IN THE HOT SEAT: Steering the underdog

IN THE HOT SEAT: Steering the underdog

Michael Calculli has 18 years experience in the IT industry — starting in the days of Imagineering (now known as Tech Pacific) and originally peddling electronic typewriters. Six months ago, he joined 15-year-old Optima in the newly-created position of channel sales manager. With a stint at Ingram Micro (formerly known as ITG), Calculli knows a thing or two about the reseller game and wants to build on his channel repertoire at Optima.

Why did you join Optima?

MC: The reason I joined the company was the challenge of working with a so-called underdog. We are quick to move against a lot of our international competitors. I’ve always known Optima to have a quality brand and a good reputation, and having the right people in place in key positions (finance managers, marketing managers, sales directors and communications on board) to help grow the company to the next step.

As channel manager, what are your main responsibilities?

MC: Optima is made up of four divisions: government, education, retail and channel, which is what I handle. The channel is the smallest division — it represents 11 per cent of Optima’s business. Before I joined it was a regional-based business — we are very strong in NSW and Queensland where a lot of dealers have been with us for 12 years — but while the MD wants to maintain and grow those customers — he also wants to increase the number of resellers around Australia.

What business lines does Optima offer?

MC: Notebooks, desktops and servers. Desktops represent a very large part of our business. We’ve only recently moved into notebooks, but notebooks and servers will be a big focus for us this year.

What’s hot within each business category?

MC: With notebooks, we’ve made a decision just to do Centrino (some still have Pentium). The price point coming down in notebooks enables customers to answer the question, ‘Do I get a desktop or a notebook?’ With Centrino, mobile battery life and speed makes it an easy decision for them to decide on notebooks. My market segment is SME — this category wants to be more mobile.

Within the desktop space, the digital home market is the main driver. That will be the next big thing in that market and everybody will be developing products for that area. We’re planning our strategy around this at the moment.

In the server space, it’s the SME market we’re looking at. We’re looking at our current resellers to add that to their line. We’re not focusing on an entry-level Pentium product; we’re going straight to a Xeon.

The company grew 30 per cent this financial year. Where did you see the growth?

MC: We’re very strong in education. In NSW, we have 40 per cent of the school market, and maintaining that business is a big part of our market. Government is also a growth area. Recently, we went into the Department of Defence and that’s a growing part of the market. The channel is the other growth area. The target market for the channel is making it 15 per cent of Optima’s business.

What are some of your channel strategies for the year?

MC: To have an active Optima reseller in every major Australian town. The new Optima business partner program, which the details will be announced in August, will include such things as reseller incentive programs, co-op marketing opportunities and lead generation programs.

As you prepare to roll out the new partner program, what type of resellers are you looking for?

MC: There are three types. We want to have an active reseller in every regional town in Australia. We’re looking for system integrators and VARs in the capital cities.

What are some of the reasons a reseller should choose Optima?

MC: The reseller’s allocated account manager actually answers the telephone — not a voice-activated system, not a call centre. We respond immediately to quotes — whether it’s a one-off quote or a special price opportunity we will have a written response within two hours.

Most competitors need to escalate an opportunity to senior management to obtain approval to quote. We empower our account managers to quote.

We have stock on the shelf. We have a set number of pre-built specially priced models available for next day delivery. And healthy margins — Optima resellers enjoy healthy margins against our competitors street priced products.

If you weren’t in the IT industry, what career would you choose?

MC: Life coaching. As a sales manager, I enjoy the staff development opportunities in such a role. As they say, the world’s best golfers and tennis players have coaches. I like to think I can positively influence the lives of people I am in contact with.

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