3 min read

Keating speaks up

Founder and CEO of Keating Technologies talks about the IT downturn, the lessons he has learned and the true meaning of sibling rivalryrn



Since 1987, Keating Technologies has sold $1 billion in technology products and services to Canadian consumers. Through its offices in Vancouver, Markham and Montreal, it provides marketing management services, including sales, marketing and merchandising.

Keating represents leading manufacture

partners including Celestica, Gateway and Rio. The firm also works with distributor and reseller partners by bringing technology products and services to Canadian businesses via retail, corporate, government and education markets.

The company has been relatively quiet, so we gave president and CEO Larry Keating a call.

CDN: The downturn in the IT industry hit distributors pretty hard. How did this affect Keating?

Larry Keating: We were hard hit. We felt that across all our product lines, but we’ve recovered from it. 2002 was generally the worst of it for us. We saw in fiscal 2003 a trend of recovery and 2004 now know how to operate in this new environment.

The adadge, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is absolutely true. Keating Technologies had been around 15 years before the tech wreck. We’ve learned more about how to operate in these environments in last three years. Being in recovery that long is very challenging. We’ve fully recovered our position.

CDN: Keating launched pay-as-you-go technical services in August. This is a new venture. How is it working out so far?

L.K.: It’s a little slow to start. We’re not marketing it aggressively as product. We wanted to find our feet in service. The word is getting out. We’re getting calls and it’s good to see that folks realize the value of it. They just want to get it to work.

CDN: Gateway had to close all of its retail locations in Canada a few years back. How have you helped them get back on track since?

L.K: Our relationship with Gateway has been to help establish them in a number of markets, including corporate, retail and direct. They’ve gone through dramatic changes in the organization. We’ve taken them into major retailers and developed VAR partnerships for them. At this time what they’ve been doing is the one step back, two steps forward strategy. We expect that as they get that situation fully deployed, the channel will see them re-emerge to VAR partners.

CDN: U.K.-based Sophos is another one of your clients. With antivirus and anti-spam solutions flooding the market, it’s tough as it is. How are you helping Sophos break into the Canadian market?

L.K.: What we’re doing is helping them develop a VAR partner channel. They went through a merger themselves in North America. With antispam and antivirus being directed at the corporate space, we’ve decided on that particular channel.

CDN: U.S. Robotics was acquired by 3Com Corp. in 1997 and came back on its own in 2001 as manufacturer of voice analogue modems and wireless devices. It also had plans to develop NIC and wireless routers, which it has. How has this company made its comeback and where does Keating fit in?

L.K.: U.S. Robotics is a great example of how companies are competing in this new era that we’re in in technology. Keating’s been in the modems business since 1987. (USR) still holds a considerable market share for folks who don’t have broadband and is known for building high quality products. We help represent them to all of the market and ensure that all of the services are in place. Partners are aware of the value of distinction.

CDN: Keating also represents consumer electronics products such as RIO (MP3 players) and Palm. How do you manage both sides of business?

L.K.: It’s all about convergence. With Palm you’ve got a computer product that can be used by a consumer. That led us into RIO. We’ve found skills in managing and developing markets that were applicable. It takes us into some new categories of technology.

CDN: Are you looking to grow your consumer business?

L.K.: Yes. We’re probably running at 70 per cent technical and 30 per cent C.E. I think that’s a healthy split.

CDN: What’s it like being in a partnership with your brothers? Why not choose sole proprietorship?

L.K.: It’s actually amazing how three brothers working together can get along so well. We all have our respective strengths and responsibilities. We haven’t put too much effort into giving each other room to operate independently. We just happen to be three brothers who know how to work together.