He might no longer be the public face of Express Data but its first CEO, Jon Shein, is still on the distributor’s advisory board and mentors several of its management team.
This mentor role extends well beyond the boundaries of Express Data and he is involved with several startups in a similar capacity.
“We often meet up for breakfast and Jon is still right across the numbers,” Express Data marketing director, Peter Masters, said. “It’s important to make sure you know them too because he is quick to point out any errors you might make.
“He still has lots of friends in the industry and keeps abreast of what is happening. His enthusiasm is incredible.”
South African born, the Shein brothers first took centre stage in the Australian IT industry 20 years ago when David started up Com Tech Communications. Jon joined him a year later and became the company’s third employee.
In many ways they pioneered system integration in this country, thanks largely to the explosion of local area networking and the Internet. It could be said they were simply in the right place at the right time, but it’s an assumption that negates just what it took to get where they did.
Despite the incredible networking boom, the founding directors of Dimension Data didn’t have the lavish premises or high-flying attributes synonymous with 1980s entrepreneurs. Not surprising, given their accounting backgrounds.
“We ran the business by the mantra ‘profitability is sanity, revenue is vanity’” Shein said. “We didn’t really care whether our competitors were bigger from a revenue perspective. We were more concerned about ensuring that we could pay our bills and meet our obligations quicker than our competitors – and how much we could invest in the business as a result of our profit performance.”
As the networking landscape changed, so did the company. In fact, change has been constant for Dimension Data. In 1996 the decision was made to restructure the company from a value-added distributor into three separate companies: a systems integrator, computer education and training organisation, and a distributor.
Jon became CEO of the distribution arm, Express Data, and created a working culture that the company still prides itself on today. Current boss, Ross Cochrane, joined the company nine months later as sales manager and Masters arrived at about the same time as marketing manager.
“David [Shein] gets a lot of credit as the visionary and founder of Dimension Data but Jon was always there in the navigator’s role,” Masters said. “He is very ethical and created the Express Data culture around a single idea – that customers must have a good experience when dealing with us.
“We have more than 300 people today and all of them play a role in shaping the company. Every organisation will tell you about teamwork and empowerment but Jon really understands what that means and has always been able to translate it into what people do when they come to work every day.”