Meeting challenges and improving relationships with partners is at the top of mind for Polycom's country manager, Michael Chetner. He recently spoke to ARN about putting the wheels in motion on a channel program as well as his appreciation of fine food and wine.
What was your first job?
My first job was doing the paper run. During my university holidays I worked for a mobile phone dealer; it was my first sales job at a time when the mobile industry had big, clunky handsets. The company was called Let's Talk Communications.
How did you end up in the IT industry?
I feel into it by chance. My wife and I moved to the UK in late 2001. I worked with BHP for a while, which I had also worked for in Melbourne and Newcastle. I was after a job with more responsibility that would enable me to use the skills I had. Polycom came up as an opportunity in the UK and it gave me the chance to get my hands dirty with lots of responsibility. I stayed there for two years in our services division.
How did you progress to where you are today?
I've been working with Polycom for about four and half years. Moving back to Australia, there was a regional role available as a sales operations director. I did that for a couple of years and we made some changes to our go-to-market strategy. Then the country manager job came up in April. I wouldn't have taken this role if there wasn't a challenge involved.
What do you like about your current job?
I always like to take on a challenge. When I fell into the Polycom role, the services business was struggling on a financial basis and it just wasn't going right. In the space of two years you can see what we have built it up to. We totally transformed things in the space of those few years, our go-to-market is different now and it's evolving as we speak.
What is the biggest achievement of your career?
It's a bit cheesy but it's extremely satisfying when you work as part of a team where everybody has a common goal. We are really getting ready for major growth opportunities and revamping the channel, which is still a work in progress but as part of that whole project we are knocking things off one by one.
What do you dislike most about the IT industry?
The short-term nature of shifting boxes. We're all in it for the long term and we are trying to build relationships with channels and customers. In six months time if you don't do the right thing by them you're going to find out about it anyway so why go into a situation where you have a very short-sighted mentality? Why not build something that is longstanding with the channel and the customer so we can all win. Ultimately that same customer or channel partner will come back and do repeat business.
What will be the 'next big thing' in the industry?
I think video because in the past we didn't have a proper network with things like Quality of Service. Whereas now, we've got those basics in place and video has become another application just like voice. The structure has been built for voice but you could put video on top of it.
What is the main focus for Polycom this year?
Improving our channel. We have a lot of partners that we need to strengthen. It is growing the market with new partners and solutions in a much broader sense. Rather than talking about video conferencing, we talk about the network world and video is a part of that. It involves selling to new channels and showing resellers how they can add value to their business. We can strengthen our existing channel even further because they have a lot of our knowledge and have grown with us for so long. The challenge for us now is to give them more opportunity and reward their loyalty.
What do you have in store for channel partners?
We have an existing education program called Honours, which is focused towards resellers working with education customers. It provides qualitative and quantitative benefits and reinforces a lot of the focus for us on verticals like education. We are also looking at other traditional vertical strengths like healthcare and judicial. We launched an SMB campaign called Entrepreneur. This is a market that is starting to become very tech savvy. They don't just want video because it's video; they want something to improve their productivity. We have taken a segmented approach and have put together a channel program in a box where you get all of the collateral and entitlements to the type of products that are targeted at that segment. The Honours and Entrepreneur programs are two of the things we will be incorporating into a very focused channel program. We are taking the best things and are going to be tailoring it. It reflects all the things that we are doing globally.
What do you do when you are not at work?
Travel was a big part of my life when living overseas. The focus now is really seeing more of Australia because when you go overseas and come back you really want to see more of your own backyard. Also an appreciation of food and wine, especially in Italy and France, has been brought back with me.
Do you like gadgets?
I like gadgets when they are functional. As long as it's functional and serves a purpose, and I can get phone that doubles as a PDA I'm fine with that. You're always tempted to be an early adopter but then you pay for it all the time.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
All sorts of things. I think I always wanted to be in business somehow. When I was at university and I did a business degree. I've always wanted to be involved with something including another language like translation or something like that.
What is your biggest ambition?
On a personal level to be satisfied in what I'm what doing. Being successful is one thing in business, but are you a good person? Whether it's professionally or personally I like to know I have made a difference and a contribution. Professionally I've been very focused on getting a wide set of skills.