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Susan Kelly: CEO of K/P Corporation and Founder and Chief of Raine Media

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Susan Kelly, CEO of K/P Corporation (a leading marketing-solution resource), believes that to be successful in the marketing field, a person has to have a passion for it as well as the ability to adapt to constant change.

"I always say ambiguity has to be your best friend," Kelly said. "We're in a constantly changing business, so you have to like that feeling of change [...] and feel comfortable with it and not try to get lost in it, and that's a really important quality for most people coming into this company."

As CEO of K/P Corporation, Kelly is required to be very flexible. She said that her "job is to give service to everyone else in the organization and whatever I can do to help."

K/P Corporation assists its clients with maximizing what they can do with comprehensive marketing solutions, including printing, fulfillment, direct mail, digital delivery, and applied technologies. Its clients include some of the world's top companies.

Kelly discussed in more detail some of the services that K/P Corporation provides for its clients:

"We do a lot of IT [information technology] for companies in the sense of helping support their infrastructure, their marketing infrastructure, and their content infrastructure," she said. "There are a lot of digital technologies out there today that are very complex, and we not only help integrate them but also support them, host them, and maintain them—whatever is needed."

She said the corporation is made up of several divisions, one of which is Raine Media, a strategic consultancy that specializes in marketing technology and data analytics for top-branded companies.

"[Raine Media] are the guys that are out there architecting, building, implementing real IT integration services into clients to make sure that they have the tools that really work when they want to do campaigns," Kelly said.

Kelly founded Raine Media in 1997 and sold it to K/P Corporation in 2004; she became CEO of the corporation the following year.

Another division of the corporation is KP Manufacturing Services, which handles many of the direct-marketing-campaign matters, such as printing, mailings, and fulfillment.

"And we have another group that is [focused] more on product development," she said. "These are the people that actually develop the tools for the customers."

Kelly said that in addition to passion and flexibility, another quality a person should have to be successful in the marketing field is the ability to stay attuned to the client's needs.

"You also want to please the customers and satisfy the customers," she said. "To just get in there and do what the customer really needs you to do. Because that's what makes a difference—that we'll do whatever it takes—and they know that, and they stick with us."

Q. Do you have any hobbies or interests?
A. We like to travel and golf.
Q. Is there a particular band or artist that you especially like?
A. It depends on what it's about. If it's just music to work by, I listen to Enigma, but if I'm just listening, I like all the new stuff that's out. I like a pretty wide variety of music. I'm going with my niece to the Gwen Stefani concert in June.
Q. What's the last magazine you read?
A. Vanity Fair.
Q. What's your favorite television show?
A. The Amazing Race, hands down. I applied for that and didn't get on it. I'm a fanatic.

She said what she enjoys most about her job is the people.

"Because you spend so many hours at work on the computer [or in] boring meetings, you just have to have some really good business friendships to make it really worthwhile," she said.

Kelly completed her undergraduate work at Ryerson University in Toronto, Ontario, earning a Bachelor of Technology in Graphic Communication in 1980.

After graduation, she was hired to be the production manager at Howarth & Smith, Ltd., a full-service printing plant in Toronto. She said that while employed at Howarth, she was also working on her M.B.A. in Finance and Marketing at New York University in Toronto; she graduated in 1984. She said she earned her M.B.A. by going to night school.

After working for Howarth & Smith for six years, Kelly joined MediaCom, Inc., an outdoor advertising company, as a general manager in Toronto. She said the company created outdoor advertising, such as billboards, advertising in bus shelters, and "any kind of out-of-home advertising."

"And they did it worldwide," she said. "It wasn't just Canada or the U.S.; it was all the stadium signs around the world for all the big advertisers. So it was a pretty big deal."

Kelly left MediaCom after two years and transferred down to the U.S. to work as a country manager at Pitney Bowes in Stamford, CT. She remained at Pitney Bowes for three years before joining RR Donnelley in Chicago, where she was the senior vice president and in charge of worldwide sales. RR Donnelley is an international full-service provider of print and related services, including document-based business process outsourcing.

"At Donnelley, I did a lot of things," she said. "I worked a lot on the M&A side of the business and getting the technology side of their business running with sales and marketing, as well as the product development of the technology group, which was a very large division; it was getting close to $2 billion in sales."

Kelly said that after working at Donnelley for seven years, she decided to take a "sabbatical" when the company started restructuring.

"And then I decided to do my own thing," she said. "And that's when I built Raine in 1997; I really enjoyed it…and then sold the company to KP in 2004. And then the board asked me to come on and represent the whole organization."

Kelly said one of the people who influenced her the most during her career was John Walter, who was chairman of RR Donnelley and later became chairman of AT&T.

"He taught me that a salesperson's responsibility is everything. You can't blame operations; you can't blame someone else who didn't do something. At the end of the day, it's a sales failure, and that responsibility is pretty large, and to understand that and adopt that is a big deal."

Kelly had the following advice for people interested in pursuing careers in marketing or sales:

"You want people to get in early and get their experience early because you're going to meet failure," she said. "In always converging industries, you're going to make mistakes, and you've got to have them early, you really do; you've got to practice, and you've got to be okay to take feedback and then get in there and do it again. Because in sales, it's pretty hard; the rejection rate is pretty high. How do you make sure that you have a thick enough skin but you're learning at the same time? You're changing your process and keep making it work, and then [...] listening to others and not being afraid to go to others and just say, 'It's not working, and how can I make it work, and what are you doing different?' So being open to ask for help, that's a big deal."

Kelly was born in Montreal, Quebec. She's been married for 27 years.

She has lectured and contributed numerous articles on marketing and has received honors for her work in the field.

On the net:K/P Corporation

Raine Media

Ryerson University

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Popular tags:

 production manager  organizations  matters  Vanity Fair  New York University  engineering  CEO  customers  data  United States

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