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The Top 25 Newsmakers of 2007 – Number 1: Greg Davis

The former Dell Canada GM takes on the job of a lifetime to build and foster a solution provider channel in a totally direct organization

Greg Davis, former GM of Dell’s Canadian operation, has committed himself to a long journey as the company’s first ever channel chief.

His task is monumental. Davis will have to turn a company’s culture, which has been built on 23 successful years of direct selling, 180 degrees towards uncharted and admittedly rough channel waters.

Michael Dell’s declaration this year that the direct model, he created was just a revolution, and not a religion, made headlines around the world.

Davis wasn’t sure what to make of Michael Dell’s shocking statement. But he said the reality of the situation for Dell was quite clear. The company, despite its direct strategy and its overt marketing ploys, has relationships with 15,000 channel players in North America.

“We’ve been quiet about it, but we have been creating a value proposition for thousands of partners who can take advantage of Dell’s operational efficiencies and we are proud of that,” he said.

The only difference now is that the company is devoted to adding value to growing that base and making them stronger so that Dell can win back more market share overall.

Davis blends

Davis sees this job as a tremendous personal challenge and at the same time an opportunity for the company. He will be taking an evolutionary approach to winning over the channel; a community that Dell at certain points in time outsmarted, embarrassed, angered, belittled and made irrelevant. Davis believes it will take a minimum of three years for Dell to really become a channel vendor similar to its main rival, HP.

Many questioned Davis’ appointment, saying what Dell needed was an established channel executive instead of a company insider. Davis, on the other hand, said for Dell to make its channel business work successfully it needed balance from the old model to the new direction in a go to market strategy.

“This is a journey for us and we have a culture to change and augment with channel. We will need to work through issues such as channel conflict that occurs, and clearly it will for us,” Davis said.

That journey officially began on Dec. 5 with the rollout of a comprehensive channel program that will include deal registration and a partner portal site as its major components. One thing it will not include is back-end rebates (more on Dell’s channel program on page 3).

Davis said the challenge ahead of him will require two specific skills. The first is an understanding of the partner requirements. The second is to be an advocate of the channel inside Dell.

“I am the voice for that. To be successful over three years an in-depth knowledge of our process is vital. Everything here is built on direct and we are working hard to model those processes for channel benefit. To be successful you need a blend of those two things,” he said.

Currently the Dell Channel Program is being pilot-tested to 75 American channel partners.

The results of the pilot will be published, Davis said. He wants to be as transparent as possible in this journey.

“I do not want to come out and say we have deal registration and be quiet about it.”

Those facts such as number of approved deals and turn around, will be published on the Partner Portal site. “I want to be up front and minimize conflict and we will work to revise any areas in the process. If we do that we will build a sense of trust that is fair to partners and that over time is what we are trying to build. And you have to communicate that,” Davis said.

There will be a number of initiatives in the coming months for Davis to work on. The priority starting right after the Dec. 5th announcement is to grow channel relationships around the world.

After the launch in the U.S., Canada will be next. “What we have to do is extend our value proposition around the world to develop multiple routes to market,” he said.

The middle man

Davis has learned a lot from his two-plus years in Canada. This included growing Dell’s direct business, its consumer business, commercial segment, public sector and even the channel. Also part of this was a headline grabbing partnership with Wal-Mart Canada to make its desktop systems available at retail.

“I got a real opportunity to see all the different facets of a complex business,” he said of his time in Canada.

Davis did not think he would become the central character in the Dell’s embracing of the channel drama, but that is what he is. And there is no time to think about his lot in life. Davis has truly become the man in the middle in a company that not that long ago campaigned to cut out the middle man.