The Cannata Report’s President & CEO reflects on his first eight years in the industry.
After CJ interviewed me in recognition of our 400th issue (the second part of which is featured in this issue), I decided to turn the tables on him to discuss the last 80 or so of those 400 issues that have his imprint.
Over the past 38 years, I have had the privilege of interviewing many of our industry’s leading dealers and manufacturer executives. In this interview, I was anxious about fully capturing a young man who is as accomplished a business leader as I have ever met. You can attribute that comment to paternalism or not, but I do believe it is the truth. In the eight years we have worked together, CJ is always asking, “Did I get it right?” He is a consummate professional, and the product of his efforts is out there for everyone to see, every month.
Frank: What was your initial reaction to the business in general when you joined The Cannata Report? Specifically, did you see a way you could contribute and if so, where?
CJ: I was immediately and pleasantly surprised that there were many young, talented, and smart executives throughout the industry, and many of them who played a substantial role in attracting me to the industry.
In terms of where I felt I could make an initial contribution, while I didn’t know much about the industry, I did up to that point have 18 years of experience in the mass media business and I understood the power of media – and I had plenty of contacts. I initially sat down with a handful of key dealers, manufacturing, and leasing executives, which helped fuel my initial and continuing vision.
My first internal marketing objective was to make this industry sexy. As I began meeting and networking with more thought leaders from different industry segments, that objective expanded to include creating a news resource with increased breadth and scope, including introducing more trend stories and investigative pieces, as well as a decisive focus on the people that comprise and drive the industry, including younger people and women who weren’t receiving the acknowledgment they deserved, or needed in terms of helping to keep the industry vibrant moving into the future.
One of the best examples of how some of this played out was having a handful of key thought leaders from different industry segments independently sharing with me that I was making the industry sexy, repeating my initial internal mantra to me, without knowing that was a decisive intent on my part.
Frank: Tell us a bit about your experience in marketing and advertising from your 18-year career before you joined us and how did that background help you craft the evolution of TCR?
CJ: I was fortunate to begin my career at Martha Stewart Living, and eventually I moved over to Time Warner. At both companies, my role was to support advertising sales with major ad agencies and brands. This enabled me to gain exposure to every virtually all major business verticals, along with their divergent corporate politics and cultures.
When I made the jump here, I recognized there was an opportunity to take all the skills I had honed in my career and apply them to TCR and Frank’s own brand and elevate and expand them with respect to our content, platforms, partner services and solutions. I also wanted to increase the visibility and recognition of – as well as engagement with – The Cannata Report among a greater number of industry thought leaders and industry segments, such as Managed IT Services, software, and the aftermarket.
My personal goal was for The Cannata Report to be a part of every relevant discussion in the industry. I also wanted TCR to be recognized as the leading resource in our industry by the subscribers and business partners.
Frank: What was the biggest adjustment you had to make from working for media giants to working for a niche publisher? What lessons did you learn that you brought to TCR?
CJ: Out of the gate, I had to approach, interact, and engage with C-suite executives exclusively, and the senior most members of their teams.
My tenure at Time Warner helped prepare me for this, as one of my key responsibilities as an executive in the corporate sales and marketing division was to bring together the most senior marketing executives from brands like People, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, Time, and InStyle magazines with different and often divergent objectives.
However, while I had been working with senior level, high-profile executives in sensitive and fractious situations and charged with helping to form a consensus, that wasn’t the same as directly calling on, negotiating contracts with, or setting agendas and running meetings with the people at the top of, say, an OEM organizational chart or people responsible for millions – and some cases billions of dollars of revenue.
I’d be remiss not to say that there was a lot of pressure to live up to the Cannata name from a business perspective, the Cannata brand, and my father’s overall legacy.
What helped me accelerate in my development and contributions to our company brand and value for our partners was the fact that The Cannata Report was well established and that I had Frank Cannata as boss and mentor.
Frank: We have been doing dealer tours for the past five years. What is the most important thing you have learned from visiting some of the industry’s leading dealers?
CJ: In the previous stages of my career prior to my tenure at The Cannata Report, my travel was limited to the top tier one markets – and urban areas – like Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Miami, and the like.
The Dealer Tour, in particular, provided me with the opportunity to see parts of the country I’ve never seen before – and to be exposed to things I’ve never seen, which was an uplifting and positive experience from the standpoint that the most important thing I learned was how people think in all different parts of the country and the reasons why. I now have a more accurate and expansive understanding of the diverse nature of the country we live in and what diversity means from that perspective.
I’ve also been impressed by every single one of these dealers. They were more than willing to share with us their time and knowledge. Working with them, they’ve helped me to understand what was most important to them. They have been extremely transparent and open.
Dealers are fearless and good at empowering their people. Their common denominator is the manner in which they have approached diversification. Universally, they have broadened their portfolio of managed services and made substantial investments to improve their success in production print. The most successful ones have come up with a winning formula that we label the 50-50 rule. It means 50% of revenue is in imaging, and the remaining 50% are in managed services and production print or other products such as telephony. We have great respect for all dealers because their money is on the table every day.
Frank: For an average dealer with about $16.9 million revenue, which is noted in our Survey, what should they consider doing in terms of advertising, branding, or public relations in general?
CJ: All dealers need to place a greater emphasis and have a better understanding of the direct correlation between marketing and sales. A centralized marketing department, regardless of size, can allow dealers to streamline sales. One of the things that has always puzzled me is how different dealers and salespeople operate in comparison to a media environment. In that case, a marketing team works closely with sales to provide them with messaging, ideas, sales materials, and support, which enable them to maximize their face time with prospects and customers. It does not matter if you are a $5 million or $105 million dealer. If you make strategically sound investments in marketing support, you will be more efficient. In my opinion, the dealer segment overall is too heavily focused directly on the immediate sale. If you implement a broader sales approach in concert with a marketing team performance, it will very likely increase the performance dramatically. In addition, you will find the sales team going to market in a more efficient and uniform manner.
Frank: Earlier, you mentioned your commitment to diversity. Your creation of our Women Influencers franchise has garnered a great deal of attention. Why is diversity so important to you?
CJ: I truly believe diversity is a strategic imperative. Companies must look like their customers. In an industry that tells us in our Annual Survey that the hiring and retention of talent is increasingly difficult, the best way to remedy this challenge is to ensure that you are open to people of all genders, ethnicity, and lifestyles. By the way, I decisively use the word “ethnicity” here in lieu of “race,” a term I have always found offensive as a reference to anyone that is not Caucasian. Whether you are African American or Italian American like me, we are all members of the human race.
Diversity with specific respect to women is also important to me because the most significant mentors I have had leading up to my tenure at The Cannata Report were women – beginning with my mother, Carol Cannata, who was a pioneer in her own right, having relocated from Boston to New York City to embark on a highly competitive career in fashion, prior to the mass women’s movement that really didn’t take off until the late 1960s.
Lastly, in this industry, I have met and came to highly value many impressive women working across various disciplines at all levels in our industry, but I noticed they were largely unacknowledged – or not acknowledged or fully embraced in a manner I thought they could be.
Frank: What advice do you have for a young person who is entering this industry for the first time?
CJ: Listen and ask questions. Young people entering this business should never feel intimidated by those more advanced in life stage and are recognized thought leaders. Show them respect and you may be surprised at how open they are to new ideas, and how serious they are about engaging younger people across all segments of our industry.
Be confident in yourself and demonstrate that you are very much interested in learning all that is necessary to understand the industry and your clients. Seek out thought leaders to learn the fundamentals of the business, but never feel intimidated by those more advanced in life and tenured experience. This foundation of knowledge and awareness you gather will give you what you need to be successful.
Then I would encourage any young person to take that knowledge and ask themselves what I can bring to this industry and what would propel me forward with new and innovative directions.
Frank: You have been to Japan three times in seven years, visiting the leading MFP manufacturers. What did you learn from these experiences?
CJ: I learned a great deal because they all were more than willing to share their knowledge with us and respond to our numerous questions. We developed a better understanding of the Japanese economy and culture. In many ways, it broadened my understanding of the greater global economy. My higher education was focused on Russia and Eastern Europe, and as a result, I do have a substantial understanding of how that part of the world works. My trips to Japan were so much more meaningful because we were learning about how their economy works and what makes them such excellent manufacturers in any field they choose to compete in.
Frank: Which of the Japanese executives impressed you the most and why?
CJ: We were impressed by how well we were received by all the manufacturers, but there are two that just automatically came to mind: Jun Haraguchi of Konica Minolta and Nori Ina of Kyocera. I single them out for their willingness to discuss everything, including global political, economic, and social issues.
Frank: You have had an eight-year crash course in learning about our industry. Who are some of the people that taught you the most about this industry?
CJ: Bob Goldberg, Mike Marusic, Ed McLaughlin, John Hey, and the executive leadership teams from GreatAmerica, Konica Minolta, Ricoh, and Toshiba, as well as members of BPCA, CDA, and SDG. Having said that there is another individual I would be particularly remiss if I did not add, and, that’s you, Frank.
That said, I have been so fortunate to be exposed to and embraced by so many tremendously accomplished people, I’m sure I’m missing some individual, company or group – and for any of you out there that I neglected to mention, it was truly unintentional. What I really should be doing here is thanking the industry overall – for giving me a shot – and on top of that always encouraging me and pushing me to become the best I can be and deliver the best possible value for our audience and busines partners.
Frank: What do you do for fun when you are not working?
CJ: : I am an avid music enthusiast who has curated a personal digital music and video library of 34,000 files to date and over 600 playlists, and am an avid collector of vinyl. I love concerts, am an avid reader, particularly of memoirs of music executives and performers – as well as thrillers, sagas, and coming of age stories. I follow fashion and enjoy British music, pop culture, and periodicals as well as serialized television series and movies. I also love to ski and other thrill sports. I was hockey player in my youth and considered an expert ice skater to this day. I also enjoy water and jet skiing, gourmet cooking, and fine dining. My favorite beverages are bourbon and white wine.
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