Speaking on Tuesday, he said that his “break from industry” between leaving Xerox in May 2018 and returning, initially as EFI executive chairman and then as CEO, had given him a great perspective and the ability to reflect on the opportunities in print.
“It’s what this conference is all about, it’s about connecting, it’s about learning, connecting, socialising and lifting each other up,” he said.
The focus of his session was “the now and future pendulum” looking at the competing interests many print businesses leaders face in running a successful business today, while remaining agile enough to embrace the opportunities of tomorrow.
“My question is a simple one with perhaps a more complex answer. Why do we need to choose between the now and the future?” he asked the circa 800-strong audience of EFI customers attending the 21st Connect convention.
He added that the same question had been asked throughout his 30-plus year career in print and, he believed, it always would be.
“The technology may change, but the questions remain the same," Jacobson stated.
“I believe we will come to the same conclusion that we want to be the now and we want to be the future. We need to do both.
“Companies will never move forward if they do not take well-thought-out risks, create sound plans with measurements, metrics, and KPIs and have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
He said the four cornerstones to achieving that goal were: be present; continually test the status quo; become an expert generalist; and make life simple.
Jacobson also used his session to draw parallels between his own career in print and the evolution of EFI and the industry at large, and share insights into leadership.
He said one of the keys to successful leadership was: “Blending those who are risk averse with those who are risk takers, and creating a recipe for success.”
Jacobson also used his keynote to talk about EFI’s new owner Siris Capital, which he said marked the private equity firm’s “expansion from pure tech to industrial tech”.
He noted that, like all PE firms, Siris cared a great deal about growth, cash flow and profitability. But he said just as important were the “quality, service and technology investments we're going to make. So that we don't focus on short-term thinking, we focus on long-term thinking.”
“So, I don't think this company can have a better owner than we have today.”
He rounded off the session by returning to his original message: “We love that we [EFI] are your now. And you have our commitment that we will do everything humanly possible to be in your future.”
The opening day of the user conference was rounded off with Connect’s traditional fireside chat, where Jacobson, in a reversal of the same session three years, interviewed former EFI CEO Guy Gecht (pictured below left).
Jacobson asked Gecht, who he has known for 20 years, about his career, his key learnings, highlights, lowlights and what he had been up to since leaving EFI.
“Well the first one, was having a rule of no more than one meeting a day,” quipped Gecht.
And Gecht’s key lesson in his career so far: “As a CEO you make more mistakes than anybody else, never hide from them, learn from them.”
EFI Connect, which closes tomorrow (24 January), features around 200 sessions including educational talks, speeches and hands-on training. It also acts as a springboard for a number of product launches, including EFI’s latest family of superwide roll-to-roll printers.