In the hot seat: Theo gets into the groove

In the hot seat: Theo gets into the groove

What was your first job? Theo Kristoris (TK): I worked for an events organiser setting up and dismantling stages when I was 15. The first concert I did was Madonna at Adelaide Oval. Being a 15-year-old boy seeing Madonna change uniform back stage was a big highlight of that career.

How did you end up in the IT industry? TK: I was in my final year of university studying business when I went out looking to buy a 28.8K modem to get onto the Internet. It was 1996. I could only find one brand called KTX. I saw an opportunity to import modems and distribute them as the Internet was growing in popularity.

I went out and bought this KTX modem, got onto the Internet and spent four months searching for manufacturers. I found a few and bought samples that had AUSTEL approval. I finally found one product that tested well and remember ordering 25 internal and 25 external modems as that was all my savings could afford. I then drove around to all the computer stores introducing myself and asking them whether they were interested in reselling these modems, which I named Discovery.

I sold them in one week and asked my dad for a loan of $5000 to order more stock. I ran this business from home for two years until I built up enough cash flow to move into a small warehouse. I slowly started to bring on more products as my cash flow got better and business started to grow. My father got more involved and with his experience and guidance helped to build it up with a solid financial base. We continually added more products as we could afford them.

How did you progress to where you are today? TK: As we grew we started to build strong relationships with vendors that had little or no market share in SA. Some of these brands, which we are still strong with today, include LG Electronics, MSI, Brother and BenQ. I can recall the difficulty in trying to introduce them to resellers as they were unheard of. Resellers eventually discovered the products were of very high quality and the sales started to grow at a rapid rate.

It was a big move after five years of being in business to build PCs and distribute them through our reseller base. This made us a true one-stop shop in SA as we distributed all mainstream IT hardware and software plus custom-built systems. This took us to another level of turnover, gave us better buying power and helped us provide more competitive prices to our resellers.

Two-and-a-half years ago, we took on the exclusive Vodafone distribution for SA. This has been a very exciting alliance which has become extremely important to our business. It is a huge challenge as the market is so big and our competitors have a large market share. We have the opportunity to achieve something very special for Vodafone in both mobile phone and data products. We are very passionate and are working hard to grow its market share significantly.

We also see Vodafone as a massive opportunity for our resellers to increase profitability by branching out into convergence and mobile phone products.

What do you like about your current job? TK: Firstly, the relationship I have with our staff. We have many staff members that have been with us for more than seven years. I also enjoy the relationships and friendships built up with resellers and suppliers we have being dealing with over the years.

What is the biggest achievement of your career? TK: Manufacturing 1000 PCs and notebooks per month and keeping that figure growing over the past year.

What do you dislike most about the IT industry? TK: Vendors that do not keep margins built into pricing for distributors and resellers. There are some fantastic vendors that understand their success will be achieved through creating a win-win through their distribution channels but there are many who look for short-term fixes and reduce channel profitability.

What will be the 'next big thing' in the industry? TK: The convergence of mobile phone products into IT, such as 3G wireless broadband and Windows Mobile Email.

What is your main focus this year? TK: Continuing to grow our Leader PC and notebook business through resellers.

What do you do when you are not at work? TK: Watch my beloved Adelaide Crows. I also love fishing when I can find time!

Do you like gadgets? TK: Yes, particularly the latest mobile and smart phone handsets.

What did you want to be when you were younger? TK: An AFL footballer or Australian test cricketer. Unfortunately, I was not good enough.

What is your biggest ambition? TK: To see our Vodafone and Leader PC market share grow.

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