Comms Business Magazine takes a unique look at two key figures at newly rebranded distributor Exertis Micro-P. Gerry O’Keeffe who moved earlier this year to a new role as Group Managing Director after four years as UK MD, and Louise Kingham who was just two weeks in to her new career as a graduate recruit at the company.
We have met with Gerry O’Keeffe many times and last month caught up with him just after Exertis Micro-P’s training weekend held a few days after the firm had picked up a couple of industry awards.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): tell us about your new company name, Exertis Micro-P
Gerry O’Keeffe (GoK): Exertis is the new name for the DCC SerCom group of companies; one of Europe’s largest and fastest growing technology distribution and supply chain service providers.
With over 30 years of experience, Exertis partners with 350 global technology brands, employing over 1,600 people, working with over 14,000 resellers, e-commerce operators and retailers across Europe and had turnover of £1.8 billion in its most recent financial year.
The Exertis businesses formerly operated under several different brand names, for example, Advent Data, Gem, Micro-P and MSE in the UK. Following a period of rapid expansion in recent years, all of our companies will be now operating throughout Europe and worldwide under the single brand name, Exertis.
The key objective is to establish a single brand name that will be recognisable throughout Europe and internationally as the business continues to grow.
The new name is an important step in redefining Exertis’s position as one of the largest European technology distributors and supply chain service providers, offering their partners access to a wider range of IT, communications and home entertainment products and specialist services which will help drive their businesses forward.
The name ‘Exertis’ reflects our energy, drive, ambition and our commitment to going the extra mile and making things happen for our customer and vendor partners.
By bringing the business operations closer together, logistics and back office etc., we can bring more complete propositions together both for our customers and vendors in a rapidly changing and dynamic market yet remain nimble and agile to respond to our resellers needs. For example, with Microsoft where we have exclusive distribution for X-Box one, and as the exclusive distributor for Nokia and the leading Windows 8 tablet distributor we can deliver real connected content delivery solutions for the living room and on the move. From an office perspective our close relationships with Plantronics, Logitech and Polycom enable us to provide the complete peripheral ecosystems to support Lync and 365 deployments. Indeed the integration of our supply chain services business into Exertis means that we can support global deployments of Lync by Fortune 500 companies.
All of this is critical to the future success of our business and uniquely places Exertis to deliver both retail and B2B solutions
CBM: So what about plans for the future?
GoK: We have achieved rapid growth over the last five years; from £250m to £1075m this year. We are now looking how to grow further and take advantages of the big market opportunities as we see them.
Last month we acquired Cohort Technology, a driven distributor with a great reputation and technical capability. They have 15 sales people and 20 pre-sales support staff. Cohort is a great addition to our business and will enable us to offer additional and broader range of managed services to our resellers. Cohort is the fastest growing distributor of ShoreTel solutions in the UK and also provides security services – they are a perfect fit.
Exertis Micro-P has combined our resources in the midlands in to one site in Stoke to provide new training facilities as well as house our security and mobile offices.
Over the next twelve months, as part of our rolling three year plan, we will continue a focus on business acquisition in the UK and throughout Europe. We will extend our geographic footprint with support from our parent Plc., DCC, who are listed at around 130 on the FTSE 250 Index.
We will continue to work with our vendor partners to fill out our unified communications portfolio and focus on developing innovative solutions for our channel partners such as Conect, which enables our resellers to deliver solutions to their end user customers easily and simply. Likewise bundling products to specific vertical markets will play to our strengths such as tablets for the education sector.
Our recently introduced hosted telephony application is gaining strong traction and bringing in opportunities for both IT and comms resellers. We want to move the goalposts by providing new opportunities for vendors, resellers and systems integrators. We have, for example, gained a large global deployment contract for Microsoft Lync whilst at the same time our mobile devices and accessories business is growing strongly. Exertis Micro-P has just added Sony to our portfolio and we are truly excited about the opportunities that the introduction of 4G will bring the channel.
This September Exertis Micro-P announced it had recruited eleven new graduates under its recently introduced Sales Graduate Programme. Based at the company’s Basingstoke site, the team will focus their attention on a broad range of vendors ensuring their messages and products are taken to market successfully.
Exertis Micro-P’s Sales Graduate Programme was introduced to provide graduates that demonstrate the most sales potential with a structured framework in which to grow their career by teaching them new skills and enabling them to gain professional qualifications.
Comms Business Magazine decided it would be a great idea to interview one of the lucky eleven graduates in the first month of starting their new jobs and re-visit them at a later time to see how they had got on.
We chose the only lady in the group, Louise Kingham, and asked her a few questions beginning with what did you do your degree in and where did you study?
Louise Kingham (LK): I studied Bio Chemistry at the University of Surrey in Guildford. I had originally wanted to study medicine but didn’t quite get the rights grades at A-Level.
Comms Business Magazine (CBM): How do you think this has prepared you for your role at Exertis Micro-P?
LK: Any degree teaches you to learn so having joined Exertis Micro-P I have hit the streets running, learning a lot but working very much as a team. At university I had to deliver many presentations and this has helped with my confidence and actually prepared me for this role better than I had imagined.
CBM: Tell me about your Exertis Micro-P training program. How long, what does it involve, how will you be measured/monitored and assessed?
LK: We start with a four weeks induction period, I am on week two right now, and this covers sales, the Exertis Micro-P Business Units, and products. The program is co-ordinated by our learning and Development Manager, Paul Godfrey. In turn we have had talks from a wide range of people in the organisation from company directors to product specialists. Along the way we are continually tested and graded in exams and carry out assessed role-play phone calls to simulate business situations.
We are also set personal development plans working 1-2-1 with our manager. This will be on-going for the next twelve months as Micro-P want us to do well and succeed. We have 1-2-1 coaching sessions and a program of training for wider business skills development. It all looks a bit daunting but at any given time we know where we are on the program.
It’s a good place but learning everyone’s name is one of the most difficult challenges, however it is a very supportive environment in which to work.
CBM: This may change, but right now what role would you like to take up at Exertis Micro-P at the end of your training?
LK: Right now we are all in the business development team working on developing acquisition, account management and sales skills. I’d like to work in business acquisition; bringing fresh life in to the company. I’d like to see what difference I had made to company performance when the sales figures come in and get to the top through my results.
CBM: How come you are the only lady within the ‘class of 2013’ inductees?
LK: Hundreds of graduates applied for these roles and just 49 were selected to attend the assessment day. Out of these I was one of eleven offered a position chosen on my performance on the assessment day. We are very much a team and having a lot of fun at the same time.
CBM: What role do you think social media has to play in business?
LK: My personal view is that for my generation social media has a huge role to play. It has a role to play in informing customers and after the new graduate team got the jib the first thing we did was become friends on Facebook. Social media give you instant access to the business world and customers.
CBM: What else do we need to know about Louise?
LK: I was captain of the school swimming team. And I like shopping…
Exertis Micro-P Comments: While they bristle with fresh energy, ideas and perspectives, the graduates will benefit by learning from Exertis Micro-P’s highly skilled and experienced sales team, who will mentor and support the graduates as their careers progress.
Under the programme, they will be exposed to essential business functions and learned best practice with respect to sales and product training, marketing, negotiating skills, client and account management and finance and sales negotiations, while working across many of the technology brands Exertis Micro-P represents.