Quebec resellers see strength in numbers

As a regional sales account manager at the hardware and software company Ingram Micro Canada (NYSE: IM), and with more than 15 years experience in IT sales, Carl Paquin worked daily with highly-talented resellers who earned high sales revenue for their independent regions in Quebec, but who were viewed as small players by distribution partners.

Envisioning a company that could provide financial rebates and time-saving marketing and training campaigns, Paquin along with co-founder Pierre Laurin, created The Millenium Micro Group Corporation in 2003, a group of independent resellers, value-added resellers and system integrators operating in retail sales for individuals and SMBs.

“All of the stores maintain independent and interact with distributors directly,” Paquin said. “They don’t come to us for supplies, they just use our agreements. We do business with suppliers, vendors and service companies.”

The joint vendor agreement is the principal benefit for dealers, providing financial rebates and discounts from distribution partners and service providers for bulk purchases. The vendors recognize all retailers as one entity, and service providers give dealers reduced interest rates for a variety of services.

The main mission of the business is to help computer dealers grow and provide tools to help them remain competitive in the IT market.

“We are a buying group built by people in this industry. We know the industry for dealers and we have a huge tool box for dealers,” Paquin said.

The Montreal-based company began with 20 owners from across Quebec earning $40 million in revenue a year. In less than five years, the company has expanded to include 975 employees from 100 establishments earning $185 million in revenue a year.

In order to support their resellers, Millenium offers many training sessions and marketing assistance to help improve the quality of their retailer’s businesses.

The network of 900 individuals provides a support system for new computer dealers, Paquin said. In order to support their family, Group Millenium Micro holds an annual convention with 74 vendor booths, holds training sessions throughout the year, and provides each retailer with personalized marketing material.

The annual convention invites suppliers in to explain the technical components of their products in a classroom setting and allows dealers to receive precious product information from their suppliers. They also give hands-on training and technical support for hardware and software, courses which Paquin said could cost $600 from an outside source. On the marketing side, the group produces and distributes 400,000, 12 page, colour flyers to every small and medium sized business in the province.

The group has also improved the productivity of their retailers, creating software to help compare products and prices from all of their distribution partners. When retailers are on a distributor’s Web page, they can highlight a product to find out where it is located geographically. If a retailer wants to buy something new, the software will also automatically add the part numbers to their accounting software.

The Millenium Micro Group Corp. has three divisions with the same vendor portfolio: Group Millenium Micro assists retailers and SMBs, Group Millenium Micro Business Solutions is comprised of value added resellers without a storefront, and the latest division is education, which was added this past August and includes every technology retailer for high schools and universities in Quebec.

Three weeks ago, the company expanded further adding two stores in New Brunswick, the first two retailers outside of Quebec.

“From the beginning, our goal was to expand across Quebec and we have done that from Ottawa to North East Quebec. By the first quarter of 2009 we hope to be in all provinces on the East coast. Our first step is the Maritimes, and the second step will be Ontario. We don’t want to be a Quebec-only buying group; we want to be a Canada-wide buying group.”

However the group is mindful of each member’s territory when expanding accepting only one member retailer from each small region. “We will never sign a dealer in the same area,” Paquin said.

The company has had no problem convincing dealers of the group’s advantages, Paquin said.

Ninety-five per cent of potential clients have ended up signing with the group after hearing its benefits.

“Resellers see the advantages of being in our group. They know they will make more money with us and they like being able to join a family – knowing they’re not alone. We’re there to support each dealer because they are part of our family and we have to take care of them.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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