Last month, Sharp Electronics Corp. announced that Mike Marusic would take the helm as president and CEO of Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America (SIICA). He replaced Doug Albregts, who left the company to take an executive vice president role at Las Vegas-based Scientific Games.
Marusic, a 16-year veteran of Sharp, has held a multitude of roles with the company, ranging from marketing and business solutions to technical service. Most recently, he was named COO at SEC. We checked in with Marusic, who officially started his new job on Monday, to learn more about the direction of Sharp and what he hopes to accomplish in his first year at the helm.
Congratulations on the promotion. How does it feel to be taking the reins of SIICA at such an exciting time in the company’s development?
Marusic: I’ve used the word bittersweet a lot lately. I had a wonderful relationship with Doug; we worked closely together for years. I am happy for him and I’m thrilled that they wanted me to lead the organization. It’s really a great reflection on everything that the SIICA organization has done in the last couple of years. Corporate management in Japan wanted some continuity and they liked what we were doing. For me, it’s the perfect time. When we talked at our dealer meeting, we talked about so many new products and initiatives that we have coming out in late summer and fall, so it’s nice to take over when there are good things happening. The last three or four months have been our strongest in the past two years. It’s a great time to be taking over, with the company on the upswing.
How do you feel your past roles of driving SIICA’s marketing, business solutions, operations and technical services will serve you in this new capacity?
Marusic: It works very well. Obviously, with the marketing role and other categories, I was already touching most of the areas of the organization. Usually, there’s a learning curve when you move into a position where you have to catch up on some areas of the business. From the back office perspective, I managed all those areas, so I’m very comfortable with where we are and what we’re doing. In the marketing role, you get to work closely with the sales organization, which will be a new responsibility I’m taking over. There’s not a lot of new things I have to learn, as far as what’s been going on and where we’re headed.
I think the marketing and product roles will serve me well because we are getting into new areas and beginning to transform our business into a more complete solutions-oriented company by selling not only our products, but also Foxconn products and other IT that are available to our dealers through Tech Data. In my marketing and product role, that was what I was working on. If I did a good job on that side, the new position should work out pretty well because a lot of those initiatives will now come to fruition this year.
How would you characterize the transition thus far?
Marusic: It’s been great. The biggest adjustments will be two things: One, interacting more with the dealers. In my previous role, I was more HQ bound and others were visiting dealers. So I will be out more. I really enjoy that part, so I am looking forward to it. Secondly, it is different when you’re a person working on a project and making suggestions, versus being the person that has to make the final decision. I give Doug a lot of credit because he made a lot of calls to get us in a great position and helped to make it the success that he did. So that will be a change that I will have to make. For me, it’s more about spending time with the dealers and making those final decisions.
How can you build upon what Doug Albregts was able to accomplish?
Marusic: There’s not a lot that we’re looking to change. Where we want to take the company now is to start offering those other products. The copier business is facing some challenges; volumes are down and shipments had a really tough first quarter. But the goal is to make our copier business part of a larger story of providing a complete office suite for customers. That’s where we want to drive the company and build upon what we have done.
The big initiative that we undertook with Doug was the vendor managed inventory provided by Tech Data. The goal of that was to ultimately be able to offer dealers more integrated products and not just the copier/document play. That’s been running very nicely for us. The next step is, how do we build upon that infrastructure and offer more products, more services. And most importantly, integrating those elements so that it’s not just that we have other widgets to sell, but that they all work well together and are part of a larger story. We just launched a product that is a bundled solution for the education space, where there’s not only the Sharp AQUOS BOARD, there are four other partners that are available through Tech Data or integrated into one solution sold as a kit. The drivers are preloaded and everything works right out of the box. That is a unique offering that no one else in the industry can do.
Generally speaking, what do you hope to accomplish in your first 12 months at the helm of SIICA?
Marusic: It’s a two-phased approach. The first is visiting a lot of our dealers. Many of them know me through our dealer meetings, from some of our videos and marketing bulletins, among other things. Outside of our dealer council and some of the dealers I’ve had the opportunity to mingle with, the dealers don’t know me personally. To start, I’ve printed out our dealer list and I’ve been randomly calling them, it does matter if they are the smallest to the largest. I’m introducing myself and asking them what they think about what we’re doing and seeing if there is anything else we can do to better support them.
The second phase is working with our team to implement that integrated company approach and reach those people who for many years were copier customers. A lot of our infrastructure is designed around the copier business, so we want to make that transformation internally and get people thinking about these new products, how they can work together and support people, and bring them to the dealers. The first year is really focused on those two things. The most fun aspect of the new job is getting to know the dealers, and the second part is how do we develop the people internally and make that transition?
I’ve put an internal goal for myself of three items that entail what we should look like a year from now and what I would consider as successfully doing my job. One of them is the number of dealers I do get to visit. Another is a sales volume level that I want to attain to continue a growth path. The third is a revenue goal for these integrated products. If we can accomplish each one of those, I’ve had a successful first year and I think the dealers will be pleased with what we’ve accomplished. For me, the most important thing is getting the support of the dealers by providing them the things that they need. I think we’re definitely on the right track.