Dimension Data Boss Brown Has Lesson: Survival

Jere Brown has seen a lot in his nearly four-decade-long career. He’s been a sales rep pounding the streets, a vice president of sales for large organizations, the founder of a systems integrator and the CEO of Dimension Data’s Americas division. Now heading into retirement, Brown says his greatest accomplishment is simply “surviving.”

Brown is one of the most recognizable faces and powerful voices in the channel. As the CEO of Dimension Data’s America division and the head of Cisco’s largest global partner, Brown carries a lot of sway when it comes to influencing vendors and customers.

Yesterday, Brown, 60, announced his retirement after nearly a decade at the helm of Dimension Data’s North America and Americas operations. During this time, he’s seen and overseen many changes at the nearly $6 billion integrator, including being acquired by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) in 2010, expanding sales and operations to Latin America and the shepherding in of cloud computing strategies and offerings.

Brown’s career goes much further back than Dimension Data. He started his career in the late 1970s as a sales representative for Xerox Office Systems. He founded The Office Works, a reseller business, with partners. He sold his business to Inacom Information Systems in the late 1980s and worked for other integrators Sitel and Decision One. He was even at the launch of the first Apple Macintosh computer at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square in 1983.

He’s seen many changes over the years in business models, technologies, partnerships and customers — but survival is the biggest one.

“It’s a good lesson, and it’s one that has worked well for me,” Brown told Channelnomics. “It’s about being more relevant and not irrelevant to customers.”

At first blush, some may take surviving as negative. In the corporate world, survivors are those who slip through the cracks and work the system to transcend change despite their shortcomings. Surviving, in Brown’s case, is more about adaptation. The technology market has changed so dramatically since the first day he walked into Xerox. The world has gone from computers that filled rooms to handheld, portable devices. Applications that came on reel taps are now delivered over the ether, and infrastructure that once took armies to build is now virtualized.

When Brown says surviving is a good lesson, he’s right. Businesses and individuals need to constantly read the shifting landscape, anticipate change and adapt to new opportunities. Sticking to one’s laurels is a recipe for disaster. The technologies, business models and skills that worked in the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s and even 2000s don’t work today, just as today’s paradigm won’t work in the next decade.

Retirement for Brown isn’t a resignation to irrelevancy. While he’s officially giving up his post to , the company’s current chief operating officer, in October, he plans to continue to serve Dimension Data in an advisory capacity and, perhaps, help other solution providers develop their businesses and avoid slipping into irrelevancy themselves.

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