For Ken Lamneck, the president of Tech Data Americas, being ultimately responsible for distribution companies in the U.S., Canada and Latin America from afar takes leadership.
The West Point grad was taught leadership at an early age.
At Tech Data, Lamneck has led in many different facets. The underlining theme has always been to lead by example.
“You don’t want your people to do things you do not want to do. At the crux of it is trust and integrity,” Lamneck said.
Lamneck’s leadership will be tested as he tries to position the distributor as a broadline player with many specialty areas. He will also have to deal with the talent shortage and a potential downturn in the economy.
Lamneck was recently in Canada to visit the Tech Data team here and to make sure he kept in touch with this market. He sat down with CDN to discuss these topics and others.
CDN: What new product areas or new customer bases are you looking to expand in for 2008?
Ken Lamneck: One of the big focuses is SMB. Just like everyone else we have committed a significant amount of resources to that, and the team up here calls on the U.S. customers so that we can take advantage of the talent pools here. There has been a tight labour market in Florida (where Tech Data is based) for quite some time and the people there are concerned over hurricane season.
CDN: Is it your job to reposition Tech Data as a distributor that can be broadline and a specialty distributor all in one? Is that an important mandate for Tech Data and can it be done?
K.L.: We’re pioneering the specialty business units inside broad distribution. The focus is to get specialized from a sales and marketing point of view and from a technical point of view. To jump start a market you need specialization and once it does get to scale you can bring it back to the broadline business. That’s an important niche.
CDN: With Dell wanting to officially work with the channel in Canada and the U.S., what challenges or risks does that bring to Tech Data and its network of resellers?
K.L.: With anything, the challenge is the opportunity. We have no plans nor did we have any specific conversations with Dell about selling their products into the market place. They’re a smart company and will figure out their channel strategy and, at some point figure out their distribution strategy. But right now it’s grey and interesting.
CDN: The economy in the U.S. may be headed into recession and the U.S. President is proposing a short term stimulus package to avoid a downfall. Do you as a company brace yourself for the negative outcome or can you alter it?
K.L.: With the sub-prime scandal there is no way you can go unscathed and still, it’s incredible how resilient the economy of the U.S. and Canada is. It’s a very stable market, and even in normal times you would see a negative cycle in the economy with $3 a gallon for gas. With that, we start to see the impact on freight and we look at the cost of freight because that affects all. Where does that level out? We’ll have to wait and see what happens and how deep it is. One thing more about the North American economy, historically we have taken our medicine and moved on. We take the lumps and the hits and move on and go from there. Japan has issues and pushed the problem out, and it took 20 years of recovery. We’ve gone through lots of trials and tribulations with 9/11 and SOX and came through it in someways stronger. No one has a crystal ball. If there are job losses in the financial sector for the IT world it will have an impact on spending.
CDN: It looks as if the vendors are on this training and competency trend for its channel. Do you see that too, and if so what can Tech Data do in this area for their vendor partners?
K.L.: Very much so, and I think the trend will continue. We’re putting investments in those areas to get them certified where it makes sense, such as virtualization training. We think it’s a key in selling from a software and hardware perspective to help train the reseller. We’ll have the ability to augment this. As new vendors come to market they will spend more time training the ones we have.
CDN: Unified communications – they say this is the year for it. Do you believe it is and does Tech Data have a strategy for it?
K.L.: Very much so. We’ve seen what has happened in the area of VoIP. Unified communications is moving very fast and I think it will continue to move not necessarily this year, but for the next five years. The networking division is very focused on this and it looks like the resellers are focused on it too. It’s a huge opportunity for them and for growth.