Few corporate executives vanquish their enemies as thoroughly as Nick Tidd did this year.
In back-to-back Ontario court decisions the former head of 3Com Canada, who is now the company’s vice-president of North American channels and compliance, thumped a handful of resellers who the manufacturer
said had bilked it out of millions of dollars during the dot-com craze.
It was particularly sweet in one case where a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs dragged up the 1988 divorce of Tidd’s parents, who were once in the IT industry, a moment he called “”utterly despicable.””
“”It’s not for the faint-hearted,”” he said of being cross-examined. In one trial, he was on the stand for five days.
But after having been burned by thousands of pieces of 3Com gear disappearing into the grey market the company wanted to send a message: It wasn’t going to be pushed around.
Which, in part, is why in 2003 he was promoted to head of the company’s compliance department — Tidd is the one who’s pushing back.
Recently he was named president of the Anti-Grey Market Alliance, a group of 11 major manufacturers who have vowed to protect the integrity of their products and channels.
But back to the trials. There was something odd about the evidence at one I attended. On the one hand, Tidd testified about warning his staff to scrutinize deals. On the other there were dozens of e-mails producced showing 3Com executives urging them not to lose lucrative orders from resellers. Was 3Com overly eager in those days?
“”Certainly every manufacturer is excited about [large] opportunities,””
he replied in an interview. “”But when it came down to it that [reseller] organization blatantly misrepresented the opportunity, presented facts that were false, and therefore we were awarded a substantial judgment.””
The trials had hardly finished when Tidd was plunged into another cauldron: In April his successor in Canada, Bruce Comeau, was removed, the
position of national channel manager abolished and responsibility for Canada put in the hands of a U.S.-based executive.
All moves were part of worldwide changes cause by the company’s financial results.
Some Canadian resellers were outraged. Most, however, were molified that at the same time the company moved to an all-channel sales strategy. And Tidd won the title of VP channels for the continent.
“”On the surface it looked like we were pulling out [of Canada],”” he said, “”but we’ve put more resources into the organization than in the past,”” such as technical support.
He stressed sales teams across the country are still in place.
In September he began overhauling the company’s channels, trying to make it easier for the 1,500 Canadian partners to do work with 3Com while — again — shaking things up. A new partner program was announced, putting more emphasis on specialization, details of which are about to be unveiled. Meanwhile VARs are being evaluated — together, Tidd stresses.
“”It was clear to us that we had too many partners at certain levels and [were] thus diluting the value proposition of being in the [channel] program,”” explained Tidd. The new program will reward resellers for their technical and sales expertise.
Twelve months ago Tidd had a mere staff position: To take the fabled 30,000-foot view of the company’s workings. “”I had great opportunity to evaluate our go-to-market strategies and comment and make recommendations. And then April 20 when I took over the channel organization they said ‘OK, do it.’
“”It was a tough decision because my family still lives in Toronto. My children are still 12, 11 and 7. I spoke to some of my peers who had moved to the United States and concluded to move children that young is not a wise thing.”” So he commutes regularly to Boston.
“”It’s been an exhausting year, and a difficult year for my family, but outside of the changes we had to make at 3Com Canada, it’s been a tremendous year.
“”I see us impacting change, I see us with a product portfolio that is broad and robust and positioning us well, and I see a partner base that reminds me of the Apple reseller base — it’s almost like a cult.””
Perhaps a bad choice of words. It could be argued the cult of selling got 3Com into trouble a few years ago.