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Colorado success stories: Quark

From the moment you meet Ray Schiavone, CEO of Quark, you see his energy, passion and enthusiasm. He certainly has needed all that passion and determination over the past six years as he led the dramatic transformation of Quark into the digital age. Quark, founded in Denver in 1981 was the market leader in desktop publishing software for the print publishing industry – at one point dominating their market. Through a series of missteps, a lack of attention to innovation, some insensitivity to customers, and a failure to adapt to a rapidly disappearing print publishing industry, the company lost its luster in the early 2000’s and its market share tumbled. It was into this environment that Ray Schiavone entered when he joined Quark in 2006.

Mead: Why did you join Quark?

Schiavone: I was with General Electric for 14 years and worked my way up to the executive ranks. I was asked to run a start-up business for GE – a SaaS (Software as a Service) business for indirect purchasing. We grew the business rapidly and received an unsolicited offer to buy the company within the first 24 months. It was then that I caught the entrepreneurial ‘bug.” Next, I went to a VC-backed venture, Arbortext, where we more than doubled the revenue in 4 years. I joined Quark because I saw an opportunity to leverage Quark’s technology amid the shift to digital and other forms of print. It was a well-known brand with great technology but no clarity of vision or strategy of where to take it.

Mead: What was your initial focus?

Schiavone:  We needed to create a culture of innovation; the company needed to be re-invented. Many of the senior managers had been with the company for a number of years and thought that since Quark had previously owned the market that we should double-down with products in the print publishing industry. I knew that in order to be successful we needed to shift our strategy to digital.  As Wayne Gretzky said, we needed to skate to where the puck was going, not to where it had been. To accomplish this, I needed to be certain that everyone was on board with our strategy and direction.  It took some time to overcome resistance to change, eliminate the “not invented here” syndrome, and to get the team aligned. Quark had revolutionized print publishing with its desktop software. It became our mantra to revolutionize publishing again – in digital media.

Mead: What have been the biggest challenges?

Schiavone: Changing an entrenched culture to a culture of innovation and trying to find ways to invest during the most challenging economic downturn since the depression.  We spent 2007 promoting the new strategy and launched it in 2008. Then, in late 2008, the downturn hit and in 2009-10 we restructured and invested in the new direction (reallocated investment to our digital strategy). The transition was especially difficult, because, while we were investing in digital, the print side of the business was declining rapidly. The down market forced us to diversify our product line and client base and it probably accelerated the shift by five to ten years.

Mead: What is your strategy for differentiation?

Schiavone:  It is Quark’s intent to be the leader in digital publishing. We have created an end-to-end solution for enterprise publishing, meaning that we address the content lifecycle from creation to delivering the output to mobile phones and the iPad. What that means, in one example, is that an enterprise customer can integrate print and digital workflow and automatically push the print-ready content to the iPad, phone, and Web with the push of a single button. We partner with the technology providers that are at the heart of most enterprise infrastructure, such as Microsoft and IBM. We offer the tools that are helping designers to be a part of digital publishing.

Mead: Did the transition also involve some acquisitions?

Schiavone: In 2008, we acquired In.Vision, which had XML authoring software which helped Microsoft Word users create reusable XML content for our digital publishing solution. In 2011, Quark itself was acquired by Platinum Equity, which provided us the capital to grow. Then in May 2012, we bought Mobile IQ, creator of PressRun™, a cloud-based publishing solution for delivery and interactive experiences across tablet and mobile channels. Both of these acquisitions provided Quark with some of the new tools, technologies, and competencies necessary to execute on our strategy.

Mead: Describe Quark’s culture today.

Schiavone: It’s one of innovation. The team is empowered to take a chance, they can change things. We are open to taking risks. We’ve failed a few times, but we keep focused on innovating to solve customer problems.  This is driving our growth today. .

Mead: What are the challenges to current growth?

Schiavone: We feel like we’ve got the best solution in the market today.  Our challenge is to get the word out. 

Mead:  What lies ahead for Quark?

Schiavone: We’ve made great progress and have built a great team. We grew enterprise revenue 30 percent in the past year and we anticipate growing another 30 percent in 2013. We will continue to innovate in our markets, and expand functionality to become the comprehensive solution in financial services, government, and high tech manufacturing. It is our ongoing objective to help them continue to transform customer communications, develop new revenue streams, and reduce their costs by automating the delivery of customized, intelligent communications across print, the Web, and digital media.

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David P. Mead

David Mead is President of The Mead Consulting Group, a consulting and advisory services firm, based in Englewood, that has been helping Colorado companies grow since 1981. The firm's 40+ senior consultants with operating backgrounds assist Colorado-headquartered companies with strategic growth and execution, improving profitability and cash flow and maximizing value at exit. Dave is the past Chairman of ACG Denver and a long-time Board member and is on the Board of Young Americans Bank. Contact Dave at: meaddp@MeadConsultingGroup.com or (303) 660-8135.

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