#3 Newsmaker: Charles Salameh of HP Canada

Most executives would like to have the transitional year Charles Salameh had in 2010 with HP Canada‘s (NYSE: HPQ) Personal Systems Group (PSG).

In his first full year running PSG, Salameh put in a plan and framework to position the company for success in 2011. Salameh’s task for 2010 was to rebuild the organization, develop new routes to market and create long lasting relationships with channel partners to get the business ready for 2011. But while he was working on transforming PSG, the division reported an epic year of growth.

HP Canada’s PSG division finished the year with 24 per cent growth in units and 23 per cent growth in revenue and recaptured the No. 1 marketshare position.

“We had a very good year, and I’m proud of the team and what it accomplished at HP Canada. We rebuilt the organization in 2010 and transformed the team and the routes to market by creating new and innovative routes to market (retail and telcos). We established great new relationships with the channel and we did it all during this transformational activity to get the business ready for 2011, which I think will be a break-out year,” Salameh said.

One of the more successful moves Salameh orchestrated was developing a business around telcos. PSG in the past had zero business in telecommunications and now it’s a major channel for the subsidiary.

What makes PSG’s success even more remarkable was that Salameh and his team were thrown plenty of curveballs in 2010 that would have gotten other executives distracted from the task at hand.

For example, the company’s channel chief Greg Chappell left early in the year, it forged a three-year technology alliance with Microsoft out of the blue, then HP went ahead and acquired Palm for US$1.2 billion, went through a much publicized divorce with its partner Cisco Systems and in Canada, HP Canada’s long time president, Paul Tsaparis left the subsidiary to take on a new role in the U.S. He was replaced by an unknown, Peter Galanis. There were more leadership changes to come however. HP CEO Mark Hurd got embroiled in a scandal and was forced to resign. That led to a CEO search which was settled in late September when ex-SAP head Leo Apotheker took over. During that search HP got into a bidding war with Dell Computer over storage vendor 3Par. HP finally won that battle with a US$2.35 billion bid.

Channel chief

Many of these incidents were beyond Salameh’s control. He did address the channel chief position by hiring ex-Sun Canada channel chief John Cammalleri to head the Solution Provider Organization. “John was seamless to when Greg Chappell was here. He is well respected and understands the economics of the channel. John has made significant contributions and has a strong focus on driving the business to the channel,” he said.

With the Palm acquisition, Salameh believes it brings a new portfolio to channel partners with a value proposition they can leverage with their own assets. He says that Palm with its WebOS will give channel partners the ability to have a new dialogue with customers in vertical segments such as retail, government, pharmaceuticals and others.

“Palm enables them to have another weapon in the market and I encourage them to innovate with these new assets instead of just moving hardware. It’s a great opportunity for us and the channel partners to deliver a unique value proposition for the market that we were not able to participate in previous,” he said.

As for the leadership changes here and in the U.S., those moves did not distract Salameh at all. He said that HP is a matrix organization and PSG unit runs independently. He added that PSG does collaborate with HP’s enterprise group and its Imaging and Printing Group run by Lloyd Bryant on large deals. With the Hurd/Apotheker switch he said that management changes occur all the time in business and usually it doesn’t have any material effect on their business units.

While PSG Canada had a great year, it wasn’t without its challenges.

Salameh said that one of his toughest decisions was to stop doing business with a channel partner who dramatically discounted the price of HP product. That price drop set off a chain reaction where other resellers were forced to follow suit.

“Our brand has cache in the market place and I don’t want it to be like Acer. Therefore the price cannot be so low for it to cause brand degradation. This was difficult. It was a test of our trust (with other partners),” he said.

Salameh said this situation was a big learning experience with the channel.

But the channel also provided Salameh with his most enjoyable experience of 2010.At the Americas Partner Conference (APC) in Las Vegas this year, Salameh just 10 months into the job, found the experience of being indoctrinated into the channel to be fun.

“I got to finally understand them and start to build relationships with them. One of them just sent me a card that said ‘Thanks Charles. I met you at APC and in 30 minutes you struck me to be a goal-oriented person and committed to creating a new partnership. I am grateful for the business.’”

The APC experience was Salameh’s personal highlight for 2010, he said. “It all started at APC, I got to cut real deals and they were all hand shake deals with no fancy paper work and I had a lot of fun doing that,” he added.

The HP Store

To top off the year PSG took the wraps of its first of many HP stores in Vancouver in December. The rollout plan for the rest of the country is still being worked on. The only thing Salameh would say about the HP Store is that the focus will be on the experience for patrons.

With 2010 being a transitional year, Salameh says that everyone at PSG Canada is now on the same page heading into 2011. Armed with new 3D notebooks, which by the way were the first two items sold at the HP Store in Vancouver, Palm WebOS entering the picture, he wants next year to be a whole new experience, not just for customers walking into the HP Store, but for PSG staffers and its channel partners.

Follow Paolo Del Nibletto on Twitter: @PaoloCDN.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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