CIO & EVP Richard Maranville of Freeman Co. shares his secrets for keeping employees and customers happy.
By Rachelle Nones
Richard Maranville kicked off his business career at then family-owned Kinko’s, where he spent 15 years working his way up to the position of Chief Information Officer (CIO). After FedEx purchased Kinko’s, Maranville felt significant cultural and philosophy differences; sensing it was time for a change, he joined family-owned Freeman, a leading integrated solutions provider for live events.
“I thoroughly enjoy the unique challenges that are involved with a family-owned company,” Maranville said.
Family Business, As Usual
Maranville immediately felt comfortable at Freeman, settling quickly and naturally into an atmosphere of openness and transparency. He fondly recalls a well intentioned, yet, stern warning he received shortly after signing on at Freeman: “You know, you have to be careful because sometimes people on your team will send messages straight to the CEO.” “Great!” Maranville responded. “Do I not want them to do that? Is that something we should not be encouraging?”
Established in 1927, and headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Freeman is a leader in the live events and trade show industry. Maranville is responsible for all of the company’s technology functions. The company’s size and annual revenue of $1.6 billion, is a sweet spot for Maranville. He enjoys working for a company large enough to provide resources, yet small enough for an individual to make an important impact within.
“I can get in front of a customer and commit to something and make it happen,” he said. “In larger companies, it’s extremely difficult to make things happen, especially quickly.”
Managing the Managers
Maranville currently oversees five direct reports and 100 team members, and prides himself on working effectively with varied groups involved in diverse functions. He strongly believes that individual contributors’ day-to-day lives are 90% influenced by the person they work for. “That’s why,” Maranville said, “we have to make sure the person is in the right job.”
A continual challenge is finding qualified managers with the right skill set. In the Dallas marketplace, companies compete fiercely for IT managers offering technical and communication skills combined with human resource management aspects. Maranville, however, says that among his best managers have been an individual who held a master’s degree in marketing and another who majored in Kinesiology.
“The people who are really good at communicating are not necessarily the ones who grew up in technology,” he said. “They can learn enough about the technology to be effective.”
Got an App for That?
Freeman’s willingness to expand on its technical offerings has increased client interest in technical solutions. “It’s the perfect storm,” Maranville said, “with me being very comfortable with the technological side of things and the customers asking us to do more of this kind of thing—especially our more progressive ones.”
About three years ago, Freeman introduced Concierge Elite, a mobile customer service and productivity application providing exhibitors with text or email alerts and real-time status updates. Recent updates include iPad, iPhone, Droid and Windows applications.
New technical solutions must pass a stringent series of quality control processes, including vetting via pre-release customer feedback.
Maranville’s worst technological nightmare scenario is Apple iPhone’s mapping debacle. “How did that not get caught?” he asked. “That’s a situation I never want to be in.”
Rachelle Nones is a freelance writer based in New York City, New York.