D&H Canada recently held its tenth annual technology showcase event in the Toronto area, and the style of that event shows the evolution of the distributor in the Canadian market.
While the D&H team has long focused on these events as “selling shows,” and that remains somewhat the case, there was decidedly more of a focus on building solutions, and more importantly, building business for solution providers at this year’s show. That change is very much intentional.
“It’s evolved from a business that had very few people, that was looking to engage in a space that was neglected [in servicing SMB VARs]. It began about selling, about defining who D&H is,” said Roy Rivers, director of sales for advanced solutions at the Brampton, Ont.-based distributor. “Now, it’s pretty clear. They know us. They know our product lineup. Now it’s much more about an opportunity to network with vendors and with the people who support our VARs day in and day out. It’s a relationship-building event, it’s a chance to share ideas to help VARs expand their business. It’s become about true partnerships.”
The changes in the event underscore the changes at the distributor itself. While it remains the same in some key regards — it still focuses very closely on the SMB-serving VAR, even as it adds more and more advanced solution to its line card, and every VAR still has an assigned rep at D&H — the evolution continues for the distributor.
“We’ve got more services, more networking, and we’re looking at build security as a practice area, but we don’t want to forget who we serve,” Rivers said. “That’s our primary focus, offering more and more to them.”
Growth remains fairly constant for the distributor, even more than a decade into its business in Canada, with Rivers reporting year-to-date growth of about 20 per cent year-over-year. That growth, he said, allows the company to continue to invest in its people, following the Richard Branson business model of taking care of your people so they will take care of your customers, and investing more in education and training for solution providers.
One new form of training the distributor has introduced is what it calls PartnerPresence, a video unit that’s been rolled out to three markets across the country. The offering is a mobile videoconferencing solution that can be taken to solution providers’ offices to enable a deeper level of technical training. While the company is growing in Canada, much of its technical training team is still located at its worldwide headquarters in Harrisburg, Pen. PartnerPresence creates a way to get those people located at headquarters “in front of” more Canadian solution providers.
D&H is also expanding its focus geographically. For much of its first decade in Canada, it’s been focused on the Toronto-area business, and in recent years, it has expanded with a Western Canada warehouse — that business, Rivers said, has dramatically outperformed the distributor’s expectations for its western Canada business. It will run a Vancouver version of the roadshow in November, and continues to see growth in the west largely powered by improved availability in that part of Canada.
Now it appears its next growth opportunity is adding more focus to Quebec. The distributor recently brought aboard distribution veteran Orville Broomes as its first Quebec-based representative, part of building out its business there. The distributor typically also does a springtime show in the Montreal area, and will use that as a way to continue to grow the business in that province. As it has found elsewhere, Rivers said D&H is finding a competitive advantage by being the distributor that shows up and pays attention to VARs who “aren’t getting the same attention elsewhere.”
That model could scale to other parts of the country, River added.
“Our next opportunity might well be in the Prairies, and Alberta’s really coming back to life,” he said. “Showing up is part of our makeup, and that may be a great opportunity for us a year from now.”
That opportunity will be backed by another longtime D&H focus, increasing the amount of credit available to its SMB-focused VAR customers. While Rivers acknowledges it’s primarily “sticking to your knitting,” the distributor has added another $160 million in credit in recent months, about a 20 per cent increase in funds available to solution providers.
The timing is good for growth, as Rivers reports solid optimism amongst the solution providers he’s talking to. He said that while there has been some consolidation in recent years, the wave of M&A that many have been expecting for some time has largely not materialized, much less impacted the small VARs it typically served, and he offers a very positive spin on the evolution of customer demand and thus VAR’s business in Canada versus that south of the border.
“There’s been an adjustment to service from the cloud, but not an over-adjustment,” Rivers said. “The VARs and their owners have evolved to meet customers needs without over-reacting.”