In the hot seat: Rising up the ranks

In the hot seat: Rising up the ranks

What was your first job?

Anthony Szabo (AS): Actually, this is my first job. I am Adelaide born-and-bred and have been working here for 19 years, starting from school. I did work a week of work experience for the directors, John and Beverley Reid, who own the company. I also did work experience for an accountant but decided accountancy wasn't for me. I have always been interested in computer-orientated things.

How did you end up in the IT industry?

AS: I started work for John as a technician, involved in network installation. Back then the company was selling BBC microcomputers and we were doing installations for many schools. Around 1988, we began supplying IBM-compatible PCs and I was involved in installation and supply. I also trained in Novell networks in the early 1990s. At the time, the company was called BBC Micro Supplies. We saw a conflict of interest, as we had been wholesaling Philips monitors, Epson printers and Toshiba notebooks and also retailing these products. In 1992, a couple of these vendors said they wanted wholesale companies only, so we closed the retail arm and formed BMS Technology.

How did you progress to where you are today?

AS: When we formed the wholesale company, I took on a product manager role. As time went on, I became involved in sales, helping with catalogues, pricing and getting things more streamlined. I became sales manager in 1996. In 1999, I became the general manager after John Reid stepped back from the day-to-day running of the business and semi-retired. John still comes regularly into the office and attends staff meetings but is not in every day.

What do you like about your current job?

AS: The responsibility, watching the company grow and seeing where it has got to. I was part of the business when it was just three people. It has a great family atmosphere, and we're a close knit group. Over 10 of us have been here for more than 10 years and some have been here 15 years. We try to encourage a social environment, not only at work but outside as well.

What is the biggest achievement of your career?

AS: Where I am now. I have come from humble beginnings and worked my way up. I haven't bought the company but I am certainly looked after.

What do you dislike most about the IT industry?

AS: The biggest thing is price erosion, which makes it hard to grow revenue. However, we have done that every year as we work harder and smarter. We have had a website since 1986 and were one of the first to have an online catalogue. The back-end of the website is my handiwork. It has been a continual improvement and we've done everything online since 2001. It sets us apart from the other distributors.

There's also always the threat of the big guys getting bigger and swallowing the little guys. We have been able to specialise with value-added products and service. We make sure we know our products so that when a customer rings they get information straight away.

What will be the "next big thing" in the industry?

AS: With broadband, we have seen VoIP starting to take off. We are fortunate in South Australia to have a large base of ADSL2+ installed, which is ideal for VoIP. I think we will see more things like video-ondemand.

What is the main focus for your company this year?

AS: Thirty per cent of the business is selling Toshiba notebooks; 30 per cent printers from Canon, Epson, Kyocera, Fuji Xerox; 10 per cent Netgear networking and 30 per cent add-ons. We are looking at how we can maintain or increase our profit margins. We have a very profitable and fantastic service department for our notebooks, so we are looking to utilise that and offer value-added services for our Netgear products. We were recently appointed Netgear ISP/VSP master distributor.

What do you do when you are not at work? AS: Relax with the family. I am married with three boys aged 5-12. I help them with their school sports, cricket, basketball, observing or recording scores.

Do you like gadgets?

AS: I like anything I can get my hands on - whether it's playing with the kids' PSP, VoIP phones or setting up Astericks servers (a Linux-based VoIP server). I run a VoIP server at home, which helps keep phonecalls cheap and allows me to work from home.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

AS: My mum and dad owned a pawnbroking business and when they got electrical bits and pieces, I would take them apart. At school, when I got involved with computers, I knew that was what I wanted to do. That or become an accountant.

What is your biggest ambition?

AS: I'm 35. It would be nice to retire by 50. My ambition is to make sure I enjoy life and my family. I will gradually work more from home as the years go by so that when I am not at the computer, I am with the kids.

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