We had the valuable opportunity to speak with Carsten Bruhn, the new president and chief executive officer of Ricoh North America. This was the first time I interviewed someone who was sitting in London while I was comfortably situated in my New Jersey office. Due to travel restrictions for non-U.S. citizens, Bruhn will be joining us in June.
Bruhn has lived in Great Britain, Denmark, and Japan, and he is poised to bring a very different perspective to his CEO position at Ricoh USA North America. In a global economy, having that global view is a good thing.
As a self-described sales executive, Bruhn served as corporate vice president of global services prior to assuming the CEO role for Ricoh USA. Earlier in his career, Bruhn managed Lanier’s Northern Europe region. He is unique in the fact that he is the first CEO of Ricoh in the United States with a sales background.
At another time, another decade, I would have been quite concerned that the new Ricoh CEO was coming from Europe. Today, that is no longer the case. Oscar Sanchez, president and CEO of Kyocera Document Solutions, certainly changed my opinion about elevating someone without an industry foundation in the U.S. to lead the U.S. channel. However, Sanchez has demonstrated that competent European executives have what it takes to make it in the U.S. After spending a little less than an hour with Bruhn, I am very optimistic that he is well prepared to exceed our expectations.
Our primary concern about any new leader in the industry is whether they have a strong understanding of the U.S. dealer business model. We can all agree it is unique and represents the most profitable channel in our industry. For someone coming from Europe, it can take some time to learn how to best manage U.S. indirect distribution. That said, Bruhn appears to have a very good idea of what it is going to take.
In our conversation, I did not waste any time in asking some difficult questions and Bruhn was more than up to the task. I led off by asking him about how we will be emerging from the pandemic to restore business to pre-2020 levels. Like most dealers, he sees opportunity and understands that Ricoh needs to be all-in to help dealers through what can be considered to be one of the most difficult periods they’ve ever encountered.
“There will be a great turnaround with lots of opportunity for what will become the new workplace—the Hybrid Office” said Bruhn. ““Ricoh has to become more agile to deal with the constant changes. We have to listen to the customer. Our business is to support the dealers’ business. We have to understand the needs of [dealers’] customers and to be with them [meaning, support them fully]. We first have to add more to print in the new workplace. We have to address how to succeed in the mobile office, provide better access to data, and address security issues.”
Turning to the incursion of the A4 MFP upon the A3 space, Bruhn was frank.
“We saw this coming a few years ago,” he said. “It is not where we came from and I don’t know if it was the pandemic that accelerated this to happen.”
He went on to discuss new or the reintroduction of earlier print strategies. “There could be centralized areas for printing [in the new office]. [It all comes down to] who is going to be best equipped to take care of the customer.”
Bruhn also emphasized Ricoh’s commitment to print.
“Ricoh is not abandoning printing we are adding to it,” said Bruhn. “It will be different. Our DNA is manufacturing, and we can still leverage the A3 machine. With A4, we need to figure out where the growth is. It all comes down to bringing back Ricoh’s core values.”
As I spoke to Bruhn, it was very evident to me that Bruhn fully grasps what his job is and better still, he understands that for Ricoh to be successful, the dealers need to be successful.
One item of note from our conversation: Bruhn did not speak of the need to be loyal and follow Ricoh. What he said in many ways was that it was up to Ricoh to help dealers find the answers to the questions we are all asking.
Bruhn has already done some business reviews and presentations to American dealers. He used the word “passionate” in describing how dealers feel about their customers.
I’d also like to highlight Bruhn’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, something that was noted in a recent press release from Ricoh. I think it’s worth including here: “Bruhn also focuses on important cultural issues such as diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and he discusses the importance of understanding and addressing unconscious biases. His global experiences and unique perspective encourage and embrace an inclusive company culture.”
In line with our own commitment to diversity and inclusive, we applaud all corporate executives, as well as dealer principles, who advocate for all people.
We wish Carsten Bruhn all possible success in his new assignment and look forward to seeing him in action with the dealer community.
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