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Q&A with Keith Bradley, president, Ingram Micro North America

Ingram Micro's North American president Keith Bradley advises partners that the recession is ending soon and they should prepare for the uptake by creating a business plan

DENVER – Ingram Micro Inc.‘s North American senior executive vice-president and president, Keith Bradley, wants to give this message to the channel community, “Get ready to invest in the future with us because the recession is ending.”

This year’s fall VentureTech Network (VTN) Invitational conference event saw more than 600 VTN members, vendor sponsors and Ingram Micro associates in attendance. The over-arching conference theme encouraged partners to unite, collaborate and thrive together, especially during these tough economic times.

CDN had a candid conversation with Bradley, where he discussed the distributor’s year in business, what’s keeping him busy these days, and what his goals and objectives are for the company and its channel community for 2010.

CDN: How would you sum up Ingram Micro’s North American business this year?

Keith Bradley: Our strategy today is roughly what we had three to four years ago and our strategy has three pieces, which include what we do with our core business, what we do with adjacencies and what we do inside services. There’s been an evolution of Ingram Micro, where we took one large two-tier model and transformed it into a conglomerate of IT companies.

The big question that partners have right now is, how do I align myself to the customer segment and the marketplace? I think the whole community is guilty of reactive selling instead of proactive selling. Proactive selling is based on having conversations with end-users and looking at their data and business needs to do refresh cycles, and it also means talking about best practices.

Solution areas such as mid-range server storage, digital signage, data capture and point of sale are bringing more value to the marketplace and the reseller base. This year we’re focused on the core business to make sure it’s strong to come out on top of the recession.

When it comes to selling, whether it’s a sales person, or a reseller, they need to make sure they understand the results that an end-user is trying to achieve. If we don’t understand the business results, each business decision maker will see things differently. For instance, a CIO would see things differently than an IT manager. Today, we’re seeing more technology decisions being made by a group of management leaders instead of just one person.

CDN: What’s your message to help partners get off the ground and running once the economy picks up?

K.B.: I believe we’re in the middle of the second half of this recession. I would tell partners to look at making smart investments and to look at what resources they need to create the roadmap for themselves and with Ingram Micro. I’d also tell partners to use the VTN Business Intelligence portal to help develop a roadmap and make investments in certain resources. This tool will help partners evolve from reactive selling to more proactive selling, so more margins will be available to partners.

CDN: As president of Ingram’s North American operations, what’s keeping you busy these days?

K.B.: What’s keeping me busy and up at night is making sure that we’re managing the recession well, which I believe we’ve done. We need to make sure our partners can position themselves well so they can successfully participate in the economy once the recession ends. I’m also looking at how to position the company three to five years down the road. Cloud computing would be an example of our three to five year strategy. In the short-term, we’ll be looking at solutions relating to the data centre. In 2010, we’ll be making further investments here because this will be a high growth area for resellers. I’m also concerned in making big investments in people. I spend probably about 25 per cent of my time thinking about people development, job rotations, training, etc.

CDN: What market trends or opportunities are at the forefront for your and your partners’ businesses this year?

K.B.: Networking continues to grow and solutions around the data centre. There are other high growth, developing areas which include digital signage, document management and physical security.

CDN: What are your objectives and goals for the new year?

K.B.: To come out of the recession and to prepare ourselves and our partners for a strong rebound. I’d tell partners to make their limited bets and to develop a smart roadmap to be proactive in the environment. The roadmap comes down to people and making sure you have the right ones in the right jobs and to make sure that they’re properly networked. Partners also need to make sure that they’re managing their plans on a consistent basis.

Overall though, my message to partners is to get ready to invest in the future with us because the recession is ending.