Comms Business visited Manchester recently to see Vincent Leahy and Terry Ambrose of Trust Distribution. The company are celebrating ten years in business this year – where does the time go when you are having fun?
It seems only yesterday we were announcing the arrival of Trust Distribution on the channel scene so when we realised that the company was celebrating its tenth birthday this year a trip to their Manchester head office to find out what happened in that blink of the eye seemed the thing to do.
Why did you choose to name the company Trust Distribution?
That’s a simple question to start with. At the time we felt that there was a breakdown of trust within the distribution channels. There was so much ‘double-dealing’ going on in distribution with distributors having direct sales operations or covert interests in resellers that dealers were never sure who they were dealing with – distributor or competitor.
As a result values were slipping and we wanted to give the channel a distribution partner they could trust to never take a short-term view by chasing extra margin with a direct sales team. Hence Trust, a channel only business. We know our place and will not deal direct at all.
What were your toughest early challenges in business?
There were plenty. When you are the new kid on the block no-one wants to know you. We were up against established powerhouse distributors with established reseller and supplier relationships so we had to find a way to be taken seriously. We had to over deliver in order to break in to the established duopoly at that time.
We had to get on the radar of both the suppliers and the resellers so we focussed on a set of resellers that we felt needed help with new technologies such as VoIP and needed effective account management where we could demonstrate a key factor – our knowledge and understanding of the market.
From the start funding proved a challenge. Working on low margins means you have to generate a lot of cash to make distribution work and managing cash flow, particularly as we grew, remained a key challenge especially as we wanted to recruit a high calibre of staff.
We have worked through this now and emerged some time ago with a proven and profitable track record of delivering what we said we would. This leaves us very proud to have achieved this whilst one of the worst economic downturns we have seen was raging all around us. It was tough but being small probably helped us as we were nimble and were able to react.
What would you say were the three defining moments for your company in the last ten years?
Supplier relationships are a key part of distribution and gaining a direct account with Panasonic was a big first step for us. More recently NEC and Mitel have had a significant impact for us. In fact each time we brought on board a major brand was significant for Trust.
Secondly maintaining a great team of people working for us. The investments we have made there have been crucial to our success.
Finally our new headquarters which we moved to nearly five years ago. We had been operating from a number of units on a trading estate and it was fragmented.
Now we have the space – storage and car parking, to grow the business. The new building enabled us to provide logistics professionally and immediately the perception of us as a business changed at the same time. For Trust the move was a leap of faith as we only occupied around 20% of the space on day one.
What is the stand out differentiator between your company and your competitors?
This is another easy question. Without doubt our staff are the stand out differentiator. Our team believe in delivering great customer service and going the extra mile. They never want to let the customers down. And we are doing all that with a smile on our faces.
Crystal Ball gazing is a hazardous occupation but what significant events might you forecast for the channel in the next 12-18 months?
We see the continued healthy sale of CPE based products and applications continuing during this period whilst some people will have their heads in the cloud.
Cloud will be important but it’s all about affordable connectivity.
People are very worried over the issue of who owns the customer and customer data in the cloud? It is a big fear factor for the channel when they come to selling their business.
We have built our company around providing great customer service. We aim to make life easier for resellers. We’ll continue to do that and keep Trust a great place to work.
We have just returned from a skiing trip to Italy with our best performing Mitel resellers. It’s a testament to the relationships – being a part of a team.