After a long career with high-tech manufacturers, Robert Grossman wants a look from the other side.
Grossman recently joined independent reseller Telecom Computer, based in Burlington, Ont. He was general manager of Toshiba of Canada’s information systems group from 1991 to 2000 and before that was vice-president of channel and corporate sales for Compaq Canada Corp. He has worked with resellers throughout his career and the desired result has always remained the same — making technology sales.
Grossman spoke to CDN about his goals for Telecom and the importance of maintaining business relationships in a weakened tech economy.
CDN: What have you being doing since you left Toshiba last year?
Grossman: I’ve been doing a lot of consulting. I’ve also been working with a couple of VARs. I’ve also done some motivation and one major consulting opportunity for a wireless company. I was asked to execute a distribution contract for them, which I successfully did. I’ve also been working with a software company in the text editing space, both with XML and HTML-type text editing.
CDN: Why did you decide to leave Toshiba after a lengthy engagement with them?
RG: It was a wonderful engagement with them. I had a great time working with them. We as a team were extremely successful, both in top line and bottom line performance for Toshiba Canada. We become No. 1 in the market for eight years in a row. I felt I gave everything I had to take the company to that position and I guess after that length of time you want to try to explore different areas and better yourself as a person. I decided it was time. At the end, we didn’t really agree on where the strategy was going for Toshiba and we came to a mutual parting of ways.
CDN: What’s it like moving from the vendor side to the reseller side?
RG: It’s different. There’s no doubt about it. It’s different from a practical point of view,
I’ve always worked with distribution and the resellers. I was very much a channel advocate throughout my career and still am a channel advocate. Working with the resellers is different. The resellers are out there trying to fulfill the needs satisfactorily to the customers and it’s a different end of the game.
I’d been in direct sales when I started my career way back when. A flavour for dealing with customers directly is something I’ve always enjoyed and I’ve always enjoyed managing people to be successful in that arena. It really, truly is part of my educational process within the IT industry. I’ve worked with so many companies,
CDN: Why did you choose Telecom?
RG: I chose Telecom for a lot of reasons. No. 1, I’ve done some motivational speaking for Telecom. In the past, I’ve been introduced to a lot of their customers through functions that they have. I have had a tremendous working relationship with the president of Telecom, Phil Davidson, over the last 10 years. We have very much a mutual respect for the capabilities of not only the Telecom people but between ourselves. Also, I felt that Telecom has the right culture and the right vision in regards to how to be successful in this market. Based on all that, I felt that I could be added value for Telecom. So far, after six weeks, I feel that my value has already been warranted. It seems that we’ve already made some positive go-to-market-type changes. I’m confident that Telecom is going to be even more successful than they presently are.
CDN: What will your role at Telecom be?
RG: Well, titles don’t mean a lot to me. I am the executive vice-president and we wrestled with that for at least six weeks. My role is simple. My role is to help Telecom get to a new revenue and profitability target. We are one of the top five largest independent resellers in Canada. Phil and his team have an objective from a revenue point of view. We believe that we can get there organically — growing from within and taking the culture we have and adding new people to the company, developing a state of the art backend system to support not only our people but our customers. (Also), to ensure that we have the right the professional services based not on what we tell the customers they need but on what the customers tell us they want. If we can develop and ensure that our professional services equates to the way we sell technology, then we’re going to make that mark. And we’re going to make it sooner than most people are forecasting.
CDN: Will there be any added emphasis on the notebook market, since that’s where your expertise lay at Toshiba?
RG: My expertise at Toshiba is on the notebook market, however I was also the vice president of sales for Compaq, so I’m very well aware of the client/server relationship, storage capabilities, IT networking and so on. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all manufacturers in this business. I have wonderful relationships, even when I was with those companies, with competitive manufacturers. Today I’m in a position with Telecom that I can enjoy those relationships. In fact, I think most of those manufacturers always had a high regard for me and my position. Likewise I’ve always had a high regard for them because basically we were in the same business. When you go through the IT business, you’ll notice that manufacturers — in Canada especially — have a really good tendency of talking to each other, which is different from most industries. Through those relationships, I believe that what we will provide to our customers is what they need.
CDN: How has Telecom managed during the IT downturn?
RG: Considering the market conditions, product conditions, pricing conditions and everything else that goes on, Telecom has been able to successfully hold on to their customer base and grow at a 30 per cent clip, month over month and year over year.
It’s a tough slug for everybody (but) it’s part of the focus that you have as a reseller. We have been able to maintain our growth. We have grown with our customers, hired more people on board to start looking at different markets that we haven’t been into. We’ve been successfully executing that due to the relationships that we have with some of these manufacturers who want to work with Telecom to ensure success for everyone.
CDN: Have you maintained your ties with Toshiba?
RG: I think I have an outstanding working relationship with the people that are still (at Toshiba). I have friends who are still there. I have people that I’ve enjoyed working with that are still there, and that’s the beauty of being in the reseller market. If you’ve earned respect, working with certain people in certain positions in certain companies, then you hope that that continues for a long, long time. I do have excellent relationships with Toshiba, Compaq, IBM, NEC, Sony . . . you name it.
CDN: Would you ever consider going back to the vendor side?
RG: Let me put it this way: Would I have ever considered going to a reseller? Well, here I am. Right now my focus is on getting to the mark that Telecom wants to hit and building the organization to enable them to do that. I can not predict the future. I believe in fate.