New Acxiom CEO Seeks To Bring Focus to Firm

by Jamie Walden  on Monday, Jul. 21, 2008 12:00 am  

In an exclusive interview with Arkansas Business, John Meyer details his changes at and plans for Acxiom.

"Although we've had a little bit of people reduction, we haven't had a lot. Part of what I think is important to me is to make sure that that is the last step if we have to ever do it."

For employees, however, having jobs shipped overseas is just as frightening as losing them. Either way, some of them are out of work.

To Meyer, who has spent about 22 years living outside the United States, global orientation is crucial to Acxiom's growth strategy.

Here's how Meyer views off-shoring:

"If you're going to be a global company, you truly have to make sure that the work force you have is spread in the areas where you can utilize their relationships, you can utilize the business growth. And it goes without saying that there's some labor arbitrage."

However, the arbitrage - profiting from market price discrepancies - only lasts about four or five years, Meyer said, because economies mature. "And so no longer is China an effective manufacturer for tennis shoes."

When the marketplace evolves, employees in that market can become the company's nucleus that can grow with the economy, he said. Eventually, that unit becomes a profitable diversified business unit, through bringing in income rather than just collecting foreign price discrepancies and by performing functions that a U.S. branch cannot.

"From Conway, we can't really sell to people in India. You need to have people locally that speak the language, that grew up with people, that have the relationships," Meyer said.

"Since the rest of the world is not as developed in the use of marketing services, there are functions here that we can put over there that would be valued more than they would if they're left here."

The company's expansion into Gdansk, Poland, in April was a result of such thinking. "And we need more critical mass over there - really all across Europe."

Meyer added that these are not jobs being shipped from Arkansas to Poland.

This same philosophy has recently led Acxiom to plan expansion in the Asia-Pacific or "APAC" region.



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