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Interview: New Westcon A/NZ boss lays out his vision

Interview: New Westcon A/NZ boss lays out his vision

New A/NZ MD, Dave Rosenberg, discusses his company's Cloud ambitions, growth plans, and new channel programs

Westcon Group's new managing director for A/NZ, Dave Rosenberg, has been charged with kicking the distributor's Australian operation into high gear.

Rosenberg sat down with ARN to discuss his company's Cloud ambitions, growth plans, and new channel programs ahead of its technology roadshow, Westcon Imagine 2014.

Tell us a bit about your background.

I live in Auckland, but come from Wellington, New Zealand, originally. My wife Edith and I have two kids: a 10-year-old daughter, Abby, and a 12-year-old son, Daniel. They are staying in NZ while I work in Sydney, Monday to Thursday. I then return to NZ to work Friday.

What do you do for fun in your spare time?

I’m a huge armchair sports person, so rugby, of course. I also play golf badly. I try to keep fit, but running around looking after the kids' sports activities keeps me busy at the weekends. I have also been known to like my wines. Family’s very important to me.

What brought you into the IT industry?

I wanted to study electrical engineering so I enrolled into what was then the technical institute and studied electrical engineering for a year, then took a gap year out to go live overseas. I spent a year in Israel in a kibbutz. It was good to spend some time experiencing a completely different lifestyle. When I came back, finished my studies and did a three-year work experience program, plus part-time study.

I started as a Novell network engineer for a distributor in New Zealand called Hewitt-Rand. Their big claim to fame was quantum hard-drives and Colorado jumbo tape drives and disk array technology.

Then I joined Datastor in 1999 as sales and marketing manager after working in a technical sales role for a Christchurch-based storage and datacentre distributor, Solstac.

So how did that lead to being the Westcon A/NZ boss?

When I started as sales and marketing manager, Datastor was worth $13 million dollars. Now its worth be about $174 million – so that’s some good growth. We only had 13 staff total when I started.

We grew mostly organically over those years with a few acquisitions along the way. The tipping points for our business growth were when we signed up VMware and EMC at the same time. Then we bought Celnet, a reasonably large IBM distributor.

In October 2010, Westcon acquired us.

How did the Westcon acquisition change the NZ business?

Westcon was the right company to acquire us. Westcon leave companies to run locally, so from that aspect, our people were protected.

Secondly, it was a nice ecosystem. We were already strong in datacentres, but Westcon was strong in security and unified communications and networking, so it brought a whole new product set into the business.

It was almost a reverse takeover in NZas Westcon had about eight staff in New Zealand whereas we had about 70 at that time.

We left it as Datastor for a while. Westcon let us keep the brand so our customers were comfortable. In 2012 ,we rebranded as Westcon Group as we thought it was the right time.

Westcon NZ is now the second or third largest distie in New Zealand, depending on how you measure it.

Was it your leadership that got the company to that position?

There’s a caveat on that; it's not me that built it up, it’s the team around me as well. I'm a firm believer that you're only as good as your weakest team member. I’ve got a phenomenal team over there including very strong management group.

Read more: Express Data's Siobhan Delaney Miller joins Westcon

From that perspective, the attitude and the company culture is very important to success.

What appealed to you specifically about taking up the A/NZ MD role?

The challenge. The business here is already exceptional, I'm fortunate in that I’ve got a great base to build from. I’d been in New Zealand for quite a long time, and it was probably time for me to move to something a little larger.

I'm looking at trying to gain some efficiencies and consistencies and a simplification of our offerings across the region. I want to continue to improve our customer and partner experience. It really excites me.

Also, it's exciting being in a new market – I can't assume it's what I'm used to in New Zealand. It's an opportunity for me to learn as it’s a different business here. In NZ we have a wide vendor portfolio worth $170 million. Here we have a narrower vendor portfolio, but double the business size.

Given the broader vendor portfolio in New Zealand, are you going to make any moves to widen Westcon Australia’s portfolio to match it?

We do have a lot of common vendors, so let's be clear on that.

Read more: Nearly half of Australian businesses expect an internal security breach: Clearswift

Now, with Cloud coming into the business, there a lot of smaller vendors that make the disparity look larger than it is. Our business in New Zealand has went from 68 vendors down to 40. It's now sitting at around 50 because of Cloud – there are about 12-14 vendors in Cloud alone.

When looking for new vendors, they have to be complementary to our eco-system.

We’ve actually had a few great conversations with the vendors, because they tend to see A/NZ as one region. However, at a distie level, I don’t think you can necessarily do that. You can’t have the same strategy here as in New Zealand. There are some big differences in the two marketa.

Are there any lessons you learned in the NZ market that can be applied in the Australian market?

Yes there are. However, it's too early for me to make any big decisions. In the back of my little notebook there are about 3 pages of notes and ideas that I’ve written. I swore to myself – and I'm going to stick to it – that for the first 30 days I’m just going to leave them there to think on them.

It's very easy to make rash decisions when you make them quickly. I’m happy for you to come back and ask me about them in 30 days.

There certainly are processes and systems across both markets we could be using.

What do you see as some of the key opportunities for Westcon over the next 12 months?

Cloud’s a big one for us. It is a global investment strategy for the business and is one of our three major external strategies at the moment.

We understand that the Cloud business, by its very nature, will take some time to grow and build. We believe that what we have is unique, and it's ahead of the market, as far as what anybody else has. We’re fortunate the test market was New Zealand and it has been very successful. It is up and running and we’re rolling it out here now, and across the globe. It's an exciting strategy.

We also want to increase our financial services and our channel services. It's all about adding value to our channel partners. That’s not a competitive play, it's a value-add play.

Obviously, we’ve got a big ERP implementation coming soon as well. Again, that’s off the back of NZ which is done and dusted – it was very successful.

Westcon Imagine has been revived. What can we expect to see on show?

Imagine is a great event. It’s unique in that it's about technologies, business issues, and it’s a combined customer and reseller event. It's an opportunity to mingle with all the vendors there, which is great. It's being held in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland and Wellington.

How are you going to stamp your authority on the company and make it ‘your Westcon’?

That’s not my style really. The big thing I need to do right now is to learn the market, and learn the business. I'm a firm believer that the leadership of the business is critical to its success. And so it is ensuring that we are all aligned to the same goal, once we define what those goals are.

Finally, it's about making sure you bring the right people with you, and they’re engaged. You spend so much time in your work environment that you have to love what you do. You have to be passionate. If you’re not, the working day is a hell of a long time to do something you don’t enjoy.

My view is, don’t change what isn’t broken. Don’t make assumptions on things too quickly. Make sure you understand your successes and build on them, look at the things that could be improved or tweaked and don’t necessarily make quick decisions on them. Make sure you have a leadership team that’s all going in the same direction.

Allan Swann is the Editor of ARN, published by IDG Communications Australia. Follow Allan on Twitter @allanswann, and at Google+.

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