Getting the channel in order is top of mind for Samsung s national print manager, Greg Wallis. He talks to ARN about his print and channel heritage and how he plans to develop the company s partner base.
What was your first job?
My first job was as a typewriter technician. I was going to go into the army but my parents wouldn't sign the papers. Back then it was a nine-year apprentice- ship. After much fighting, debating and arguing, I ended up following my father into the office automation industry.
How did you then progress into IT?
My career flowed with the technology -- it went from typewriters to word processors, then to the first accounting systems. I moved from the technical side into sales followed by channel. That led into printing and Brother, where I set up their print division in the mid-1980s. I progressed into distribution with companies like Merisel in the 1990s. I love the industry and I love being in sales and driving the company.
You joined to head up Samsung's print channel in February. What do you like about the job?
The reason for the change -- I came from another well-established printing company, Kyocera -- was that I d got to the stage where things had become very staid. Samsung came to me looking for a fresh take on their business. They had concentrated on mono printing and experienced continual growth but it wasn't fast enough. I was given a free hand to hire a team, set up a strategy and grow colour.
What is the biggest achievement of your career to date?
It's unfair to say that after 20+ years you d have a single biggest achievement. I think most of us in the IT industry have had big successes with major wins, and I've had my few, which is great. But I think it s being able to garner support from the sales team, drive the strategy and make it happen. I m very involved with the people: I lead from the front and want to be part of that success. I think that's probably my biggest achievement.
Any dislikes in the IT industry?
I don't have any dislikes - I've been in it so long. You hear people complain about channel conflict in distribution or with resellers. I think those challenges are opportunities.
The one thing I'd like to see the industry do is invest more heavily in staff. People used to develop talent within: they would take on trainees who would go through various steps over five years. We can't do that these days. The one thing I'm committed to with Samsung is to develop our sales team to be the next managers. It s quite a bold statement these days as I don t think that happens anymore.
Skilling up staff is a big issue in our industry today -- how are you addressing it?
If you develop people and they have confidence that there is somewhere they can go, you can hang on to them longer. In the industry today we have people turning over every 12-14 months. I can't afford that. The team I've brought in is all about maintaining relationships and to do that I need to keep them. The beauty of being with Samsung is we are a large global organisation and we can afford to support them.
What will be the next big thing in the print industry?
Everybody is talking colour. The push is being primarily driven by today's technology. In the past you'd need half a boardroom table to take colour printing on. Nowadays, we can have a small product that sits on a desktop and it s noiseless. We are also seeing huge growth in colour and have gone from fifth to number two [in Australia] primarily from channel, but also from the broadening product mix.
I think the other big issue for us this year is that we've made the decision to have two dedicated teams: one for retailers and one for channel. And we have two different strategies for each. We will also reinvent mono printing - you'll see that in coming months with some new innovative products.
Building up your channel is a big focus this year -- what other initiatives are you working on? As part of going to channel we're putting in training tools, incentive programs and feet on the ground. We have five dedicated channel account managers and we're growing that further. These guys aren't simply knocking on the door, they're accountable for marketing plans by account. So out of our top 200 engaged resellers we have a business plan, we agree on it and sign off on it, and they're rewarded for success. It's really a whole of business approach to printing. In the past a lot of our competitors tended to just hit and run. Given that we are relatively late to market with our own brand in Australia and with colour, we will do it differently.
What do you do when you're not at work?
That s a big challenge in itself. When I do get a chance I spend the time with my kids. I have teenagers -- 15 and 17 years old -- and I try to travel with them as much as I can. We spent two months in Europe prior to Samsung, just driving around and backpacking. It's great to part of your children's development. Apart from that, I'm either a soccer coach -- one of the passive types -- then, if I get a chance, I go sea kayaking.
Have you travelled far to indulge that hobby?
We've kayaked around the 12 Apostles [in Victoria] which was about 120km. But I don't get much time off.
Do you like gadgets?
I only like gadgets that improve my efficiency. I have a BlackBerry, I bought a PC in 83. I m not interested in the latest gadgets with whizz-bang features, it's got to deliver some time to me.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
I had wanted to be in the army since I was 12. To counteract that, I went into the Army Reserve. I spent eight years with a company part-time, which was great fun.
What are your biggest professional and personal ambitions?
My first ambition would be to spend as much time with the kids as I can and be part of their lives, make sure they are confident and have high self-esteem. Fortunately, I've got a wonderful partner that's done all that, I've just ridden along for the ride. Business-wise it's to make Samsung succeed in the print space. And to do that I'll work with the channel and people I've known for a long time.