Overshadowed by the enormity of the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto, D&H Canada was having its own celebration in the channel the same week. The Mississauga, Ont.-based distributor celebrated five years in business with a party and customer appreciation event.
Front and centre at that occasion was Greg Tobin, the only leader the Canadian operation has ever had. To honour the milestone, Tobin invited the first ever reseller customer to take part.
It is just one aspect of the company’s folksy, family approach that has led to its success. The distributor continues to grow over the years. Tobin said D&H Canada averaged more than 30 per cent over its time in Canada. It has already out grown its first warehouse facility. Tobin took time out to talk to CDN about the past five years and to look ahead for the distributor. The following is an edited transcript.
CDN Now: What was the celebration like at D&H for five years in the market?
Greg Tobin: It was a celebration of success in the channel. As you know we continue to enjoy exponential growth that has out-paces regular channel growth. It’s because of the focus on the SMB. Canada is all about SMBs and there are always new companies and resellers being developing in Canada. When I look at the trouble RIM is having I see those laid off knowledge workers taking destiny into their own hands. You will see many of them get into business for themselves or be a reseller. We are aligned to those types of businesses. We support them and get them a dedicated rep to help them get things done.
CDN Now: You had some promotions and other offerings around your five year anniversary. Was that sort of a thank you to customers and what benefit did it give you?
G.T.: Yes and it’s always about making sales. Even the reseller shows we do are about making sales. We had exclusive discount offerings from vendors. We also featured vendors that stepped up with an exclusive day for them where they did not have to share the limelight with anyone else. Those were Microsoft, NetGear, Sony, BenQ and Brother. They had there own day during the anniversary week. It was our way of thanking the resellers for their support and we saw an increase in sales that week too.
CDN Now: With the benefit of hindsight, what did you learn in your first year that you have implemented today?
G.T.: The No. 1 thing; the most important thing is to grab partnerships and development them. Partnerships mirror with marriages and there are bumps along the road. But are they solid? If you have a true partner you will discover that you can recover from the bumps in the road. If we are handling a project and products are trailing off the chart and it could be a UPS or a cable; it’s important because you can’t finish. So never take something like parts for granted. Every product and every customer are equally important. The other thing is alignment and engagement of the people. The entire organization should be working towards a common goal. You have to have a compensation structure to drive the right behaviour. You cannot have half your people successful and the other half on the sidelines. That is not success. You have to have all of your employees feel that they have played a part in the victory. The vendors have to feel that as well.
CDN Now: When you started there were a lot of skeptics. You may have started at the bottom but you are certainly today one of the top distributors in Canada. Is this what you wanted to be at after five years or where you looking to displace one of the top three?
G.T.: No! We never wanted to displace any of the top three. We truly believed the other distributors were doing a fantastic job in this space and we never tried to displace them. We saw the customer sets and we thought we can take care of that. There was an opportunity for a high service, high touch model. Purchasing at the time was all over the place and very much fragmented. We came in and introduced programs such as business assurance and we partnered with 60 vendors to get additional credit for hundreds of resellers. So the intend was never to displace another one, but to build a better mouse trap.
CDN Now: D&H has gained a reputation for uncovering some new and innovative products and bringing them to Canada. Where were some of best finds?
G.T.: Certainly the Flip camera from PureDigital. That was a fantastic product. The PogoPlug private cloud; the UMA VoIP phone, and Sphero remote control ball for iPads are the others.
CDN Now: What was the biggest highlight the last five years?
G.T.: The Cisco story is No. 1 and a personal high was our first reseller show in Markham, Ont. in 2008. We had more than 300 resellers attend that and they got great value from it and I believe it set the stage going forward for us. It told us that we are delivering value and the services they need.
CDN Now: Look ahead for me. What do you envision for the next five years at D&H Canada?
G.T.: The growth will continue. We will finish at around 30 per cent from last year and I’m excited about the opportunities in mobility and the move to Windows 8. It makes take a bit longer for adoption in the SMB but I do not see too much resistance in smaller organizations for it. Tablets will get another kick at the can I believe with Windows 8 as a great alternative to Apple. And, then there is BYOD and all that consumerization of IT; it’s everywhere. We see that as being an interesting space and I hope people will be buying product around the BYOD trend and the hybrid model. Collaboration technologies are very good and these little refreshes will be happening. Overall we are very optimistic at D&H Canada.