30 Year Old Start-Up!

30 Year Old Start-Up!

Graham Bevington

Maren Bennette talks to Graham Bevington, Mitel’s Managing Director EMEA

Imetup with Graham Bevington, Mitel’s Managing Director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, on a cold damp midwinter day in South Wales. I had been visiting Mitel’s Portskewett HQ (a brown metal monument to 1970’s industrial architecture, if ever there was one) to meet with the senior managers of Mitel in the UK and get a sense of where the Celtic – Canuck company is going. The trip finished with a one-on-one interview with the man entrusted with Mitel’s largest theatre of operations outside of North America.

First I asked about the building we were sitting in. Built in the 1970’s, the Mitel Business Park could be considered a Welsh industrial historic site. For a long time in the 1980’s and 90’s the factory was working double shifts producing the PABX’s and other products that characterised Mitel’s early years. Time and the industry have moved on and now most of the manufacturing is done elsewhere. But Sir Terry Mathews is adamant that his U.K. business will be based in his homeland, so the facility is being sub-divided and come March, Mitel Networks will have a superb newly refurbished EMEA headquarters from which to sally forth.

I asked Graham to tell me a bit about himself. A soft spoken Mancunian, he has been in the comms business for over 20 years, starting as a salesman for Shipton Communications a few years before the company was acquired by DeTeWe. He left there as Managing Director when headhunted by Paul Butcher, C.O.O. of Mitel, in 2000. Graham told me that he was attracted to Mitel because of its vision for IP Communications, the commitment to move to a “channel-heavy” model and the challenge

of running an international business. Six years one he is happy with the progress made… “In the main, we have delivered on every promise we have made to our customers, our channel partners and our investors”.

And it is those customers that Bevington had his next message for. “We appreciate your business and your trust in us, so whatever we do we will always make sure the customer is kept happy”. Some of those customers are household names, such as Marks & Spencer, House of Fraser. Others are key public sector users such as the University of Kent and Staffordshire Police. He wouldn’t be drawn when I asked him about the rumours of a significant IP communications win against stiff competition at a very large, multinational professional services company in the City of London, but he did say that Mitel’s close working relationship with Microsoft was giving the company an edge over other IP comms vendors.

Whilst satisfied that Mitel can hold its own against the competition when needed, he was at pains to stress that he doesn’t see industry giants such as Cisco as a “natural enemy”. As Mitel is agnostic about the data network infrastructure, and the West Coast vendor is the market leader for routers and switches, Bevington thinks it would be a good thing to have closer working relationships with the company and its channel partners. “Every time we create an opportunity for ourselves, we also create an opportunity for Cisco and other data networking companies”, he said.

With respect to the channel, Graham Bevington echoed the words of his Sales Director Enda Kenneally, whom I had met with earlier that day. “We are very happy with the channel model we have now.We have reached the point where 95% of our business goes through the channel and all that remains is those customers which we are legally and/or morally bound to support directly. Whilst we may recruit new channel partners in certain strategic sectors such as ICT systems integrators (to reflect the company’s ever closer ties with Microsoft) we are not going to make the mistake of overdistributing our products. That road leads to poor margins, dissatisfied partners and ultimately, unhappy customers.”

I couldn’t leave the meeting without asking about the rumour of an impending IPO this summer that has been circulating for a few months. “If those rumours were true I couldn’t possibly comment on them”, Bevington replied. He was a little more forthcoming about the other rumour doing the rounds, that Ericsson was taking an interest in the company. “I can’t see why they would want to add another IP communications company to the pile when they will have their hands full making the Marconi acquisition work, should it go through”. “Anyway, Mitel has a very rosy future of its own, so why would he (Sir Terry) want to sell out at this time?”