It’s moments like these we truly grasp the old adage, time flies. Along with the excitement of planning out the next phase of my life in retirement comes feelings of immense gratitude for having such a long and rewarding career.
I am truly blessed to have worked for a great company, Canon, and for having opportunities to travel the world and get to know so many talented people. It has been a remarkable 45 years. It’s impossible to cover it all in a few paragraphs, so here is just a brief look back, and some memories.
My journey started in the camera industry 45 years ago. I was 23 years old with a background in filmmaking and a university degree in geology. My career at Canon began as a customer service representative; I was the 143rd employee hired. The company had just separated its camera distribution relationship from Bell & Howell and began direct sales in the U.S.
We were a small company and struggled to sell FTB and F-1 cameras. However, things were about to change dramatically with the launch of the AE-1 in 1976. The entire industry was primed for explosive growth.
My first job in customer service was to resolve problems—keep our customers happy as well as loyal to our brand. I quickly learned that customer satisfaction leads to brand loyalty, which leads to repeat customers and ultimately more sales. This is something that cannot be fabricated with clever marketing or expensive advertising; it holds true today.
A Rewarding Career: The Dream Job
I was passionate about photography and was soon promoted to my dream job—a camera division tech rep. What inspired me to go after this job was attending a Nikon Photo seminar on sports photography at CW Post College with a good friend and industry colleague, George Becker. What a cool job to have, getting to photograph professional sports with exceptional equipment I could never afford on my own.
As it turned out, my first assignment was anything but glamorous. It was a six-day road trip through Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, doing in-store training to the sales staff at Ritz Camera stores. It was also my first company business trip.
However, far more exciting assignments followed. I got to support professional photographers at the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Series, Grand Prix, as well as premier golf and tennis tournaments.
Along the way, I became proficient as a sports photographer. I also went on to teach photography classes and produce in-house slide shows (on 35mm Kodachrome) used to launch Canon camera products into the market.
Moreover, I worked hard as a tech rep and was promoted to a salesman two years later. I knew nothing about sales but took on the challenge and moved to my new sales territory in Connecticut. I had a healthy territory, supportive dealers and many mentors who helped me meet this new challenge. The basic skills I learned early on helped; I eventually won the top sales award in 1988, which was one of my proudest moments. The top award was a trip to Japan, where I fell in love with the beauty and warm culture of the country.
Continuing the Rise
I was promoted to regional sales manager in 1989; in 1990, to national sales manager, which meant working back on Long Island. I was now married to my wife, Dot. We made a great family with two children, Allison and Chris, and enjoyed life in Connecticut. So, I decided to endure the commute to Long Island each day—and did so for 30 years. I will not miss the traffic jams, potholes or Long Island Expressway.
By then, the SLR market was booming. The EOS Rebel hit the market and every major brand had easy-to-use cameras that were affordably priced. For better or worse, high-end cameras were sold everywhere: photo specialty stores, Kmart, Service Merchandise, Ritz, Wolf, Barry’s, The Wiz and big mail-order accounts.
Business was good, but as newly appointed NSM in charge of all sales, I had to learn very quickly how to balance sales, profit, market pricing, channel conflict and a diversified sales organization. Commoditization of high-end SLR cameras was now a thing.
The industry continued to evolve, technology rapidly moved from 35mm to APS and quickly to digital. The market exploded once again at an epic pace. Camera sales were very strong, and we managed the new challenges and immense opportunities of e-commerce.
At the same time, technologies were now interconnected, and new horizons for imaging solutions emerged. CES opened my eyes to the vast potential for our industry. I championed business innovation, worked with NASA, became an associate member of the American Society of Cinematographers and sat on CTA’s executive board. All of this presented unique opportunities to meet truly remarkable visionaries.
With the introduction of Canon’s Cinema EOS cameras and the establishment of our office in Hollywood, I was back to my roots in the exciting world of TV and film production.
Keep the Flame Burning
Today, imaging is more relevant and ingrained into our lives than ever before. Like the early cave drawings, we communicate visually. Trillions of photos are captured each year; billions of hours of video are posted daily, and we are now conducting business virtually by videoconferencing. The world and our business are struggling today; however, our industry is resilient and will thrive once again.
Although it is impossible for me to express my appreciation personally to the thousands of colleagues and friends I have made along the way, please know my fond memories will never fade with time.
Please continue to promote the passion of photography, embrace innovation and keep the flame burning brightly for our industry.
Eliott Peck, executive vice president and general manager, Imaging Technologies and Communications Group, retired from Canon USA on March 31, 2020.
His 45 years of strong leadership, dedication and achievements shaped the success of Canon’s consumer and professional imaging products.