Executive Q&A: Deirdre Ryder

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

DR: VITS International, Inc. is a manufacturer of custom-designed finishing solutions for the printing and packaging industry. We proudly manufacture all equipment in the United States. All parts, service, and support is coordinated from our corporate headquarters located in Blauvelt, NY. VITS has a long history of specialty inline and offline finishing systems customized to meet the needs of each individual customer. We have several hundred installations worldwide in commercial web-offset, direct mail, packaging, paperboard, and digital print markets. Printers who are looking for more robust, faster, custom engineered finishing solutions are our target users.


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

DR: In 2002 I joined VITS with a background in finance, systems, M&A [mergers and acquisitions], and manufacturing management. In the early years I’d go for a couple of after-work beers with John Friedl, our plant manager, who would tell me stories of the company’s history. He had a love of the company, but a dislike for previous management and ownership styles. It was apparent that the company known as VITS America at that time was a “diamond in the rough.” John’s stories got me involved in seeing through his vision of what we could become. So, even in the early years, VITS was more than just a paycheck. I treated “her” as if she were my own, and the employees, customers, and vendors, were all part of the VITS family. Ten years later VITS became known as VITS International, and I acquired her from the previous owner Werner Deuring, to whom I am grateful for positioning me as managing director in 2002 and owner in 2012.


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

DR: First, I think our ability to transition from a company that was, at one time, 100 percent dependent on sales in the traditional commercial web-offset market to one that now offers solutions in a variety of market segments direct to customers and OEMs alike has been a great accomplishment. Secondly, we have gained acceptance from some of the most prominent digital press suppliers in a very short period of time, which validates the solutions we have to offer. These are probably the two greatest achievements of not only myself but of my entire team.

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?

DR: I firmly believe everything happens for a reason, so I wouldn’t look to change the past. I would like to see our industry and people in general bring back basic values and ethics. Respect for oneself and others, responsibility, honesty, and integrity. If a company is a good one, it should be able to create a product or service at a fair price rather than destroying the market by creating price wars or stealing ideas. Be original. Be unique. Even if it is in a small way. There is nothing brilliant in copying what others do or trying to get something for nothing. Sign a contract and stand by it.


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

DR: In a word: uncertainty. The economy is still not growing at a rate that instills confidence; the regulatory landscape with regard to healthcare is far from settled; suppliers are faced with the challenge of staying relevant during lean times; and printers are always looking to see how they can deliver more value to their customers before the competition does. These are challenges that every business owner is facing, and it is very difficult to make long-term plans when such uncertainty exists.

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

DR: I think that the continually changing landscape of the printing industry is driving faster and greater innovation than ever before. This innovation is what is leading to new discoveries every day. Innovations like faster digital presses, wider webs or sheets, more efficient finishing solutions are all a result of an industry that is changing very quickly. If you want to remain relevant you have to change, come up with a better mouse trap. Suppliers are forced to continually examine what they are doing, how they can improve, and what is the next big “thing,” while printers have to look at these innovations and determine how they can utilize them to make their products or services more valuable to their customers. Innovation is a great asset. It makes you constantly reevaluate your value proposition and take a 10,000-foot view of where you are at and where you need to be going.


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?

DR: Digital communication is replacing the “old school” method of picking up the phone to call or visiting with your customer. This is okay as long as you don’t lose sight of the fact that customers like to know who they are dealing with, [put] a face with a name. Companies can utilize Skype or services like Go To Meeting to leverage the benefits of digital communication without losing all of the personal touch that is gained when you are sitting across from the customer.


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

DR: I think digital print whether it is for packaging, books, direct mail, or commercial will continue to evolve and grow in acceptance. Because of the growth of digital, personalization will also increase. Marketers will be able to utilize digital capabilities to target a specific person or segment. The message can be customized to an individual, and the power of that is tremendous. It will open up entirely new approaches to how products and services are marketed and presented to the customer.


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

DR: Print is not dead. It is never going to go away. Again, John Friedl was the person who made me realize print is everywhere and on everything. Look around, you cannot escape it. The industry has changed in that long runs are not as common, but personalized shorter runs are becoming the norm. Developing countries need more packaging, books, and all things that are touched by print. I also believe as humans we have a need to touch and hold things. While digitized books and magazines may have seemed “cool,” I believe printed books and magazines will make a comeback to some degree as we realize reading from a device is not the same as flipping through a great book. So to my printing industry colleagues, I say hang in there, but navigate. As print changes, change with it.


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

DR: Challenge us at VITS International to create our “next best thing” and help you offer your “next best thing” to your own customers. We are all fortunate to be part of a great industry. Let’s ensure print meets its potential.