Executive Q&A: Tim Vellek

QP: Tell us a little about your company, the segment of the market it serves, and what you consider to be your “core” users.

TV: I work for Ricoh Americas Corporation, which services a broad range of B2B customers who seek proven and effective office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems, and IT services. The specific area for which I’m responsible is the production print solutions group that provides hardware, software, and solutions to core users in in-plants, data centers, transactional, and commercial (print for pay) environments.


QP: How did you get involved with the company? What is your background before that?

TV: I joined the Ricoh team via their acquisition of Lanier in 2001. At the time, I was the COO and president of Lanier’s EMEA group based in Brussels, Belgium, and I was responsible for all areas of the business for ultimately all regions outside of the Americas. My background prior to that is likely not what you’d expect from a production print executive. In fact, I was pursuing oceanography at the University of Miami and eventually wound up in the US Air Force. Then, in 1978 I began working with Lanier. About six years after Ricoh’s acquisition of Lanier, I was asked to return to the US to incubate a new business initiative focused on production print. Ricoh had recently acquired Hitachi’s Printing Systems Division and wanted to create a business unit to serve the production digital print market.


QP: What do you consider your greatest achievement in this market to be?

TV: From a Ricoh perspective, our growth in the digital production print business has been undeniably successful. When we began in 2006 we had no presence in this space: zero. And today, we’re ranked among the leaders across the board by industry analysts like Gartner, IDC, Forrester, InfoTrends, and others. Our accolades range from digital cut-sheet solutions up to continuous-feed solutions. It’s something I know Ricoh as a whole is incredibly honored by.

We attribute these successes to dedication, hard work, and determination, and especially being true partners to our customers. Our production print business has grown by internal expansion, acquisitions like IKON and IBM’s InfoPrint, and true product and services innovation. We took our time to create the production print business and launched our first digital product, the RICOH Pro C900 in 2008 and have been consistently innovating across the board ever since. I believe our dedicated focus on digital color and monochrome technology is an example of Ricoh’s unwavering commitment to the commercial print and production industry. We set out to become a major force as quickly as possible, and I think the feedback from our customers and industry influencers prove we’ve been successful.


QP: If there was anything you could change, either about your career in regards to the print industry, your company, or the market as a whole, what would it be and why?

TV: I wouldn’t change anything; it’s all been fun.


QP: What do you consider the greatest challenge to be for the industry right now? Why?

TV: The industry is evolving. What I’m seeing is a lot of customers looking for guidance on “looking beyond the box.” Just like Ricoh has become partners with them, they are seeking to become partners to their customers, and that involves a fresh approach. Together, we must solve pain points, help grow businesses and ultimately innovate. We’ve seen great success in this by deploying the right combination of hardware, software, and services that effectively meet each customer’s individual needs. Long gone are the days where out-of-the-box offerings are the only option. In today’s digital world, we need customization, professional services, and variety. Realizing this and taking the lead on becoming more than a pure print provider is today’s ultimate challenge for the digital print space.


QP: What do you consider the greatest asset to be for the industry right now? Why?

TV: That’s a tough one. I would say it’s the smart people who know how to address the evolution I talked about in the previous question. We have to focus on going beyond print to ultimately help print thrive. That includes taking a hard look at what types of documents are being created, how customers are accessing information, and the new ways that communications are being shared. Today’s worker consumes information in a variety of ways—via a smartphone, a tablet, a book, a piece of paper, and so on. Figuring out how to enable customers to access these communications in ways that best suit their work styles is a clear asset.


QP: In your opinion, what have been the biggest changes to the way we communicate with one another in the past few years? How would you recommend this industry take advantage of that?

TV: Today’s communication routes are endless. What we see as crucial to a business’ success is ensuring consistency across all of the routes they take to communicate with their audiences. Smartphone, tablets, direct mail, social media, and so on are all important touch points to your customers. You must connect the dots, enable interactivity, provide personalized content, and ultimately speak to your customer where, when, and how they want to be spoken to. Today’s worker is not the same as yesterday’s and so we have to adjust to ensure we’re staying relevant. Today’s new world of work depends on it.


QP: Looking ahead, what major innovations or technologies do you believe will shape the future of the industry? Why?

TV: I believe that we’re going to see continued improvements in inkjet and other digital color technology; we’ll see the development of more solutions that will integrate multichannel communications beyond print such as social media, smartphone apps, tablet tools, and more. The only constant is change, and the industry needs to be prepared to succeed.


QP: What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to printers and others involved in this industry?

TV: Stay current with new technologies, developments, and innovations; listen to your customers and demonstrate a partnership with them that grows the relationship; and most importantly, have fun and enjoy the ride!


QP: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

TV: Whether your partner is Ricoh or another company, make sure they keep innovating, bring new ideas to your table that make sense for your business, and continue to find ways to deliver solutions that you need. Partnership is key—we must go beyond a customer relationship and become a team. If you don’t, you’re only hurting yourself and, ultimately, your customers.