Quincy Allen can thank his mother, Annie, for prompting him toward a career path that has led to a top spot at Xerox Corp.
After growing up in the Boston area, Allen attended college there-commuting from his family home-and had his mind set on a job at an electrical testing lab nearby.
When Xerox came to the college campus months before graduation and sought out Allen for a job interview, he had little interest-especially since he did not even know where Rochester was located.
Then he spoke to his mother, who told him he had nothing to lose going to talk to the company.
Allen agreed and went to the interview. After receiving his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Northeastern University in 1982, Allen packed his bags and went to work for Xerox.
While Xerox’s recognizable name and reputation may have factored in Annie Allen’s decision to nudge her son in Xerox’s direction, Quincy Allen says he later learned his mother had ulterior motives.
“She was afraid I would stay in Boston forever and never leave the house,” he says with a laugh. “(But) it ended up being one of the best things that could have happened to me.”
Allen is president of Xerox’s production systems group. The group is a $5 billion global production operation with nearly 2,000 workers worldwide, with the majority in Rochester, California and Belgium. Allen has held the position since 2004.
The group provides high-end digital monochrome and color systems for customers in the graphic communications industry and for large enterprises.
Recently, Allen’s group has taken on what Xerox is calling the “new business of printing.” The priority is on increasing digital printing in the traditional offset printing market, offering one-to-one and e-based services rather than manufacturing a printed piece to numerous sources.
Xerox has a leg up in such an industry, Allen believes, noting the company has the widest product offerings covering the marketplace, from its flagship product, the high-end iGen3 digital press, to its lower-priced Docucolor digital color printer.
New offerings with advanced technological capabilities are being added to the Xerox line each month. From May 29 to June 11, Allen will join other Xerox brass at Drupa 2008 in Germany, a premier event for the graphic communications industry, to show attendees how the offerings will help their businesses. The Xerox booth is expected to be visited by more than 100,000 visitors.
The $17 billion eligible offset printing market is a worldwide arena that is ripe for digital innovation, Allen says.
“It’s the big Kahuna we are trying to capture,” he says.
Allen, 48, believes his worth ethic and business ethic comes from his father, Quincy Allen Sr. The elder Allen studied electrical engineering but decided to take a more entrepreneurial route, opening his own appliance and television repair store.
As a youth, the younger Allen spent a great deal of his time helping out at the store, along with his five siblings.
“My father was one of 13 kids who grew up on a farm in Georgia,” Allen says. “So he knew about hard work.”
Since joining Xerox in the early 1980s, Allen has held senior technical and management positions in areas such as supply chain, sales and marketing, and product development. He also furthered his education, receiving his MBA from the University of Rochester’s Simon Graduate School of Business in 1993.
In 1999, Allen was appointed vice president of worldwide customer services strategy. In 2001, he was named senior vice president of North American services and solutions. Prior to his current position, Allen served as senior vice president in Xerox business group operations, where he was responsible for the organization’s cost competitiveness initiatives.
Allen says a driving force that has led to success in the production systems group is staying focused on what he calls the three rights: the right business model, right workflow and right technology.
“We have those, and that is what it will take to prosper in this market,” Allen says.
His immediate focus is on Xerox’s customers and employees. Like other Xerox high-level managers, Allen spends one day a month fielding customer calls at Xerox’s service center.
Allen relishes the monthly job.
“What better way to know first-hand about the issues customers face than hearing about them from the customers,” he says.
It also plays into his philosophy: When a problem comes, Allen does not hand it off-he solves it.
He also travels to meet with customers or serves as host to them at the Gil Hatch Center for Customer Innovation at the Webster campus.
Allen also emphasizes his employees. He organizes and holds regular Web chats and town hall meetings, where workers can share ideas and concerns. Not wanting such venues to be boring, Allen tries to come up with ways to make the sessions interesting for employees.
During a recent session on Lean Six Sigma, for example, employees took an approach similar to the hit show “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” to show how services and processes could be streamlined.
Allen admits his enthusiasm for keeping the lines of communication open can border on the extreme.
“I can over-communicate at times,” he says.
But those who know him say Allen cannot be faulted for his high-spiritedness. Dubbed “the man of 1,000 stories” by many co-workers, Allen says his overall approach to work is to have fun.
There has not been one job at Xerox he has not loved, he says.
“The job is what you make it,” Allen says. “My style is having fun.”
But Allen also knows how to get down to business. He describes himself as tough but fair.
“At my center, at my core, I love engaging people,” Allen says. “If I didn’t have a job where I could talk to customers and talk to employees, it wouldn’t be the job for me.”
The most challenging part of the job is balancing work and home responsibilities. It is something Allen says he constantly works to keep on track.
Mark Enzien, vice president of platform development at the product services group, has known Allen for five years.
“He is extremely quick, has a great memory, is very personable, has an excellent sense of humor, and loves old and new movies,” Enzien says. “He is big into sports and likes competition.”
Enzien spoke of Allen’s communicative skills.
“People like to engage him and Quincy likes engaging people,” Enzien says, noting that Allen “prefers laughter over sternness, but is always clear with his intentions.”
Allen commands respect without being commanding, Enzien says.
“He thinks big and small at the same time,” Enzien says. “He has great understanding of Xerox (as a company) and has excellent business savvy. He is well aware of the external forces that Xerox must endure. He is never caught off guard.”
Enzien says Allen sets an enjoyable atmosphere at the Webster building where he is located.
“Quincy sets a consistent atmosphere of respect, fun, trust and hard work,” Enzien says, adding Allen cares about the people but understands that driving the business is critical to the people. “He handles stress well and is quick to turn conflict situations into a ‘common ground’ discussion.
“I always feel that Quincy is doing everything he can to make Xerox and Xerox people better off-it is why we choose to follow.”
Valerie Blauvelt, vice president of marketing for Xerox’s production systems group, describes Allen as intelligent and analytical, yet pragmatic and approachable.
“He is open to new ideas, has a sense of humor and is a person of high integrity,” Blauvelt says. “He is a strong leader and inspires confidence, who approaches the business with a positive and enthusiastic view of the possibilities.”
Michael Salfity, vice president at Xerox’s workflow business solutions group, spoke of Allen’s ability to balance all aspects of his life.
“On the personal side he is very clear about his family values and promotes balance between home and job,” Salfity says. “Whenever there’s a conflict between family responsibilities and job, he quickly lets you know that family is the most important thing in life.”
Allen is bright and a quick study, he adds.
“His analytical skills and broad experience enable him to quickly grasp complex ideas or problems,” Salfity says. “Once Quincy has grasped a complex problem or idea, he has a very unique ability to synthesize it and explains it in a way a second grader can understand.”
Salfity says that while Allen is successful and influential, he has seen him in situations where he has not used his position or title to his advantage.
As an example, he tells about the two of them walking out of a building on the Webster campus as a security guard was placing a ticket on Allen’s car, which was parked in a spot it should not have been.
“Quincy kept asking for the ticket so we could leave; we finally got the ticket and left,” Salfity explains. “Not once did he let on as to whom he was: He only apologized, acknowledged his mistake and asked if the guard was finished so we can make our next meeting.”
There are several attributes that make Allen a good leader, Salfity says.
“Quincy understands our business very well; his depth and broad knowledge of the business enable him to understand the challenges as well as the impacts of his decisions,” he says. Allen is demanding and results oriented, and he does not manage by emotion but by facts.
He characterizes Allen as a “player and coach” who is able to lead when appropri-ate and let his team and staff lead when appropriate.
“My experience with Quincy is that he will push you to achieve results that seem impossible, but he settles for the best we can do as long as we pushed ourselves to the limit,” Salfity says.
Allen’s goal of having fun also comes through for Salfity.
“I have never laughed as much and had this much fun in a job before,” he says. “Quincy is one of the most balanced executives I have ever worked with or for.”
Off the job
When not working, Allen spends time at his Pittsford home with his wife, Sonya, and son, Myles, 13.
A movie buff who often quotes movie lines at work, Allen most enjoys what he calls “guy flicks, such as action and thriller movies.” He is looking forward to the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones series, soon scheduled for release.
Allen also serves as assistant football coach on his son’s team and prides himself on rarely missing those games and practices or his son’s basketball games.
He remains close to his parents, who still live in Massachusetts but visit the Rochester area frequently.
Professionally, Allen says he will continue to put the focus on fun at work while achieving the desired results. Those he works with at Xerox help him meet those goals.
“It’s why I took the job at Xerox,” Allen says. “I may be the head of the group, but nothing happens without the people.”
[email protected] / 585-546-8303
Position: President, production systems group, Xerox Corp.
Education: B.S., electrical engineering, Northeastern University, Boston, 1982; MBA, Simon Graduate School of Business, University of Rochester, 1993
Family: Wife, Sonya; son, Myles, 13
Outside activities: assistant football coach, movie buff
Quote: “If I didn’t have a job where I could talk to customers and talk to employees, it wouldn’t be the job for me.”
05/16/08 (C) Rochester Business Journal