Alan Schweitzer, the majority owner of the RAM Group, has replaced himself with a new chairman, but, in a way, kept the appointment in the family.
David Klein, who has been a board member or consultant to the national solution provider for 15 years and was a high-school friend of Schweitzer’s
brother Michael, who founded the company, was named to the post this month.
Klein, however, will keep his full-time job as vice-president of chipmaker Cirrus Logic.
He also made it clear that the real person in charge of the Vaughan, Ont.-based firm will be president and CEO Ken Killin.
“I’m going to be a non-executive chairman,” said Klein. “A very active board member, but Ken Killin will be running the company, not me.”
Alan Schweitzer took over the chairman’s job in 2003 following the death of his brother. A former New York court reporter with no IT experience, Schweitzer relied in part on Killin and Klein to help run a $90 million firm with branches across Canada.
“Alan’s decision to leave the chairman’s position and ask me to take it, in some ways as his representative, was a decision to turn the company over to the professionals,” said Klein.
Given Killin’s experience in the industry and the fact that he has a financial share in RAM, the chairman’s job should be a “relatively quiet position,” he added.
“I’m a sounding board for Ken. I’m able to make the job of CEO, which is a lonely job, less lonely, because he has someone competent and a good listener to share his concerns and ideas with.”
He talks to Killin weekly and plans to come to RAM’s offices here “every month or two.”
An avid wildlife photographer and motorcycle rider (like Michael Schweitzer) who lives on a ranch in Colorado, Klein has 40 years in the IT industry. He has been a consultant to several U.S. venture capital companies, CEO of a communications software company, and executive vice-president of a word processing firm.
Although RAM has offices in six U.S. cities – up from two a year ago, including one in Colorado – Klein said his appointment does not signal there will be an increase in the company’s presence there. However, he said Killin does believe the solution provider should be a North American company.
Strategic partners include IBM, Lenovo, Cisco Systems, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard. But one of its biggest moves was forming a partnership last year to sell SAP’s Business One American Express Edition. It’s a Windows-based version of SAP’s enterprise resource application for the SMB market that integrates a group of financial functions put together by Amex.
RAM has exclusive installation rights here for the suite, as well as certain distribution rights to form partnerships and resell the product in parts of the U.S.
In an interview last July, Killin said the market opportunity in New Jersey alone for the SAP application is at least the size of the entire Canadian market.
Klein’s goals for RAM are seemingly modest: It has to deal business that are shrinking (such as certain break-fix services) so it can to put its energies into those that are growing, such as SAP and voice over IP; maintain Michael Schweitzer’s focus on customer service; and keep employees happy.
Asked if he wants to improve RAM’s position of 13th place on CDN’s top solution providers list, Klein said that “growth for growth’s sake is not what we’re about.
“If we’re doing well, profitable, providing good service so our customers are getting love letters instead of hate mail, if our employee turnover is still low I’d be happy if we were still 13th.”