Nick Tidd, President of 3Com Canada

Nick Tidd feels as if he’s gone from the frying pan to the fire.

The director of business compliance and go-to-market strategy for 3Com Corp. has been involved in the negotiations that led to the establishment of a joint venture with Huawei (pronounced Wah-way), a Chinese equipment manufacturer.

Although the agreement was not finalized until mid-November, Huawei-3Com Co. Ltd., which has its main operations in Hangzhou, has been manufacturing 3Com products, such as the 5000 Series routers released in the fall.

3Com has the rights to support and market Huawei products under the 3Com brand in all countries except China and Japan, and in two years will have the right to a majority ownership of the venture.

Tidd was appointed 3Com Canada country manager four years ago, and was promoted to his current position last summer. He travels frequently, though he still lives in the Toronto area and will continue to run the Canadian operation, in addition to his new duties, until a replacement is selected.

He thinks he was chosen to usher in the Huawei deal partly because of his expertise in different areas and because of his entrepreneurial spirit.

“”Running a country for any manufacturer, you really have to be good at a lot of things, from HR to finance, to legal, to sales, to marketing, because you really are running a self-contained entity,”” he said.

Tidd, 38, was head of mobile products for U.S. Robotics in Canada before it was acquired by 3Com Corp. He got his IT through experience in his family’s businesses. His father ran ASAP, an IBM PC reseller, while his mother ran Zenith Data Systems, which solds part for major printers. As a teenager, he had a summer job wiring mainframes for an Ontario Ministry of Health office in Toronto.

“”I’ve always been very much an entrepreneur,”” he said. “”Even though I work for a major corporation, that entrepreneurial spirit has really been my upbringing — to treat every dollar as if it was my own and treat every decision as if it was impacting me personally and financially, as opposed to just saying, ‘Oh, 3Com’s a big corporation. I don’t need to worry about that.'””

Although Tidd still lives in the Toronto area, his job takes him to locations in China and other parts of the world.

Although his job in Canada was demanding, he said when you’re dealing with people around the world, “”you’re on the clock 24/7.””

A major part of his job is taking lessons learned from Canada and applying them to 3Com operations elsewhere. He is called upon to devise strategies including key messages, product positioning and feature sets.

One of his major tasks with Huawei was to see how the Chinese firm, with different characteristics, would fit into 3Com’s corporate culture, and figure out how it should communicate with partners.

“”I certainly had a feel for what it looks like and how it behaves,”” he said. “”You put on top of that the pure cultural difference between North America and what you’d find in China — the way in which we go to market and the way in which we run our businesses. Patience is definitely something you need to have.””

Although Tidd doesn’t deny that Canadians work hard, he noted Chinese frequently work weekends and there’s a residence at the Huawei plant — complete with a gym and movie theatre.

“”It was amazing, going through the facility for the first time, seeing people asleep under their desks for a nap. Often times we make jokes in Canada that people are asleep with their eyes open at their desks.””

There are additional cultural differences that directly affect channel partners.

“”In China, it’s quite common that manufacturers almost dictate to that reseller who they can sell, how they can sell it,”” he said. “”The emergence of partner programs is not as advanced as in North America.””

3Com intends to use its existing channel program to sell Huawei-3Com products outside China and Japan. The joint venture will employ 1,500 Huawei workers in China, plus additional staff hired by 3Com.

The vendor is contributing $160 million worth of cash and assets related to its operations in China and Japan.

One of the first products made from the joint venture is the 5000 Series routers, which are designed to provide wide-area networking (WAN) between main and branch offices, supporting secure Internet services, traffic prioritization and virtual private networking.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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