The Exit Interview

After an unsuspected promotion to the top job at Ingram Micro Canada, Martin Kalsbeek has decided to step down as vice-president and GM of the distributor.Kalsbeek, who has been on the job for a little over two-years, will continue to lead the Canadian operation until his successor is named.

After that person is appointed, he will remain with the company and work on a consultative basis with the new leader until the end of the year.

Kalsbeek, who started at Ingram in 1992, said he and his wife made the difficult decision to move back to Western Canada. Kalsbeek has been away from his home town for more than 13 years and is calling the move a “lifestyle choice.”

Keith Bradley, president of Ingram’s North American region, who was responsible for hiring Kalsbeek after dismissing former president Murray Wright and vice-president of marketing Dave Walsh in one fell swoop back in May of 2005, said Kalsbeek has been a significant contributor to the growth of the Canadian operations during his 15-year tenure.

Bradley will have the final say on who the new Canadian GM will be. CDN talked to Kalsbeek shortly after the announcement.

CDN: You took over at a time of immense turmoil at the company in Canada. How do you think you leave the subsidiary?

Martin Kalsbeek: In stronger shape than it’s ever been. We had strong financial results in our most recent quarter and Canada contributed very favourably to the North American results. Relationships with customers and vendors are strong. The sales coverage has improved and inventory levels have improved. Even the way we transport products and our credit coverage has improved. We hear from customers and vendors and they appreciate what we have done. We developed core competencies such as identifying market opportunities and executing against them. One of those was Nemx now called the Data Capture/POS division. Managed services was another one in Canada. We did a nice job in our components business. We launched in the last couple of years a CE initiative and have done well in that space, with growth in the last three years.

CDN: There has been a lot of waffling at Ingram over the last five or six years, with the notion of a North American region strategy, with a Candian leader and without one. Can you say, now that you have had this job, that there is a need for a Canadian leader?

M.K.: I tend to disagree with the waffling. Even if we realign Canada as a North American region, Ingram Micro felt strongly about having a strong leader in Canada. With my personnel changes with Keith there were no discussions on not having a leader for this Canadian business. We even started talking about a new leadership (candidates) internally and externally. The company thinks it is a vital position and one that is not going away.

CDN: Do you think that person should be a Canadian or does it matter?

M.K.: The Canadian marketplace is a unique market and I think whether it is a Canadian or an outsider whoever that person is, they have to understand the reseller and vendor requirements. We focused on getting closer to the customer, and there are differences in other places around the world including the U.S. As you recall, Asgar Falstrup (Ingram Micro Canda GM before Murray Wright) was from Europe and he was successful. He focused on customer needs. I am not trying to be coy here, but it is all about your approach. It is not about being Canadian. What matters is the approach that person takes.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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