Canon South Africa announced the appointment of its new Managing Director, David Preston, in January 2020.
Preston, who has risen through the ranks over the years, from his first position as a Direct Salesman in 1988 to Sales Manager leading one of the first teams in the UK selling Canon’s range of colour laser copiers.
He has held multiple positions in sales and marketing over the years, as well as roles in channel sales and as Head of Indirect Sales for EMEA created the first consistent Partner Program. Joining Canon South Africa from a London based role, Preston’s last assignment was as Strategic Operations Director for emerging markets.
His love of people and passion for the brand has been instrumental in driving his career forward.
“I have been fortunate to work with some great sales and marketing colleagues over the years and working for a premier brand like Canon has brought me into contact with world-class leaders. I also love the passion and commitment of our channel partners and retailers. The energy and agile nature of our business partners are one I have come to admire and to learn from over the years.”
According to Preston, the digitisation of technology in the industry has been the single biggest driver of change in both the business to business and consumer sectors.
The introduction of printing devices into IT infrastructure vastly increased their capacity to add value and streamline work processes for companies, simultaneously creating opportunities for Canon. Similarly, digital cameras and the versatility they have brought to the imaging industry have changed the way that we capture and manage images in the photographic as well as the video world.
In turn, this has opened the door even further to disruptive technologies like smartphones and the impact they have had on the industry.
In light of the country’s current economic woes, Preston is well aware of the challenge he and his fellow executives face in terms of driving sales growth, developing new markets and applications for Canon’s technology.
The additional burden of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic will further push all organisations to evaluate their business models and go to market strategies but is exactly this kind of challenge that has kept Preston at Canon. He remains confident that Canon’s proven record and innovative approach will stand him and his team in good stead in the months and years to come.
Preston’s enthusiasm for photography and sharing it with others is evident when he speaks about the unique backdrop provided by South Africa’s rich cultural history and unrivalled landscape.
“Helping people to capture exceptional images of this great country and seeing the impact it can have on the lives of individuals is truly exciting, and illustrates why despite the advent of the smartphone, professional or semi-professional photographers will continue to motivate individuals to acquire Canon products. With new technologies like Mirrorless cameras Canon will always be at the vanguard of capturing the soul of what makes Africa one of the greatest continents on the planet,” he says.
At the same time, Preston is optimistic about the potential of Canon’s printing and scanning document products adding value to South African businesses, citing the company’s position at the forefront of consumer and production printing capacity, and its wide range of professional colour production printing and wide format devices.
“The traits that make Canon products great are quality and innovation,” he explains.
“These two together mean that we will remain at the forefront of imaging and printing. It is also why so many individuals looked to Canon for solutions to printing and scanning documents at home during the lockdown. Together with the need to support the education of children at home, the Government was quick to recognise the need to deem printers and consumables as essential items.”
He believes that expansion into neighbouring African countries is key to the future growth of the brand, and that this will be accomplished through a mixture of direct investment and skills training, both internally and with partners, retailers and end-users.
“Building this capacity will ensure we have a good position in these markets to sell Canon products. In our domestic markets, we need to retain our strong market-leading position and strengthen our own organisation to ensure we develop homegrown talent to manage the future potential for Canon.”
While product development is at a mature stage in many of the markets in which Canon operates, Preston believes that collaboration between manufacturers and continual technological advancement in other areas will demand increasing efficiency and competitive product offerings, driving innovation into new markets, for which Canon is well placed – particularly in the southern African market.
An avid rugby fan, Preston has found the move to South Africa from the UK both exciting and challenging and ascribes his success to resilience and belief in creating the right team ethos.
“Life should never be a surprise, especially when it involves managing people. They can be your biggest frustration and your greatest asset. Choose the right individuals and you will be constantly surprised at what they can achieve. Choose the wrong individuals and you will live with the consequences daily.”