Kasys managing director Bob Keers was no stranger to Hewlett-Packard products when he set up the Brisbane-based reseller with his wife and partner, technical director Maureen Keers, 10 years ago.
Active in the IT industry since 1969, Keers had spent several years in a variety of sales roles for HP, including that of Queensland manager, with a brief to set up a distribution channel for the State.
After three years in this position he saw his career choice as either returning to Sydney with HP or setting up his own business and, deciding upon the latter, founded Kasys as an exclusive HP reseller.
"There had been a few HP dealers around then but they weren't terribly dynamic," Keers recalled.
After a low-key start, Kasys has grown into the vendor's largest Queensland dealer, and last year won its Award of Excellence against stiff competition from across Australia.
Keers is happy with his one-vendor strategy but admits that the dealer's relationship with HP is not always a bed of roses.
"All the time we keep an eye on it - you have to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages," said Keers. "The disadvantages are that sometimes you're not competitive. That tends to be not so much a problem these days - it has been in the past."
Availability of stock, or the lack thereof, can be an incentive for exclusive dealers to take on a second supplier, as well as the attraction of a second line of credit, says Keers. And of course there are the carrots constantly dangled by rival vendors keen to break the HP stranglehold. "So far we haven't been tempted."
In return for its loyalty, Kasys demands to be treated equally well or better than the vendor's other resellers, many of which are non-exclusive.
Keers says HP is constantly balanced on the horns of a dilemma, unsure of whether to put its efforts into wooing big national resellers like BHA and Ferntree - for which it is usually not a tier-one supplier with its PC and server products - or working with exclusive dealers like Kasys.
Kasys also keeps its eye open for deals from HP which favour distributors at the expense of the big dealers, and cites recent instances where small dealers could buy product through distribution more cheaply than Kasys can obtain it from HP directly.
"Those sorts of things annoy you, when there are deals done that aren't afforded to us as well," said Keers. "These sorts of deals are done without thinking. No one with half a brain would think they could do it and no one would not know about it in a very short space of time."
On a more positive note, Kasys hopes its long-standing relationship with HP will be richly rewarded as the vendor continues with its strategy of pushing all but around 2000 of its own large direct accounts out into the channel. This move follows the merger 18 months ago of the company's computer systems division, which includes its Unix and RISC-based proprietary systems, with its computer products arm.
The computer systems division has historically sold directly to around half its customers and Keers hopes that Kasys' skills and long experience with HP products will put it in the position to take over many of these plum accounts.
Focus on efficiency
Hence the company is focusing on moving its skills base upmarket, to both support these high-end product lines and derive more revenue from services-based activities. From today's figure of 20 per cent, Keers hopes to build the business' services revenue up to 50 per cent of profits.
"We see a lot of our market at the lower end getting gobbled away by the retailers. Although we don't focus on that market, they do nibble away not just at the home user, but the lower end of the corporate business as well.
"You also get the localised smaller dealers that are going in and taking away some of the business that we've developed. So we have to move ourselves more and more upmarket all the time.
"There's really no future for us down at the bottom end. We can go down to handle small to medium business, but our advantage is really further up the chain.
One of the company's strategies for generating work is to offer regular customer seminars centred around leading edge technologies, such as document imaging and "mopying" (combined printing, scanning and copying) - a scheme which has led to substantial long-term business over the years.
"We create an awareness among customers and get our reps to back it up by recognising opportunities," said Keers.
"We need to be looking at ways of not just flogging product but making customers' organisations more efficient. That's the only benefit of computerisation."
Kasys has a small Sydney office which focuses solely on generating business with medium-sized corporates, a business model which is in contrast with that followed in Queensland where, like many local companies, it does more than half its business with the government and education sector.
Keers hopes turnover will hit $17 million this year, up from the current figure of $14 million, but adds that the Queensland Government's widely acknowledged slowdown in spending may make this difficult.
Meanwhile, the company hopes to win more national business via a reseller alliance, The Networkers Group, which was formed two years ago. Networkers sees Kasys joining forces with Leading Solutions in Melbourne and CES Computers in Canberra, giving the group a presence in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth.
"We haven't really made a song and dance about it yet - we probably will more so this year," says Keers.
Keers is also involved in a joint venture with business partner Ross Powis to distribute Swedish accounting package Scala through a Brisbane-based operation of the same name. The company has exclusive distribution rights for the system throughout Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
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