Paul Tsaparis had the enviable job this year of making his company one of the biggest IT organizations in the nation. Some of his competitors wish they could have had such a burden.

By all accounts, he’s handled the integration of Compaq Canada employees with HP and developing a made-in-Canada

strategy well.

“We’re very happy,” says Todd Irie, director of marketing at NexInnovations Inc., one of the largest HP and Compaq resellers in Canada.

“They had electronic tools in place so we got (corporate) updates as soon as they came out, which was a great idea. That was central, and it was followed up by a corporate person, which is equally important.”

Paul Edwards, director of partner and channel programs at Toronto-based IDC Canada, also believes Tsaparis has done well. “They have done a good job of bringing their program strategy to bear in a short period of time, which is always a good starting point,” Edwards says

“Now it comes down to implementation.”

In a sluggish market, that will pose many challenges. But the former captain of his high school football, basketball and track team who rose from marketing to lead HP Canada shrugs it off.

The merger was a lot less of a strain than he imagined, he admits. His goal, to identify the future of every employee three months after the take-over came into effect, was exceeded for the vital staff who deal with customers. Extensive consulting with HP and Compaq reseller advisory committees helped deal with VAR concerns.

Combined company head count was another problem he had to deal with. However, when HP Canada signed a $2 billion outsourcing deal with the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, his company ended up with 8,000 people across the country, a net gain of 1,200 jobs from before the merger. But staffing issues may not be over. HP, which cut 12,500 jobs worldwide in the merger so far, said in November it will cut another 1,100. By the end of next year 17,900 jobs around the globe will have been shed.

The merger has resulted in a new reseller program called PartnerOne, with an increased direct sales component for HP in the U.S. that may make some VARs on this side of the border uneasy.

But Tsaparis is quick to say that in Canada, PartnerOne stresses the role of resellers and integrators. “Hewlett-Packard Canada puts more products and services through the channel than any other IT company by a long shot,” he says. “Our relationship with the channel is a top priority.”

“We have taken a dramatically different tact in Canada,” he says. “Our go-to-market strategy is with our resellers.” Briefly, means resellers who add more HP products and services to each sale will make more money.

But, he adds, direct is there for buyers who want it. “There are customers who have decided to have a direct relationship with the Dells and IBMs of the world, and we need to have that as a competitive weapon when the customer has chosen that.”

Direct personal computer sales here are only a small part of HP Canada’s business, he points out. Ninety-nine per cent of the company’s imaging and printing products are sold through the channel.

Tsaparis says he has not been given any mandate or order by HP in the U.S. to increase direct sales in Canada. But, he adds, “we have goals to increase market share by product category, and we need to utilize all the channels of distribution to realize those goals.”

The burden the merger dumped on his shoulders hasn’t worn down Tsaparis, who, in addition to his HP work is chair of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC).

“When I’m working I just love my job,” says Tsaparis, who has spent nearly all his career at HP. “I get a lot of energy and adrenaline from it.” Some of that gets expended after hours playing flag football with friends or defence in an “old-timer’s” hockey league. Sports, he says, “has wonderful metaphors for business challenges” including teamwork, adjusting your game plan to the opposition’s moves and leadership.

So like a true team leader, he didn’t panic and rush to polish his CV when he heard about the Compaq deal.

“I still do not have an up-to- date resume,” he says.

The coach would be proud.

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