In this edition of ARN's 'One-on-One' interview series, we speak to Jonathan Odria, Pacific managing director at Exclusive Networks, who opens up about his journey from paper boy to getting into business with Dominic Whitehand and setting up distribution outfit WhiteGold Solutions (later acquired by Exclusive Networks), and valuable lessons he learnt along the way.
What was your first job?
It was a paper run. Yes, a 13 year-old Jonathan Odria had a whistle and a little wheelbarrow full of newspapers which he was selling or delivering to subscribers. Now we know where he was mastering his sales skills before he joined the IT industry.
It doesn’t matter what you sell, building relationships with people and offering great customer service are keys to success.
How did you get started in the IT industry and progress to where you are today at Exclusive Networks?
In 1992 I got a diploma of Computer Applications at the University of Wollongong and started working in sales for a reseller in Sydney, cold calling prospects from the Yellow Pages was my first real introduction to sales.
Cold calling wasn’t such a tough gig back then, it helped to build a good customer database and gain contacts that were crucial in establishing my position in the industry later on. In 1999, I started working for a distributor called Sealcorp, which was my first IT distribution experience, before I moved to a startup distribution company called Layer 9.
This is where I met Dominic Whitehand. However, it was the strategic account manager role at a security vendor called StoneSoft that has really defined my future in the IT channel. Together with Dom, who also worked at Layer 9, we discovered the gap in Valued Added services and saw a cybersecurity potential in the market. This was the beginning of WhiteGold solutions in 2002 that was purchased by Exclusive Networks in 2014.
What has been your biggest business mistake, and the lessons you've learnt from that experience?
After all these years in the industry we still learn everyday but there is one mistake I still remember well. Back in our WhiteGold days we initially didn’t have credit insurance. The situation caused us some early pain and headaches when dealing with partners who got into difficulty and eventually folded, unable to pay their invoices. We lost a fair amount of money early on as we built our business because we didn’t have the right insurance in place for this.
Valuable lesson that to this day I use in my professional and personal life – ensure that you have the right insurance in place to cover yourself and your business. Now we always make sure to have financial security. Especially now when the global economy seems particularly unstable.
What are some of your plans for Exclusive Networks in the coming months?
We continue to grow our business across all major segments organically as well as by bringing new vendors (established and emerging) on board. We are still strongly focused on our Value-Add services, PS and demand generation capabilities. We are always looking at innovating and are planning to launch new initiatives in the A/NZ market in the coming months.
What are some of your biggest ambitions - personally and professionally?
Professionally, I particularly enjoy watching people grow. We have some great employees in our team. Giving them an opportunity to develop, be successful and bringing the best out of them is very rewarding and makes you feel hungry for more. I want to be a part of my team’s success and support them on their journey.
Personally, what a tough year it’s been for the entire world and how lucky we are to be here in Australia. Everything that has happened so far makes me think it’s time to give back. I’ve always been supporting different charities but only with donations.
From now on, I want to be the one that drives the difference. I want to use the power of my network and success of my business to help those less fortunate. That’s why as my first project after Covid19, I decided to join the #CEOSleepout by Vinnies. We are currently building a team for our industry, led by Exclusive Networks with Partners and Vendors. Feel free to join or support us: https://www.ceosleepout.org.au/fundraisers/securesleep
What has been the best piece of advice you've ever received?
Don’t see failure as failure, it’s an opportunity. Our path to success or achieving our goals is NOT always a straight line.