ARN sat down with visiting Avnet top dog, Rick Hamada, and local Avnet boss, Laurie Sellers, to chat about distribution trends, along with global and local strategies.
ARN Jennifer O’Brien (JO): What is your background and where did you start your journey in IT land?
Avnet Rick Hamada (RM): I’m in my 28th year at Avnet. I was hired into the company as a computer product specialist. My product line I was supporting at the time was an old computer line known called DEC, digital equipment. I was hired in technical support and my career has encompassed starting there, moving into sales, and sales management.
In January 2002 I was asked to take on the global leadership of our computer business, which at the time was called CM (Computer Marketing). In 2003, we did an internal combination of businesses to create what is now known as Technology Solutions (TS), which is the group name we use for our global IT business today at Avnet. In July 2006, I was asked to become the chief operating officer of Avnet. That included responsibilities of both of our main businesses: EM and TS.
EM is electronics marketing, which is component distribution and still about 55 per cent of our global revenues, while TS is 45 per cent of global revenues. In addition to the responsibilities for our sales operations globally, also included in there was our global logistics, global IT operations and our global process and quality teams. We made an announcement in February that starting in our new fiscal year this July, I’m moving into the role as the CEO, which I’m very excited about.
JO: What will your expertise bring to the table?
RH: My degree and background is in finance, which has come in very handy with these C-level roles. We’re doing an internal transition of CEO, which I have been part of the C-leadership team for quite a number of years. I’ve had a very strong chance and ability to influence many of our key strategies and directions for Avnet.
One of the questions I get is, ‘So Rick what changes are you planning now?’ I have to tell you, my message to the team has been: Count on a lot of continuity from Rick, but at the same time I don’t want us to be business as usual. I want the energy of the transition to inject some fresh energy and new ideas into the company overall, but I don’t see anything revolutionary. Rick has not had a top secret file of strategies to try when I’m CEO. It just wasn’t part of the equation. So I’ve had a chance to impact and influence the culture and strategy.
JO: What is your strategy going forward?
RH: My agenda going forward, which I’ve also shared with the team, is what I call my 3G strategy. Number one is they can count on my continued focus on growth, profitable growth, and that includes organic growth and continued acquisitions that make sense. Obviously, a big one in the Australian market was itX and the former Avnet coming together.
The second growth is globalisation for Avnet. How do we take the benefits of this global scale and scope that we’ve invested and built and turn it into local benefits around the globe? Avnet is this $26 billion entity with all this presence in 70 countries around the world and 17,000 employees, but how does that make a difference in the Australian marketplace for the Australian VARs and customers, and that’s important to me.
The third G is ‘great to people.’ The more responsibility that I’m asked to take on, the more appreciation I have for making sure that we have a great culture and great people in the right places. It’s magic – when you get the right people in the right places, good things happen. I want to make sure I’m doing my part in helping to influence continued investment, development and support for the team as they go out and try to win in the marketplace.
JO: What would you say your leadership style is?
RH: Let’s start with my definition of leadership. It is the ability to get the best out of others. And that’s a very simple definition, but that’s the way I focus and try to commit.
For the team around me the expectation I have is, ‘I would like you to accomplish these things, and focus on doing these things to help Avnet, but how can I help you achieve your goals?’ There is a very personal commitment – I want to help them be successful.
I have found as a leader, the better I get at making those around me successful, I’m achieving goals beyond my wildest dreams. What I’d like to do there is make that clear that that’s my expectation, and at each level of leadership throughout Avnet. If the same commitments can be made and cascaded through the organisation then I think we have a culture and a leadership style that helps accelerates success going forward and gives everybody a chance to achieve their own personal dreams as well as their own professional goals as part of the equation.
JO: What is the future direction of the distribution company? Can you expand on your top priorities?
RH: The combination of organic growth and M&A. Our organic growth approach is fundamentally committed to a process that says, the best way to start growing is to stop shrinking.
So what does that mean? What are we doing to take really good care of our existing customers and enhance their existing relationships and enhance their customer experience? And continually improve and enhance our operations? You can’t go find new customers and all new business if you’ve got a hole in the bottom of the bucket. Every one per cent of shrinkage we prevent is one less per cent of growth we need to go find next year to have net growth.
Now with M&A, given our financial strength and stability, as well as the cash flow we are generating from our profitable operations today, we have the ability to invest. So adding to Avnet with M&A is part of the growth strategy as well. What are we doing in each local market to understand where the opportunities are? What strategic fits would there be for our business? What strategic additions could we make, so growth is multi-faceted.