy
The new managing director of Ricoh in Australia Andy Berry has spent the last three years consulting businesses from major corporates to small start-ups, in strategy, leadership, and design thinking, all aimed at solving what he calls wicked problems, in other words situations that need resolving but have no clear answers because there are so many variable factors at play. Sounds a bit like the printing industry which is in a period of tremendous change, in business and social environments that are also going through a period of tremendous change.
 
Berry says, “How do businesses plan for the future when we do not know what the world will look like? What do we want the customer experience to be, what will they expect? Businesses used to be able to plan for the next three or five years with some degree of certainty in the analogue world, today that is not the case as none of us can know how the social and technological landscape will look, but one thing we do know is that it will not be the same as today.
 
“So how do we deal with that, we start by having a strategic conversation. As a leadership team you start to try and imagine what the world of the future may be like, you start to coalesce as a group around a hypothesis, create situational conversations, and especially immerse yourself in the world of your customers.”
 
Berry says that while business has been trained to solve problems strategic thinkers need to place themselves in their customers’ shoes and then ask the big questions. He says, “People who lead businesses are smart, they know how the world operates, they have a wealth of knowledge and experience, they have been successful, but they may be struggling now under the sheer pace of change. One of the best ways to meet the challenges and see the opportunities is by tapping into Gen Y, the younger generation, who approach the world from a different perspective. In the old school strategy formulation was planning, now it does not operate like that, the new generation of strategic thinking, everything is on shorter paradigms, and the need is for bold decisions. 
 
“Investment, acquisitions, expansion, culture are all questions to be asked, but overall we need to ask what is our purpose? If a business asks and answers that then it is on the way to building a strategy.
 
Fires me up
“For instance with Ricoh our purpose is clear - to improve work life. We exist to make the working life better for our customers, and everything goes through this matrix. Personally it is what fires me up in the morning, it is my reason for coming in.”
 
Berry is managing director of the whole of Ricoh Australia, not just the print production division, which makes up about 15 per cent of the company’s business here.  
 
The fastest growing part of Ricoh Australia is its IT Services business.  This is split into three parts; infrastructure, Connect & Collaborate, and workflow automation.   Connect & Collaborate is where Ricoh creates the ability for people to collaborate in real time from different locations around the country and around the world, using tools such as interactive whiteboards. Ricoh showed local printers its collaboration at drupa, where it brought the exhibition directly to the Australian showroom.
 
Ricoh works with three of the big four Australian banks providing solutions that assist with their migration to Activity Based Working.  He says, “We are constantly working with our customers to ensure that we are improving their working life.
 
Berry says, “We are in a nexus, between paper and digital, so workflow automation is key as paper based content transitions to digital.” He points to the case of The Law Institute of Victoria, which recently moved its entire paper archive to digital - resulting in truckloads of paper files leaving the premises. Changing the culture of collaborating in The Law Institute so it could respond in a positive way to the changing needs of its customer base, to be agile, digital and flexible.  Enabling Victoria’s 20,000 lawyers to have all documentation just a click away. Berry says, “It is flexible, mobile, digital, it improves the working life of the lawyers, it just needed The Law Institute and Ricoh to re-imagine the way they worked.”
 
Berry is taking the top job at Ricoh at a time when office printing and commercial print are both looking vulnerable to digital technologies replacing paper. However he says that the pendulum in commercial print is swinging back from electronic communications. He says, “There has been a massive shift to digital marketing, everyone rushed into it, it was new, it was instantly measureable, it was cheap, it offered direct engagement, however it is clear that a reassessment is underway and that print is coming back in favour. All the studies show that printed communication generates a higher response rate. Digital looked wonderful for a while, but brands began to realise they are not getting the traction, especially as our emails and social media are overloaded with marketing messages.”
 
He also believes that adding value to printed product is where print business owners will score, with his company offering innovative solutions such as the neon yellow or pink on the digital printers, and the white ink on its label press. He says, “We have one printer I met who approached a local honey manufacturer with the idea of creating a label to set them apart, using a white ink on a clear transparency film, the client loved the idea, sales have shot up, and the printer is now taking the idea to boutique vineyards. Printers cannot stand still and offer what everyone else can offer, they will benefit from thinking about what they provide for a customer that has not been provided before. They need to put themselves in their customers’ shoes, not thinking about what they can do but about what the customer could benefit from.
 
“People ask me if there are any threads common to the successful printers, and yes there are, the main one being that the more successful printers are those where the owner or driver of the business is mostly out with the customers, rather than mostly in with production. The print business owners that are out of their office, that are talking with customers, listening to customers, working at understanding what they are aiming for, they are the ones who are more successful. When the brains of the print business is bringing innovative ideas to customers that is when they will win, not when they are in the factory.
 
“An example we had a printer working with a credit union who suggested printing stepping stones on a pond to go on the floor of the shop, to graphically illustrate the steps necessary to get a mortgage. Most of their customers walked on the stepping stones. The client loved it, they had never had any floor graphics before, they would not have had the idea themselves, it was the printer that got alongside them, worked to understand what they were trying to achieve, and created a winning solution.”
 
Ricoh is now one of the bigger players in the local commercial print industry, its Pro C range of cutsheet toner digital colour printers have been taken up with gusto by Australian printers, its InfoPrint high volume inkjet webs are used by some leading transactional and transpromo printers, and the company is also making inroads into the wide format business. However for Berry the equipment provides the platform, while the drive to success will come from the business owners, and particularly those who are prepared to think outside the box and focus on customer needs.
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