As before with our interview with Santiago Morera, both Visual Impact magazine and Wide Format Online were invited by HP to conduct interviews with their senior executives, this time with Gido van Praag.
Rob Griffiths, the editor of Visual Impact and Brian Stickland, the editor of Wide Format Online magazine decided to do the interviews jointly in order to maximise the opportunity for all parties.
Rob Griffiths - Why did you move from Océ to HP
Gido van Praag – I had been with Océ for over twenty years and enjoyed very much working for Océ. I was approached by HP in Canada.
I initially didn't want to talk to the HP executives that approached me but then I thought it was a competitor so there was nothing to lose, I can only gain.
After six int, erviews I realised there was a very good connection between the HP team and myself in terms of alignment, philosophy, management style, etc. It was not that different from Océ.
They offered me this opportunity which I found compelling. If I were to stay at Océ I would have continued doing what I was doing.
I was able to leave Océ at a high, the business is very successful, I had a very good leadership team which I left behind, the order backlog was big, the forecast was very strong so I could leave Océ on a high.
I embarked on this new adventure and have never looked back. I am enjoying very much working for HP and working within the graphic arts markets. I manage a very broad portfolio in the fastest growing region of the world. That combination was so compelling coupled with the great team that I am working with.
Brian Stickland - So where are you based now Gido?
Gido van Praag - I'm based here in Singapore, so it’s a little bit like a homecoming because I worked for Océ in Singapore from '91 to '98 in my last role as managing director for Océ in Singapore.
Brian Stickland - HP talk quite frequently about the partnerships they have with customers, is this something which you've deliberately inculcated as a marketing strategy or did it just evolve. How far do these partnerships go with your customers?
Gido van Praag - Good question Brian and I think it’s very much a win win with our customers. We understand that our equipment is vital to our customers livelihood, so we care intensely about the well being of our customers. A customer which is not successful is very bad news and it reflects badly also on the image of HP.
A successful customer is like a lighthouse and enables you to get incremental business.
Brian Stickland - But is it specified strategy or is it just something that happens?
Gido van Praag - No very much a specified strategy and one of the things that very much inspired me to join HP. You know you build relationships and you see customers like John of Magnify Media in Melbourne for instance. He grew from Designjets to a HP flatbed and he's already on his third FB7600 coming up now. This is typical and proof that the strategy works for him as well as for us, it’s a total win win.
Brian Stickland - But does the partnership extend to the point that the other partner is allowed to go to another supplier for example or has it got to be strictly an HP shop.
Gido van Praag - No, no it’s impossible to make any customer a closed HP shop
Brian Stickland - Regarding HP’s financial services, do you offer these partners or customers preferential interest rates in order to secure the business?
Martin Carballo - That scenario is open to particular cases. For instance we may have a long standing customer who wants to get into the digital market. He can go to the bank and discuss leasing options and costs. It is easier for us to justify and customise a lease to help this guy progress his business.
Gido van Praag - So Martin is basically saying that it is part of our end to end solution and again a customer can choose to go to any other bank.
Brian Stickland - But that partnership surely comes into it doesn't it? If you have a big HP customer, would he warrant a preferential interest rate if he wanted to invest in further machinery with HP?
Martin Carballo - We always use the prevailing market rates but it is easier for us to customise a deal, we can manage everything directly and case by case. We give as much benefit as possible to repeating customers.
Gido van Praag - But it is not really a preferential interest rate. HP Financial Services is a stand alone company, its a 100 percent HP business but it has own targets to meet with its own governance.
Brian Stickland - But surely you are in a position to lean on the finance company and say look we want this deal?
Gido van Praag - Yes we can have higher buy back guarantees. HP might be able take a bigger risk than other banks because we know the customer intensely and know the risk. The risk profile of PSP's generally is very high but we can give a higher buy back knowing that we would find it easier to place it back in the market.
We know the market, we know the dynamics of the market we know the players, we can give more assurances I would say than a bank or a broker can actually give.
Rob Griffiths - Does that partnership include directing work to your customers?
Gido van Praag - We are not doing any preferential routing of work to our customers, not at all. We work with many brand owners and the brand owner is free to use any PSP.
Rob Griffiths - When you first joined HP did you set yourself goals for your first year?
Gido van Praag - Absolutely.
Rob Griffiths - Have you achieved them? I'm just curious to know what sort of goals you set?
Gido van Praag - Well I think one of the goals which I set, they are continuing of course, was to leverage more synergies out of different parts of our graphic arts business by bringing together and streamlining the different sectors of the organisation for the benefit of the customer. I do believe this has been achieved.
When I came here the different businesses were totally separate and I have rolled them into one whereas before we had our Indigo salesman competing with other HP salesman which makes no sense.
So those reorganisations are now fully executed.
In the wide format sector for instance the Latex portfolio which is typical sign and display and the design portfolio which is typical engineering, architecture and technical drawings for AEC and GIS applications have undergone a similar restructure.
So many changes have been put in place to streamline the team.
The most important contribution which we have as a team is to meet our budgetary commitment. Whilst the year is not yet finished we will exceed our budget commitment for the year
We can be proud of that because we have had to deal with some serious setbacks such as the natural disasters that have taken place in Thailand and Japan.
The Japanese disaster was a triple wammy of the tsunami, the earthquake and the fallout of the nuclear reactor. Japan is a huge market for us but you know signage went down immediately, there was less advertising, everything was more subdued, the country was in a survival mode, in a kind of shock.
So having big banners hanging out of buildings with the latest concert and musicals was not happening, so I think considering those circumstances, overachieving our expectations is something the team can be proud of.
Brian Stickland - Did the Japanese disasters effect your component supplies?
Gido van Praag - There is always an impact but fortunately that is behind us, I think there is hardly any industry which has not been impacted because there are so many components coming from Japan, so everyone felt that tremendous disaster in the supply chain somewhere.