Rivals profit from Commander brain drain

Rivals profit from Commander brain drain

An exodus of Commander staff across the country is providing rival integrators with brief respite from the acute industry skills shortage.

Among those actively recruiting Commander staff are 3D Networks, which has nabbed about 20 people to build up its Cisco and Nortel skills, and Data#3, which recently picked up its entire Perth-based Microsoft LAR licensing team. Southern Cross Computer Systems (SCCS) has signed up a couple of ex-Commander staff to round out its technical capabilities, while Optus subsidiary, Alphawest, has claimed a few including senior sales reps. Other companies understood to have profited include Dimension Data, Frontline and Klikon Solutions.

The news follows a raft of senior Commander management exits, the latest being group general manager of enterprise, Steve Evans, and NSW state manager, Joe Craparotta.

Data#3 general manager, Laurence Baynham, said the opportunity to build an entire licensing team in one go meant it could start working with resource customers in WA. The integrator is planning to grow its national team further. Baynham was reluctant to elaborate on other Commander staff hires.

"People are making their own minds up and considering who in the market has a similar portfolio of products and services that's on a similar scale. I think some people are also shy of going to an organisation that has built up substantial debt," he said.

3D Networks managing director, Chris Luxford, said some ex-Commander staff had knocked on his door while others were poached. The new recruits were in sales, engineering, deployment and maintenance.

While it's good news for other integrators, losing key sales and technical staff is another major blow for Commander. SCCS managing director, Mark Kalmus, said Commander would have a difficult time regrouping the IT part of its business and predicted a sell-off. "People like us are circling like vultures and seeing what's of value in our individual industry," he said. "The suppliers are wary of going back to them, and they need somebody who will run the company now - most of the execs and middle management have left or are looking to leave."

However, 3D's Luxford said Commander's decision to refresh the management team was long overdue. "I think they will survive but they're going to have to go through some change," he said. "The biggest challenge the new management team faces is getting the cash position in the right shape and the revenue pointing in the right direction."

Alphawest CEO, Garry Henley, said maintaining distributor and vendor confidence is also critical. As previously reported in ARN, several of Commander's suppliers have expressed concerns and put its credit facilities on hold. The global credit crunch was not helping matters.

"It's good that Commander is winning deals because it shows they have loyalty from customers. But there's not a lot of sympathy in the finance market," he said. "It will come down to the banks at the end of the day." While more work needed to be done on the business, Henley doubted whether Commander would completely disappear.

"There's not enough good, growing companies in the market - but it's an interesting history of a volume business and a telco business, and bringing those two together. And I think it's a lesson about not paying too much," he said.

Other integrators also threw their support behind the embattled integrator.

"We don't see it as a good thing for us either to see the rapid decline in one substantial national player," Data#3's Baynham said.

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