Rules of Engagement

Rules of Engagement

Richard Carter and Alex Tupman

It’s just over a year since our last interview with Richard Carter. The long time Sales and Marketing Director at Nimans had quit to join rival distributor Rocom and was giving us his first interview on his second day in the job as Business Development Director at the Convergence Summit 2005 where he was manning the Rocom stand. It was a bit surreal after all his time at Nimans and I remember taking some pictures for the magazine of Carter on the stand wearing his Rocom badge just to make sure it was true.

A year on and Carter is now the Managing Director of New Rocom reporting to Alex Tupman, the Chairman of the ATC Group, the company that bought Rocom this August.

Tupman gave us a potted history of ATC.

“We were an early mover in the least cost routing market and as the gates opened we were able to take business away from BT. We had a strong relationship with Energis and built other relationships which brought mobile phones and PBX systems into our portfolio.

 

i“We then kicked in an acquisition strategy working with business angels. Early purchases included IKON and Cannon Voice and Data which added a large base of systems and meant that we now provided support via an in-house team of engineers.

“At that point ATC was a relatively large reseller with a bundled proposition that included voice, PBX systems and mobile. We then paused for around two years.

“Our next step was to list on the alternate investment market (AIM) which we did in July 2005 raising £3.5 million. This time last year, in November 2005 we purchased Sterry Communications, a long-established reseller with a large installed base of systems and a national engineering and support team.

“The purchase of T-Liaison was strategic for our hosted telephony proposition and added a channel proposition, new clients and buying power. Our challenge was to turn income stream from ‘big hits’ into monthly centralised revenues. Pre-Rocom we had therefore built up scale and geographical

 

Why Rocom?

“There were a number of reasons. Rocom would clearly add to the scale and geographical coverage but also take the group into new markets. It would provide us with a multi-play direct and trade business for which we had a ready-made trade product in SiNET, our hosted IP telephony offering based on the Mitel 3600 platform we had purchased.

Rocom had a direct-to-enterprise sales operation which we were able to separate out in to our existing direct sales business to avoid conflict and again, this has added scale. Likewise with the Rocom service operation where we have formed one large service organisation to support all elements of the combined business and where we will be seeking to augment the third party support services we already carry out with companies such as BT. It is anticipated that the service business will be re-branded shortly to reflect its strategic role in the group.

“Overall I would say that the channel will benefit from the acquisition; we will be bigger, offer better service and a larger range of channel products.

“The rationale behind purchasing the Mitel 3600 was to be first to market with an ‘end to end’ solution. We can provide complete solutions for resellers; for example, DSL, LAN/WAN, break out minutes etc. Another recent announcement for Rocom is that we have been appointed distributor for COLT. Together with BT, SiNET and T-Liaison these product offerings will be the foundation on which the group will be launching Rocom Network Services.”

 

Rules:

Richard Carter says that around half of Rocom’s business comprised direct sales and comments when asked about potential channel conflicts, “The direct sales element of Rocom has been moved into ATC and we are establishing rules of engagement for the business which will be published and adhered to. ATC will be moving out of the SME business to focus on larger enterprise customers and New Rocom will operate a Charter which in essence will state that if a reseller comes up against ATC direct sales then ATC direct will back out of the deal provided that the reseller is putting the business through Rocom.

“Now Rocom is moving forward in a new and vibrant atmosphere. There is a new way of doing business at Rocom and resellers will see this immediately in how we now approach the market and how we support them in getting new business.”

 

Comment:

Most observers we speak to see Carter’s arrival at Rocom as pivotal in driving the business forward and we agree. Looking back over his shoulder Carter must surely have a smile on his face at Niman’s inability to hang on to a sales director since he left the company. He’s not one to dwell on the past however and with all the opportunities opening up in front of him he also can’t afford that luxury. The rules of engagement and their adherence to them will also be closely watched by a channel that is naturally suspicious of mixed routes to market but early indications are that this may not be the problem some detractors had forecast. For his part Tupman now has to make it all work together quickly as I think he has something else on his mind – further acquisitions in 2007.