For close to 20 years Tech Data Corp. has known only one leader – Steve Raymund. Last week he decided to step down from his CEO post, remaining as chairman of a company his father, Edward, founded in 1974.
Raymund, 50, has already begun the search for his replacement. The company said it will look at internal as well as external candidates. Meanwhile, he will continue as chief executive officer until the new CEO is appointed.
“The future is very encouraging for IT distribution and our company going forward,” Raymund said in a prepared statement.
According to Rick Reid, president of Tech Data Canada, Raymund’s departure from day-to-day operations will have very little impact on the Canadian subsidiary.
Reid is very positive about the move, saying that Raymund will be the most hands-on chairman in the IT industry. “This business is a hands on business and the devil is in the details. It is a very tactical business and Steve wants to pass the baton onto someone else,” he said.
Reid speculated that the front-runners for the new job are Jeffery Howells, the company’s CFO and Nester Cano, president of Tech Data’s European operations.
Reid would like to see in the new leader someone who is recognized by both the reseller and vendor community. “I hope it is someone who knows the history of this business and has the passion and knowledge of this business. Someone who can look outside the box of a traditional distributor because it is time to stop squeezing more out of the engine. We are profitable, but the trend can’t continue without significant change, and I hope the new person will bring this insight,” he said.
As for Raymund, his legacy in the IT industry is one of a distribution pioneer. A University of Oregon graduate, he joined Tech Data in 1981 as operations manager. From there he moved up to be COO in 1984 and then CEO in 1986. Over the years he turned his father’s fledging supplies and media distribution business into a broadline technology distributor second in global dominance to only Ingram Micro.
Tech Data went from a million dollar Clearwater, Fla.-based company to a global player with more than US$20 billion in annual revenues and 90,000 customers in more than 100 countries.
Raymund continued to steer the ship through Canadian expansion in 1989, becoming chairman of the board in 1991 and overseeing the acquisition of Computer 2000 AG of Munich, Germany in 1998 and Globelle Corp. of Mississauga, Ont. in 1999, he added.
Reid said that Raymund thought the Globelle acquisition was the most successful because of its immediate return and the synergies of both companies. “It was a major vote of confidence coming from him,” Reid said. Raymund gave Tech Data Canada the green light to acquire Globelle instead of the parent company after Globelle failed to make any inroads in the U.S. market.
But what Reid remembers most about Raymund is his approach to operational excellence. In his first month as president of the subsidiary Reid received an e-mail from Raymund “out of the blue” asking why peripheral sales for the month of May dropped below the component threshold of the month before. “I thought, ‘Man is this fellow into every detail’, and that is what this business is all about. You have to be very familiar with every detail of this business, and clearly that was the message he delivers to everyone,” he said.
Raymund, Reid believes, will go down as one of the most admired executives in the history of IT. He said he has never heard a discouraging word about Raymund from vendors, resellers, competitors, the press or technology user groups. Raymund is also, in his mind, one of the most knowledge people in the industry. “There wasn’t a topic you couldn’t raise with him in terms of distribution or technology that he did not have a view on.”