Some tried and true metaphors tend to be used a lot when talking about IT. Bridges, pipes, umbrellas-any symbol of a broad-based connective idea can be used to represent both the overarching presence and wide capabilities of network technology. Usually these terms are used when talking about the technology specifically, but gradually the idea of ubiquity is starting to make sense in terms of a business model. If you can add IT to your expertise, you can do anything.
This became less a metaphysical maxim and more a reality for me recently on a visit to the charming city of Greenville, South Carolina. There, a $10.3 billion public company called Synnex has placed its roots for its U.S. distribution headquarters, and each spring they give back to the local community with the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation.
Look at Synnex's offerings and you have to mix metaphors pretty quickly. It's an umbrella, but it's also nuts and bolts. As a leading IT distributor, Synnex has built divisions that range from wide-format printing (think giant banners) to a public sector division with its own grant-writing specialist. But within each of its vertical and horizontal sales divisions, it has dedicated sales reps that make business personal.
"We're a big company that acts like a small company," explained TJ Trojan, senior vice president of product management for Synnex, in his opening remarks at the Pro AV Summit, a specialized vendor conference within the star-studded celebrity event.
Speaking to an audience of some top-notch AV integrators representing $2.5 billion in buying power, Trojan presented a pretty solid financial picture. Synnex has had 103 straight quarters of profitability and the Professional AV division of SYNNEX has more than doubled its sales since 2010.
What's behind all those numbers is a sales grid that accommodates the nuance of AV integration within the framework of an IT giant. "Synnex has invested in about 50 different vertical markets within a horizontally oriented platform," Trojan detailed after the Pro AV summit. "In every one of those categories we have subject matter experts. So we have a value-added distributor inside of a broad line distributor."
Synnex considers itself a hybrid distributor, Trojan continued. Expanding beyond its established relationships on the IT side over the past six or seven years, Synnex has invested in the "value-add" space, building up its Professional AV division with experts from the field.
Trojan's own background at a major display manufacturer, where he worked for 24 years right in the middle of the IT and AV worlds, gave him the know-how to address the integration market with the right approach. Distribution was jarring at first for customers who built businesses on direct relationships, but a lot has changed rapidly since the initial shock. The fast delivery and deep inventory offered by Synnex has now been augmented by CTS-trained sales personnel and CTS-D trained technical support. Specialists in digital signage software, command and control, and a solutions architect are among the numerous experts on staff.
This is all with an eye toward streamlining customers' businesses so they can create more demand, Trojan noted, and it must be working because Synnex's customer retention rate is extremely high - and while the customers have many choices, they choose to come back to Synnex day after day.
"We believe that if we can help resellers and integrators acquire, retain, and expand their business with their core customers, it really helps support them as well," Trojan said.
The operational savings provided by the Synnex sales process is one part of how the distributor intends to help customers increase business. Next up is that convergence thing everyone is talking about. The fear struck in the hearts and minds of integrators by the encroachment of IT has faded somewhat as a new understanding takes hold. "There is opportunity in the market change," Trojan observed. "IT dealers don't understand design and solutions around AV. Customers need design, they need answers on how to leverage both analog and digital capabilities. So I've always felt that it's easier for AV to move into the IT space than IT into the AV space."
And that's where convergence circles back to product and broad-line distribution. Synnex likes to help dealer customers identify technologies and vertical markets that are "complementary and adjacent' to their existing offerings. That way, if one market or technology experiences decline, the shift into a new offering or customer base is eased by a distributor who has been there before. Those focused on the education market might look at mobility solutions, for example. Or those with skill sets around video can expand into the wireless and networking spaces.
"We know that our partners have relationships with a lot of customers, but in the past they've really focused on very specific product sets," Trojan said. "You already have relationships with those customers, but you're only getting a portion of their business... We can help our integration partners expand their business with their current customers by providing an expanded product and solution set around verticals. And, they can leverage that experience to acquire new customers."
Kirsten Nelson is the editor of Systems Contractor News.