"Consider the Possibilities"Mr. Robert O'Connell
Document Management Industries Association
Keynote Address, Annual Meeting
Las Vegas, Nevada
Good afternoon and welcome to Print Solutions 2007. I want to thank Jim for that kind introduction. I also thank the DMIA board and you, the membership, for giving me the privilege to serve as your president this year. I am thrilled to be here and grateful that each of you took the time to join us.
I am able to serve this year because I have great teams supporting me. Professionally, I thank my brother Don, our Vanguard management team, and all our employees for their loyalty and support. On a personal note, I thank my wife Jean and our children, Ryan, Kristen and Kevin. They give me perspective and support -- and they keep my life in balance.
So here we are in Vegas, and I don't drink, smoke or gamble. But that's okay. I'll still have fun watching you lose your money.
Today I'll address three subjects. First, I'll share my enthusiasm about the exciting possibilities I see in our industry; second, I'll show you how the association is going to support your success; and third, I'll ask for your commitment, so that DMIA can work for you.
To begin, I ask that you "Consider the Possibilities" -- for yourselves, for your companies, and for this industry. I have never been more excited about the possibilities for Vanguard. Yes, we are in a mature market with our traditional products. But I believe we are better positioned than ever to help our customers meet their communications challenges.
Learning to live with change -- to accept it, embrace it, and profit from it. That's what drives our industry. Of course, the learning process does not always come easily.
At Vanguard, we've had our share of stumbles. Don and I could tell you how we set out to be a "super broker" of stock paper - and ended up holding hundreds of thousands of dollars in bad inventory. Or we could tell you how difficult and costly it is to own and operate a Web Development company. And then there was the salesman who worked for us and three other companies -- all at the same time.
Have you ever made a sales call that went so poorly that you questioned your future in this industry? I have -- and more than once. Let me tell you about one.
It was the mid 1980's and I was hearing a lot about this new service called Forms Management. Our direct selling competitors were thriving with it -- especially in the healthcare industry. Overconfident and ill-prepared, I took a prospect on a plant tour. This prospect, the CFO of a five-hospital network, first wanted to see our pick and pack operation, which I promised was state-of-the-art. She expected to see numerous workers and conveyers and racking. Picture her reaction when she found one Vanguard worker standing at a table working a desktop shrink-wrap machine. That was strike one!
Next, I took her on a plant tour. Before we got into the building, she wanted to know why the plant had another company's name on it. You see, she didn't quite understand the distributor model. While walking through the plant, I was further blindsided when we saw boxes with the standard register name on it. This manufacturer, unbeknownst to me, did a lot of work for them. My prospect was visibly perplexed by all of this. Strike two!
Undeterred, I took her to our corporate headquarters, a converted residential home that sat on a country road. Quaint, but not quite what she expected. By now, smoke was coming out of her ears. I put on my best sales face and asked her, "So how about lunch?" Strike three! Needless to say, I didn't get that account.
But we learned. We learned that we must change with our customers. We made the right investments and we made it work. Today, Vanguard has more than 100,000 square feet of warehouse and an automated pick and pack system.
Why is change such a constant in our industry? In a word, technology. Technology has had an enormous impact, but has it all been negative? I think not. Consider some of the positives.
Remember when you had to call your customer for everything -- and how there was no documentation trail? Remember how long it took to get an answer? Now we have email.
Remember when you had to be in the office most of the day for fear you might miss an important call? Now we have cell phones.
Remember the old way of getting proof approvals; it took days to get the proof prepared, mail it to your customer and then have it mailed back. Now we have PDFs.
And then there is "digital printing" -- perhaps the most impactful technology change of all. Our members are having great success with this as a complement to offset printing. Manufacturer members are also using this technology in areas such as prepress, resulting in cost efficiencies and improved turnaround times.
I think we can all agree that these changes have made our workday much more productive. No question, technology has changed the printing landscape.
So, if Forms Management was the buzz in the 1980s, what is it today? Is it PURLs? Is it Data Mining? Is it Web to Print?
What does a successful distributor look like today? What should a typical project look like? Let me paint a picture:
- Let's say we produce a survey form, a brochure, a folder, and a promotional item for your client's sales meetings. There was a time when that would be the end of that order, right?
- But today, perhaps you design the items.
- And maybe you assemble the material into kits.
- The kits have to be stored and distributed to multiple locations.
- You design a custom package to hold all of these components.
- Perhaps you write a program that collects the survey data from the form.
- You then provide the client with a report on the results of the survey.
- You create a follow up postcard mailing that's personalized.
- Then you follow with an email campaign.
- You give the client a report on the results of the campaign.
- To top it off, you were involved at the concept stage and helped to develop the program.
You get the picture.
Whatever your focus, we know it's no longer enough to print, store and ship products. Today, we need to help our customers at deeper levels of their business.
On the front end, it's competencies such as creative services, database management, digital asset management, discovery, and industry research.
In the middle, print will always be the common denominator. Or will it? At a minimum, we will be required to be expert outsourcers with our manufacturing partners.
And on the back end, we are using terms like logistics instead of warehousing; fulfillment instead of pick and pack; and metrics instead of guarantees --- to support our promise of improved results.
Let me ask you: have you thought through your growth strategy? Do you have the people and resources you need to make it happen?
Much of our time at Vanguard is spent reinventing ourselves. This is an ongoing process, not a one-time event. Our customers continue to come to us for one reason -- they trust us. I have learned that trust is the dividend of promises fulfilled.
So while you "Consider the possibilities," please consider some of the things that have worked for me.
First and foremost, think of yourselves as an extension of your customer. Our most successful relationships are ones where the client thinks we work for them. They come to us with their challenges because they know we will be a resource to them.
Second, develop a project manager culture in your organization. Put yourself in a position to solve client challenges rather than, "go after an order."
Aren't we doing this now when we:
- Make a rush delivery or
- Develop a cost saving solution, or
- Clean up a mail list for an important mailing , or
- Design a form or brochure that's easier to print.
We must continue to be problem solvers.
Third, hire the best people. Pay them what they are worth. Recognize their contributions. The greatest contribution I've made at Vanguard was hiring the senior management team that sits before me today. My brother Don and I realized early on that we needed high-level support in core areas such as sales, finance and technology.
And fourth, reinvest in your organizations. Over the past three years, Vanguard has reinvested nearly half of our earnings into our infrastructure. We think we are ready for what the future has in store. Reinvesting in the look and feel of our corporate headquarters, for instance, has given us the color and vibrancy of an ad agency. Today, customers enjoy visiting our office, and they see us as someone who can help drive their bottom line.
And last, think big, think bold. One of my brothers taught me early on - no customer is too big for us; our limitations are only what we think they are. Nor is there any customer challenge that we can't handle, provided we have the proper resources in place.
Okay, that ends the Vanguard commercial. Of course, many other DMIA members are moving forward in bold new ways.
Stu Boyer of the Cooley Group, a New York distributor and long time DMIA member, developed a fulfillment program for kids' apparel in local school districts. This turnkey program includes preprinted order forms, a web ordering system, payment processing and distribution.
Schools love this true fulfillment system because they don't have to do a thing. And when it is finished, they simply receive a check from Cooley.
Rob Whitman and Chuck Clifford, of Innovative Print, a Pennsylvania distributor, partner with an interactive company to offer web development services and email campaigns to Innovative's existing customers. These services complement their traditional product offering of documents, commercial print and direct mail.
You will find many others doing incredible things in our industry. Talk to them. Learn form them.
Clearly, we're doing lots of things to deliver "faster, cheaper and better." But we must also keep a keen eye on the competition. It starts with knowing who our competition is. Is it the web-based printers such as Vista Print or Print4Less? Or is it the retailers like Staples and Office Depot?
In August, Staples announced that it can now design, proof, and print business cards in 30 minutes! And for $19.99. That is certainly fast and cheap.
Office Max answered that challenge and announced a partnership with Vista Print to provide custom printing at an affordable price.
Office Depot introduced its "in-store Xerox Certified Print Specialist" - staff that undergoes special print training.
They are all looking to capture market share of printing. These groups will succeed, but isn't it commodity printing they are after? What value are they bringing to the table besides low pricing? Where is our opportunity?
The challenge for us is to firmly take hold of the "value added" print market. And Value added means we must focus on the services that our customers need. Rather than selling products, focus on the message and the many different ways we can deliver it. I believe our industry is extremely well positioned to do this.
Industry reports show that nearly two-thirds of the traditional forms market is handled by independent distributors and it's going up each year. Other printing segments are moving to the independent channel as well. NAPL recently reported that commercial printers expect "Value Added Services" to grow to 15 percent of their business in 3 years. This will be up 5 percent from today's numbers.
All that opportunity and DMIA wants to help you capture it. As your president, I have a few promises to make.
First, I promise to bring fresh thinking about what's best for this association - and for you. I will fight hard to change the natural gravitation to the same old thinking.
During the coming year, we will look at new avenues such as:
- Partnering with other associations;
- Attracting new and relevant members;
- Further evolving the Print Solutions meeting
- And of course, more effective ways for each of you to network with each other.
Second, I promise to LISTEN. I want your thoughts. I want your ideas. The board, the staff, and I all look forward to engaging with you. This year, the board will have more direct communication links to our Regional Directors so that we have a strong feel on the pulse of the membership.
Third, I will work to build on the progress DMIA has made in recent years. Current and past board members have been committed to improving our meetings, membership and information.
As for our brand, I will work hard to make our new brand something we can all be proud of.
Meetings will continue to be a primary focus -- and we are pleased they are getting strong reviews. The CEO summit, Small Distributor Summit, and Print Manufacturer/Supplier meetings were relevant, informative and well attended. These meetings are geared specifically to the sub-sets of membership. We'll continue to tailor them to your wishes.
At the Spring Technology Conference this past year we learned a lot about PURLs. We will continue to focus on technology and we will bring in industry and non-industry experts to achieve this.
Our Print Solutions meeting this year will have education sessions on the show floor and we've added a technology showcase featuring equipment suppliers; and "the green pavilion" - an area with FSC and environmentally friendly exhibitors.
Trade marts will be very different in 2008 -- focusing on "Vertical Market showcases.
And we will continue to be the source of information that you can't get anywhere else. Print Matters, our newsletter, IMR, PERF, Listserv, Webinars, and the Source Hotline are just some of the ways you can do that.
Now, what can I ask of you?
Every now and then I hear someone say, "I'm not sure if DMIA is worth it." I say to those people, "Do you attend meetings?" "Do you participate in meetings you attend?" "When is the last time you looked at the DMIA website?" "Have you ever volunteered your services to the DIMA?"
I am living proof that you get out of it what you put into it. In the early years of our membership, I did not participate much. As a result, I got very little benefit from being a member.
Once I reached out to the members, they were there to help me. When I volunteered, I got back way more than I gave. I now have a remarkably diverse network of peers. Many of them have become good friends as well.
For this association to be most successful going forward, each of us needs to "give and take," not just take. If you do, I assure you that you will benefit tenfold from it. I know I have. There are many ways for you to get involved. Talk to another member or staff person to find out how.
A fresh start deserves a fresh face - and DMIA is about to get one. In a few minutes, Peter Colaianni, our Executive VP, will announce our new brand. The DMIA name and brand has served us well -- now it's time for a change. To grab hold of this emerging market, we need to have an appropriate brand identity. No longer will our brand be an underground association name. The new brand will be one that enables us to gain market awareness and acceptance.
So I ask you to "Consider the possibilities." Expect active support from your association. Help your association work for you. I believe that is a winning formula for DMIA - and for all of us. I look forward to working with you to make 2008 an exciting and rewarding year.
And now I'd like to introduce Peter...