“Happy chaos.” That’s how Richard Ventura, vice president of strategy at NEC Display Solutions of America, describes the appeal of the AV industry. Having been in nine roles across sales, marketing, operations, business development, and now strategy in his 17-year career at NEC, Ventura thrives on the panoramic view he has gained and has been inspired by innovation from every quarter.
His steady rise from account manager to VP has been due in large part to his self-admitted unstoppable determination, bred by his hardworking family and honed during his collegiate years as a wrestler.
Coming from a military family didn’t hurt, either. His lineage includes a grandfather who served as a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps with multiple tours in Vietnam, a grandfather who served in the U.S. Army during WWII and Korea as a first lieutenant, and a grandmother who served in the WACs in WWII. In addition, Ventura’s father served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Medical Corps stationed in Germany, where he was born. He is also very proud of his younger brother who serves today as a petty officer first class in the U.S. Navy. So, it seemed fitting Ventura went on to serve 10 years in the U.S. Army Reserves and Minnesota Army National Guard, during which he learned leadership, self-sacrifice, teamwork, armor gunnery, and how to strip an M-16. He noted, “My military career helped me understand how much I could accomplish if I just put my mind to it.”
Accomplish he does. He spearheaded the deal that equipped Burger King with 26,000 displays (NEC’s largest contract to date), when he also began to really understand the power of tapping into vertical markets—QSRs, education, retail, and hospitality.
“The great thing about using a vertical strategy is that it really forces you to understand very thoroughly the pain points and specifics of the customer,” he said. “It’s true collaboration.”
Collaboration is definitely a theme in Ventura’s management style. In helping guide the strategic direction of NEC and focusing on the current and long-term market needs and trends, he acts as a guide to groups within the organization, keeping them aware of, and accountable for the organization’s strategic vision.
The collaborative spirit also permeates his view of some of the most exciting areas of focus in today’s industry. From touch-interactive whiteboards to huddle space systems, to complete collaboration hubs, Ventura is proud to be a part of NEC’s initiatives that help people work together seamlessly. Teamwork, collaboration. Sensing a pattern here?
Rich and his wife Maureen are avid University of Minnesota Gophers fans. The pattern continues in his work with the Digital Signage Foundation (DSF). He is currently the eighth chairperson, having joined six years ago. Ventura’s biggest legacy will be strengthening the voice of the DSF and bringing all aspects of the industry (integrators, manufacturers, content creation, DOOH, content management, suppliers) together, giving them a voice, as well as connecting those in the AV industry globally. Ventura said, “It’s so great watching everyone come together and experiencing the strength it delivers to us all as individual companies and an industry. There are no ‘competitors’ in the DSF.”
The industry’s “happy chaos” has kept Ventura’s journey fresh and helped him to understand how NEC can leverage amazing possibilities, often with their vendors.
“A big part of the reason NEC is at the forefront of technology is due in part to great relationships with our technology partners,” he said. “I’m particularly excited by innovations from smaller companies, both here and around the world. It’s amazing what some of these guys are doing in camera technology, as well as converging IPTV/digital displays, analytics, sensors, and video wall processing solutions.”
As VP of strategy, he’s going to be spending more time working globally with NEC teams from Europe and Japan; even so, he won’t be quite the road warrior he once was. This will give him a chance to spend more time with his wife of 18 years, Maureen, who is an attorney, and their 10-year-old English bulldog, Bella.
In addition, Ventura is determined to get in a little more fly fishing, coaching youth sports, golf, and University of Minnesota football games. Since graduating from the University of Minnesota-Morris, he has been an avid Gophers fan.
With a strong commitment to service, mentorship, and teamwork, Ventura has found a supportive culture at NEC and an industry filled with learning, camaraderie, and growth. His loyalty and success can be attributed to one simple belief: “I work for my team, not the other way around.”
See all 2018 Hall of Fame inductees here.