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Rider Dickerson Update with CEO Bill Barta

Published on April 10, 2012

Bill Barta President & CEO of Rider Dickerson updates Cary Sherburne on the business and state of their digital equipment.

Cary Sherburne:  Hi, I'm Cary Sherburne, Senior Editor at WhatTheyThink.com and I'm here with Bill Barta, who is president and CEO of Rider Dickerson in the Chicago area.

Bill Barta:  Correct.  Glad to be here.

Cary Sherburne:  I'm glad to have you.  Maybe you could—you guys are pretty famous, so people know a lot about you already, but maybe-

Bill Barta:  I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but-

Cary Sherburne:  But maybe you could just give us a little update on your business, what you’re doing and then maybe talk a little bit about what you’re doing on the digital front.

Bill Barta:  Sure.  At Rider Dickerson we’re a traditional sheet-fed digital company.  We’ve been around since 1903.  The last couple of years we’ve really transformed the company into getting more of the digital applications and marketing service provider applications.  One of the interesting things that we’ve done the last couple of years is—and this really ties into DSCOOP, it’s almost a mini DSCOOP.  We launched a separate brand called Print Forum and it’s all about education in our industry and it’s a separate brand so it’s nonthreatening to our customers, so we’re never selling Rider Dickerson to them and one of the platforms we use in that education is a conference, kind of a mini DSCOOP, so we-

Cary Sherburne:  For your customers.

Bill Barta:  For our customers.

Cary Sherburne:  That’s great.

Bill Barta:  So we actually have a keynote speaker who is going to be Sally Hogshead, who is this year’s DSCOOP and we have breakout sessions on a variety of different topics that aren’t necessarily print related, really marketing related and then we have kind of a solutions showcase afterwards with our partners.  So we’ve kind of stolen the idea from DSCOOP, but it’s taken root.  Last year was our first conference.  We had over 200 customers and we’re expecting three to four hundred this year in May.

Cary Sherburne:  Wow, that’s terrific and you know those kinds of things maybe it’s a little bit hard to measure the ROI, but how do you sort of justify?  I mean it’s an expensive venture.

Bill Barta:  It is.  It is.  You know we’ve gone to some of our partners and they’ve helped sponsor the event, but I just see a huge need for it and it is difficult to measure the ROI, but I truly believe we’re bringing great content to clients and at the end of the day they know it’s coming from Rider Dickerson and we’re going to benefit.  My philosophy has always been if we’re looking out for the customers’ best interest we’re going to be okay.  If I'm looking to just put ink on paper I'm not going to be okay, so we really truly think that we’re doing that and we’ve seen some specific benefits of it, but you’re right.  It is difficult to measure an ROI.

Cary Sherburne:  So do you think that—HP and DSCOOP launched the Book of Possibilities at DSCOOP that is really targeted at designers to let them know what the possibilities are in digital print.  Do you think that will be a component of what you do?

Bill Barta:  Yeah, I think that’s huge.  I mean we’ve seen in the Chicago marketplace, which is very competitive and had a lot of different skill sets there, there is still a myth about digital printing that it’s not as good, it’s not you know, the quality is not there.

Cary Sherburne:  It’s cheap, it’s yeah.

Bill Barta:  It’s cheap and so we’ve kind of overcome that with some of our clients, but we still fight that battle, so I think that type of tool is going to be very useful in some of our clients.  They’re just going to be blown away at some of the stuff that can come off HP.

Cary Sherburne:  So when you look at your business now analog versus digital how does it breakout revenue wise?

Bill Barta:  Yeah, it’s probably about still 90% offset, 10% digital.

Cary Sherburne:  Really?

Bill Barta:  But we have some—we do some large format, which are large projects, some heat set web projects, so from a truly comparison of overall gross revenue it’s only about 10%, but I can tell you the margins are certainly better and I truly believe in that space.  We offer much value for our clients because of some of the things we can do, where offset it becomes a little bit too commoditized.

Cary Sherburne:  But then you’re also able to do some hybrid things as well.

Bill Barta:  Correct, yeah, I mean we have web-to-print platforms.  We’re using cross media more and more, so it’s really all about what are the challenges for our customer and what tools do we have in our toolbox that we can help them with.

Cary Sherburne:  You know you hear so much bad news in the printing industry that it’s great to talk to a company that’s excited and growing and developing and bringing in the new technologies.  So if you had one piece of advice to offer to folks out there, your peers that maybe haven’t made that jump yet of haven’t made it as successfully as you what would that be?

Bill Barta:  As far as a digital platform?

Cary Sherburne:  Yeah, you know moving into the future.

Bill Barta:  Anything.

Cary Sherburne:  Yeah.

Bill Barta:  I mean I preach this every day and I know my employees get sick of hearing it, but to me it’s all about value, so you really have to understand your customers and understand their challenges and how can you figure out ways to add more value to them.  Whether that’s a digital platform, whether that’s cross media, whether that’s a web-to-print or whatever it is there are tremendous opportunities out there, tremendous tools to help our clients, but it’s all about value.  Don’t just buy the equipment or buy the service unless it’s truly going to add value to your client base or prospect base.

Cary Sherburne:  So your success in business is a true testament to you putting that into practice.  So congratulations.

Bill Barta:  Well thank you.  I appreciate it.

Cary Sherburne:  Yeah, thank you.

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