In conversation: Outgoing, incoming heads of Ingram Micro Canada

There will soon be a change at the top at Ingram Micro Canada, and on Tuesday, outgoing chief country executive Bill Brandel, and his successor, Tyler Coughlan, talked about what that all means in an interview with CDN, as they both take on new corporate roles.

Effective Jan. 1, Brandel will return to the U.S. as senior vice president, Go to Market, and, based in Buffalo, N.Y. where he resides, oversee U.S. sales, vendor management, and marketing functions and organizations. He will also be closely involved in evolving Xvantage, the company’s artificial intelligence (AI)-driven digital business platform.

Coughlan, a 26-year veteran at Ingram Micro who has spent the bulk of his career at its head office in Irvine, Calif., and for the past year served as vice president of sales in Canada, will, as Brandel has done since arriving in 2016, oversee Ingram Micro Canada’s business and organization.

Reflecting on that first day on the job, when he drove from Buffalo to the company’s Canadian headquarters in Mississauga, Ont., Brandel recalled, “I would not be truthful if I said I was not terrified, rolling down the street, seeing this building looming in my windshield. And I remember telling the team that I literally pulled off the road and called my wife and said, ‘what were they thinking putting me here?’

“But it was one of those things – and I tried to tell this to Tyler – that I could not believe how amazing everyone was in welcoming me – not only my own personal team, because they have a vested interest – I am the new leader – but also the partners and the vendors. What I learned was the spirit of collaboration and partnership is unique here in Canada.”

Brandel quickly also learned and appreciated that there are indeed subtle, and in many respects, major differences between the two nations.

“What I learned is you have far greater roots and are more connected to the whole Commonwealth, and the whole European feel versus the U.S.,” he said. “Yes, we might share a border, but you share a history that goes back much farther. I believe the way you do business is far more like what I have seen done in Europe, and in other countries in the Commonwealth. It was eye opening for me. Once I understood that, I started to interact differently and it helped me evolve not only as a businessman, but personally. I will tell you, I became a Canadian in these last seven years.

“There will always be a piece of Canada with me, no matter where I go now. That is for sure. And I hope to someday be back in the future.”

Coughlan, meanwhile, describes the personal journey that saw him leave Irvine and come north a year ago as an “interesting one. Without a doubt it is a big change coming from Southern California, and my wife had never experienced snow in her life, so we were a little worried about that. But let me just reiterate something that Bill was saying about the warmth and grace of people and how they accepted me.

“Not only from an internal perspective within Ingram, which you would expect, but the vendors and the partners. The willingness to open up and welcome not only me, but my wife, was so important and impactful that we will be forever grateful. And when people  from Southern California, ask, ‘Ty, how are you doing with the transition?’ I look them right in the eyes and say, fantastic. And they say, ‘why’ and I say it is because of the people.

“We moved here, we are embracing the culture and trying to explore Canada and make sure that we really maximize this opportunity.”

Brandel said he is “encouraged that Tyler will be able to really hit the ground running in its truest fashion. He is taking on a few extra responsibilities such as leading the entire organization. But the good news is, he understands how the partners and vendor think, which is really critical.”

Brandel’s departure to the U.S. also means he will reluctantly be giving up his seat on the board of directors of the Canadian Channel Chiefs Council (C4), an organization he joined soon after coming to Canada, after meeting the late Fawn Annan, its founder and the CEO of IT World Canada, who passed away earlier this year.

“Fawn was one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met in this industry,” said Brandel. “She was a visionary, and we became friends. The day I received my C4 designation was one of the proudest moments of my life. Even though I knew I was a channel leader, and by design, my role was a channel leader, it was validated by a community of my peers, and I took a lot of pride in it.

“I will be handing the reins over to Tyler to be my successor, to take the seat on the board. And I do believe that community is on the brink of really evolving. I know Mark Collins (president of C4) and the team have a good handle on what needs to be done, and I think they are going to need the support of the community.”

He added that the challenge the organization faces moving forward is that “Fawn was such a powerful figure and so many people identified C4 with Fawn. The reality is, she built something great, and it will be a shame to have it disappear, just because she has moved on.

“I think that she would be disappointed in all of us if we did not seize the opportunity to take this great community into the areas that I believe she saw for it. It is really on us now, as leaders, to pick up the mantle and take it to where, I believe, this could be a very influential community in the Canadian marketplace.”

Calling it a “great organization,” Coughlan says that C4 provides a “sense of community and a sense of continual improvement, not only from a company perspective, but a personal development perspective as well.”

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Paul Barker
Paul Barker
Paul Barker is the founder of PBC Communications, an independent writing firm that specializes in freelance journalism. He has extensive experience as a reporter, feature writer and editor and has been covering technology-related issues for more than 30 years.

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