From a trunk-of-the-car computer business to the corner office of a $1-billion-a-year distributor, Jim Estill’s 27 years in the channel have reflected and shaped the nature of the business in Canada. He’s never far from the top of CDN’s annual list of newsmakers – in 2004, he topped the list when he sold self-made EMJ Data Systems Ltd. to U.S. distribution giant Synnex Corp. for $56 million in cash.

As CEO of Synnex Canada, he’s presided over aggressive growth of the Synnex footprint in the western Canadian market, doubling the size of its Calgary warehouse facility. At the same time, he manages to maintain a CEO blog at jimestill.com that focuses on one of his pet interests, time management. “Unlike some tedious tech-company bloggers, he doesn’t just drone on about the latest product his company launched,” reported Forbes.com. “Estill is less of a marketer and more of an executive coach.”

Though EMJ and the channel in Canada grew up at the same time, Estill takes no credit for shaping the channel. “In reality, the channel continued to be shaped, and we conformed to it.” Estill says he’s a strategic marketer, building EMJ on niches – Apple products, point-of-sale, Acer products. The strategy: Look at what competitors are doing, do something else, and dominate.

“I’m a business optimist,” says Estill. “Technological changes mean opportunity. The pessimists complains that commoditization is eroding margins; the optimist says move to higher-margin products. The challenge is to use the back-end of a broadline distribution business, but still offer segmented solutions.”

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