To say that Greg Spierkel is bulletproof would be wrong, but he certainly has made Ingram Micro that. As the CEO of the distributor, the Sept-Iles, Que.-native has managed to avoid profit-draining reseller collapses and dire market fluctuations in Europe to keep the broadline distributor in first place. Spierkel was appointed CEO a little over a year ago after Kent Foster retired.
Since then he acquired CE powerhouse AVAD, Symtech, recruited partners for Oracle, improved warranty service for VARs, launched a service portal, enhanced the SMB Alliance program, formed a North American services division and recently announced a managed services offering through a partnership with Ottawa-based Level Platforms.
CDN sat down with Spierkel at the company’s semi-annual VentureTech Network conference in Palm Springs, Calif.
CDN: When I look at the MSP Seismic and the whole North American services offerings, I see a company whose core competency as a broadline distributor is changing in a realitively short amount of time. Has Ingram’s core business philosophy transitioned?
Greg Spierkel: It’s evolving to be more relevant to an evolving marketplace. The company used to be about products and price information and latching onto a market that had 30 per cent growth rates in the ‘90s. Then everything slowed down. We put a lot of emphasis in the last few years to provide more services and this is a capstone division with a lot of focus. But it is not the only thing we are doing. We are focused on solutions with CE, communications and IT solutions. There is a heck of lot going on there. We are on the front edge there and we have a lot of the pieces. We are, frankly, trying to build something different. It is a service offering at the end of the day. There are solutions, too, for a different set of customers that are starting to merge and overlap. The new product areas will be significant such as RFID, POS, storage and not just from a product point of view but a solution offering. We are trying to help the vendors and the resellers become more relevant as the price points come down and the complexity of the solution set rises and becomes more viable for small to medium size business. This offering today is an important next step in an evolution of a company that has moved beyond pick, pack and ship. A good analogy is six or seven years ago maybe 40 to 50 per cent of the products were being sent to the end customer. Now we do well over 90 per cent. So the reseller has changed his business model with us. Today we are going into another phase where the reseller is saying Ingram Micro is putting services together that are pretty expensive on their own. It is a major expenditure of about $25,000 to $100,000 depending on the size and we can leverage that over broadbase customers, while still maintaining independence.
CDN: Are we seeing the beginning of the end of Dell or the direct model?
G.S.: I would not say that. They have their issues. Frankly, they have a very efficient model. If anything I think Dell is signalling a shift to making their products more relevant on not just a cost basis, but an ease of use basis. It will be challenging for them. They do not have much R&D compared to Apple or HP. I would not count them out at all.
CDN: What do you see in VentureTech Network’s future?
G.S.: As long as they continue to grow at market rates or better we will add to the size of the organization, and it could grow faster than the entire IT market by maybe a factor of three X or four X. It will be a function of how successful we are and they are.
CDN: Why did you not get hit in Europe like your competitors?
G.S.: We have a deep, strong management team. We also standardized internal processes years ago so that you get early signals of changes and issues. No laggard operations.