4 min read

One love, one Greg

Greg Spierkel offers more programs for the VentureTech Network

Greg Spierkel, the CEO of Ingram Micro, said that he has been traveling ever since he graduated from Carlton University in Ottawa.

The native of St. Iles, Que. travels every week for business. Just this year alone, he has visited 18 countries.

As the CEO of the largest distributor in the world, he is responsible for more than $35 billion of revenue for the Santa Ana, Calif.-based company.

His job and career has afforded him the opportunity to see the world where he has seen many places and met many interesting people.

But, it was his first significant trip, just before he was to start his career at Bell Canada, where Spierkel came across one of those change of lifetime meetings.

It was in Cannes during the film festival where Spierkel met and had a coffee with the King of Reggae music himself, Bob Marley.

The experience was surreal, according to Spierkel. Marley, who has created memorable songs such as One Love, Get Up Stand Up, We’re Jammin’, Exodus, and Redemption Song, was wearing a purple spandex jumpsuit and holding a large video camera.

Marley was surprised that anyone recognized him as he was at Cannes doing the same thing Spierkel was: spotting celebrities.

Spierkel added that this chance meeting led to absolute zero impact in his business career.

While the Marley meeting delivered no long lasting impact to him, Spierkel would over his time as Ingram boss, make a significant impact on Venture­Tech ­Network (VTN) members. I sat down with Spierkel to discuss his new VTN initiatives and more.

CDN: NexInnovations problems look like a great opportunity for Ingram Micro. Do you see it that way?

Greg Spierkel: In some form, but I am not close to it. I heard about it last week. I knew that there was a chance of it happening. I think Softchoice is a good customer of ours. It is a great starting point and we’ll have to see how it turns up. Anytime a company goes through what NexInnovations has gone through you lose a lot of people and capabilities. That is the challenge for that person who has to pick up what is left. It does put us in a decent position since we already work with them. You’ve got to believe it will take weeks or months until the dust settles.

CDN: Their problem from what we found out was margin pressure. Is NexInnovations troubles a sign of things around the world?

G.S.: Not an issue brewing at all. This is a one off and there are some companies around the world that are struggling. Some close and life goes on. Others take advantage of the NexInnovations situation. Those that understand cash flows and cash management (can take advantage of this kind of situation). They were good at selling as an organization. It has been six or seven months since I had a discussion on NexInnovations and they were struggling with control and did not manage back end rebates and cut deals where people were not aware of what those implications or those deals were. Some companies have great controls and do well and this is an example, although an unfortunate one, of a company with issues and the lack of visibility that cost them. This was not a one quarter thing. They were on the ropes for two years and looking for someone to team up with or develop a strategic relationship with to save the company. Unfortunately it did not happen. There is no pattern in my mind around the world. For every one of those there are 100 doing well.

CDN: In hindsight do you think that by going exclusive with Tech Data or if any other top solution provider goes exclusive in this day and business climate is a mistake?

G.S.: No it is not because of Tech data. That did not hurt them they got better prices by going exclusive. It was more about fundamental issues within the company.

CDN: I want to ask you about the Australian market. How come there are 80 distributors there and what kind of challenges does that pose for you and your business?

G.S.: In Australia, there a large number, but many are smaller players. If I went around Europe there is 800 spread out all over, but only a 12 to two dozen that can challenge us on specializations or capabilities or through a territory. In Australia, we are by far the largest player. We are closing in on $2 billion plus revenue mark. It is a similar nation to Canada. Still there are challenges with local competitors.

CDN: What is your plan for the VTN community and pushing them to the next level?

G.S.: Constantly evolving it and one of the great things, (I credit Justin Crotty and Kirk Robinson now with), is our VTN council both in the U.S. and Canada that are constantly providing new ideas. We bring new things to them. We announced three things here such as the Zones community sharing tool. We got the new Cisco solution Smart Net in place sitting on our portal. We also have helped SIs and VAR to start thinking about exit strategies with the M&A forum. What is kind of neat is we talked about MSP last year and it’s been a nice start to the year. We made eight or nine major announcements since then. We built a platform and VTN gets everything. The Ingram Micro services network on Best Buy enables them to get access to new business leads. Ingram Micro with VTN are getting access to business they would not see.