One month into his new role as President of ScanSource in Europe Buck Baker talks to Editor Ian Hunter about his plans for the coming year.
Buck Baker is a 17-year veteran of ScanSource and has held senior positions in three of the company’s four US business units, from business development, to product management through to serving as President of ScanSource Communications North America since 2008. How has this equipped him for life this side of the pond?
Buck Baker (BB): As we have grown the business we have not forgotten the fundamentals of distribution. ScanSource was built on providing great logistics and service combined with great sales and technical support teams. The company adapts to the market and completely understands reseller and vendor relationships and then layers on the value adds. These fundamentals are international and so the basics of our offer are the same internationally.
Of course, you need to be flexible enough to be able to best support partners locally, while some things are the same in the US and Europe, 17 years ago and now: we need to be the best at logistics and our sales reps and technicians need to be extremely knowledgeable to provide excellent support to our partners. Adapting to the market means our business development teams now are engaging with and supporting resellers as they develop the Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) space.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): How do you intend to do that and who will be your principal vendor partners?
BB: Our UCC vendor partners include Avaya together with their Radvision video conferencing products, Avaya ‘blue’ data products that come from the Nortel heritage and ShoreTel. All of which combine to deliver great UCC solutions.
Another UCC example where ScanSource can provide solutions is for Microsoft Lync and IBM Sametime deployments. Whilst we do not sell those products we do advise resellers on what makes an effective Lync deployment and sell the complementary products that resellers need to help their customers maximise Lync investments. It’s a case of rising tides lifting all boats.
CBM: How can ScanSource help resellers implement vendor strategies?
BB: Our product management teams work very closely with our vendor partners so that we fully understand their strategies and then articulate these strategies to our resellers. Our teams are an extension of the vendors’ teams and our resellers trust us to interpret the vendor programmes. One important part of our role is to remind vendors of the impact any changes to their products and strategies will have on resellers. With ScanSource CEO and founder Mike Baur having been a reseller himself it is a factor we will never overlook on behalf of our channel partners.
CBM: What territories will you be focused on this year?
BB: We recently announced that ScanSource is making a major move in to France founded upon a new agreement with Avaya and this represents a big opportunity for resellers. We see tremendous growth potential in the UK and the DACH (German speaking) regions.
With regards to the UK, the economy is presenting some challenging conditions, but ScanSource’s global reach helps us to mitigate against that and provides us and our partners a level of stability and a platform for growth.
We also believe there is potential for us to address the IT reseller market with IP-based applications. Here we see effective partnerships for resellers being a key enabler of cross-selling and our partner-matching tool SUMOpartner is an excellent way for resellers to identify a partner they can work with to cross sell and enter new markets.
CBM: As well as UCC what other application areas do you see as offering growth potential this year?
BB: UCC will be a great opportunity for ScanSource resellers but others areas we see as being significant include elements of the UCC mix such as video conferencing.
CBM: What are your plans for cloud based applications?
BB: There’s a lot of talk about the cloud but the reality is that we do not have resellers breaking down our doors telling us they need cloud products and services for their clients. In fact I would say there is a lot of reseller head shaking at the moment so we see our role right now as an information provider. Of course the big players of the world are putting together cloud solutions and it’s likely the cloud market will grow, but the feedback we’re getting from resellers is that certain factors relating to cloud based deployments are raising concerns and uppermost amongst these are security and reliability.
CBM: You have just left the US after 17 years working on home soil. Tell us a bit about what is happening there.
BB: The US economy has struggled but our comms business is developing steadily, driven by applications such as video where today it can deliver a great user experience. Other high spots include gateways and session border controllers but overall we are seeing a lot of opportunity in our voice based platforms, especially in the SMB sector.
We are clearly optimistic about the future as companies are growing steadily, expanding and adding branch offices. As long as comms providers continue to offer value: time-saving and cost-reducing products and great service levels, both the US and European channels have reason to maintain confidence that end user investments in comms solutions will gather pace.