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Getting to Know the CEO




A conversation with Tamron USA President and Chief Executive Officer Gregg Maniaci






Article by Jenn Gidman
Images by Gregg Maniaci

Gregg Maniaci started his career with Tamron USA in 1995, working his way up from New York metro area sales representative to Eastern regional sales manager in 1999. In 2013, he was made senior regional manager, a role in which he assumed responsibility not only for Tamron’s photo imaging optics division in the eastern US, but also for the company’s industrial optics division. Then, in 2015, Maniaci was promoted to president and CEO, the position he holds today. About a year and a half ago, Maniaci was also made an executive officer of the parent company. “I was the first American to be made an executive officer in the company’s history,” he says. “It was a huge honor for me, because it was something they'd never done before. To be chosen for that was a really special moment.”

As Tamron celebrates its 70th anniversary, we chatted with Maniaci on his 25-year-career with Tamron USA, where he sees the company going next, and how young photographers will play a part in that.

How long have you been involved with photography?
Since around 1988. I’d always been interested in photography, but I never really gave it serious consideration. Then I took a photo course in college, and once I started shooting, I immediately fell in love with it. It became an obsession. I would go out with my camera and photograph random things just to relieve stress and clear my head. Then I got a job at a photography retail store, which is when I discovered I really enjoyed both my interaction with the professional photographers that came in, and with consumers who were less familiar with photography and needed my assistance.

So you started out in the photo industry on the retail level.
Yes, and since then it’s been a quest of mine to help those specialty dealers. When you head into a big-box retailer, you’re just not going to get that same level of knowledge and attention. If you go to a specialty dealer, you’ll have someone willing to spend an extra 10 or 15 minutes explaining the pros and cons of a product to you.

What do you think underlies Tamron’s success?
Of course we take great pride in our products and services. But it’s also the Tamron corporate philosophy that comes directly out of Japan, which is that, as a company, we have three concerns we treat equally: the customer, the employee, and the shareholder. You can’t please everybody all of the time, but you always try to balance those three concerns. That’s why our salespeople are also trained in a specific way. We focus on truly listening to the customer, finding out what it is they really want to accomplish, and helping determine what’s the best product for their needs. That understanding has been huge for us.

You want to give consumers the best complete experience, because you want them to come back. It’s not just about making the sale: It’s about cultivating a sense of loyalty to the brand, including through the Tamron VIP Club (www.tamron-usa.com/vipclub). These types of initiatives show our appreciation for our customers.

What appeals to you personally about working for Tamron USA?
Aside from loving the products and the people, another major aspect I've always been attracted to is that our global company is very big on ethics, and on helping society. We have a true dedication to the environment, for example. We’ve always been ahead of the curve on environmental restrictions. We try to be as green as possible. We also have an entire department devoted to corporate social responsibility in Japan, where we have to report back on initiatives we undertake to give back to the community. The founder of the company set that in motion, as well as our strict “no weaponization” policy that applies to all products we sell, especially in the industrial sector, and the current board of directors continues to support that philosophy. We want to make the world a better place.

What’s something about Tamron that people might not know as much about?
Of course photography brings passion and joy to people’s lives, and our photo imaging optics division helps customers achieve that, but I’m not sure the general public knows about some of our other efforts to make people’s lives better, specifically on the industrial side. That could include anything from the products we make for medical devices that help with diagnoses and medical procedures, to our products for the security sector, to manufacturing lenses for robotics, automotive safety and guidance, and drones. People might even have some of our lenses in their homes and not even realize it.

What’s something about you, as the president and CEO, that people might not know?
I think people are often surprised to find out that I consider myself to be just another employee at the company. I'm only as good as the people that work for me and with me, and without their input and specific talents, I wouldn't be able to do much of anything. My view is that I know I don’t know everything, and so I learn from listening to others, whether it’s fellow employees or one of our customers.

And I’ve never stopped enjoying those customer interactions. I think one thing that people are impressed with is when they see the president of Tamron USA shooting with the company’s products along with them and having down-to-earth conversations about those products, and about photography in general.

Speaking of which, as CEO, do you get much of a chance to take pictures these days?
I certainly don't get to shoot as often as I'd like, because there’s a lot going on, but I definitely try to make the most of every opportunity I can. One of the advantages of working for Tamron in my position is having the access to many of the events that we hold. One of the best parts of my job is when I get to go on a shooting tour with some of our customers. It’s great to just be shooting side by side with other enthusiastic, passionate photographers. And if I’m traveling, I always bring my camera. I’ll be about 100 yards behind everyone else because I’m trying to take everything in and capture as much of it as I can.

VIP Summit
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What are some of Tamron’s goals for the near future?
Naturally, due to our big role within the photo community, one big goal is to keep creating and providing high-quality products that are best for our customers, as well as finding niches that may not be covered by other companies. For example, there’s been a big shift to full-frame mirrorless cameras, and what Tamron has done is look at that shift and figure out a way to make lenses for those cameras that are smaller and lighter, but without sacrificing quality. That is one of the main reasons a photographer will switch to full-frame mirrorless, to reduce size and weight of their equipment without losing image quality. On the industrial side, we want to continue to pursue optical technology that makes people’s lives better, safer, and more enjoyable.

How is Tamron USA trying to engage the next generation of photographers?
We have an entire Tamron EDU program dedicated to students and managed by Jillian Bell. This program includes EDU educational events brought to college campuses nationwide, including workshops, guest lectures from our Tamron Masters and Ambassadors, and hands-on lens demos. We also feature student photo contests; our Educational Purchase Program (EPP), a discount program for students; and our Tamron EDU e-newsletter (which you’re reading right now), featuring student and professional photographer interviews, how-to articles, and product announcements. We want to pass our passion for photography onto the next generation. We’ve got our focus on the future, and I’m proud to be part of that.

© Gregg Maniaci
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© Gregg Maniaci
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© Gregg Maniaci
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© Gregg Maniaci
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© Gregg Maniaci
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© Gregg Maniaci
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© Gregg Maniaci
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© Gregg Maniaci
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