Technology Reseller talks to Tim Griffin about the importance of having global reach and specialist knowledge
Exertis is ushering in what Tim Griffin, Managing Director of parent company DCC Technology, describes as a new era in worldwide specialist distribution and single-source supply chain management by expanding its Exertis Pro AV brand across Europe, North America, Latin America, Australia and Asia.
This will see the company’s AV businesses across the world converge under a specialist global brand name, a process that Exertis plans to apply to other specialisms in its portfolio over the coming years.
As the largest business unit within the distributor’s global business, Exertis Pro AV was the obvious starting point for this new approach, which serves as a reminder of the company’s ability to provide its network of manufacturer partners with a single platform to access a worldwide market of technology buyers.
The process effectively started in 2018, with the acquisition of Stampede and the merger of Stampede Europe and Medium under the Exertis Pro AV brand, which launched the same year, followed by the inclusion of Stampede Asia and Australia in 2019.
The Exertis Pro AV brand is now being extended to Stampede in the United States, Canada and Latin America and Exertis Go Connect, which operates in the Benelux region. Next year, COMM-TEC, which has locations in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain and Portugal, and Keren in the Netherlands will come under the Exertis Pro AV umbrella.
Technology Reseller (TR) caught up with DCC Technology Managing Director Tim Griffin (TG) to find out more about the rationale for the new strategy.
TR: What are the benefits of this new global approach for Exertis, vendors and resellers?
TG: Obviously, part of it is about communication. Being able to articulate that we are one is a crucial part of the re-brand story and that applies to vendors and resellers – a number of which are global in our relationships with them – and also to their customers. Even the smallest reseller might have relatively small customers that could be tenants in several different geographies and need to leverage a network such as ours to truly delight their customers. The rationale of the brand is being able to communicate that capability across the supply chain. Then, more important than that, is the substance behind the platform, which is really being able to provide a global platform that gives vendors access to a global community of AV resellers.
TR: You have announced that you plan to extend this approach to other technology areas. Please can you give me some idea of the time scale involved and the specialisms concerned.
TG: The Exertis Pro AV brand has been in existence for some time in the UK, and it’s obviously an idea whose time has come through critical mass, I suppose, in terms of the acquisition journey we have been on around Pro AV and being able to stream all those businesses together.
If you look at our other specialisms: we have Exertis Enterprise, which is predominantly hubbed out of the UK but has a footprint across the Nordics, Germany, France and into Spain. That’s a business we continue to expand and where we will look to make further acquisitions, as we will with all our specialisms. Then, in the consumer space there are a number areas that we believe are specialisms that our customers care about – and when I say customers I mean both manufacturers/vendors and resellers/retailers.We believe that the answer to the future world of distribution is specialism. It’s about IP and subject matter expertise in those key areas of technology and route to market.
TR: Are some of the acquisitions you have made in areas other than Pro AV still operating under their old names and will you give them a common name at some point?
TG: If you think of Exertis as the umbrella brand, when we acquire a company we try to find a way of articulating the fact that they are part of the family as early as we possibly can without destroying the value of the brand equity they have built up over many years, which of course is what we are buying. So you tend to find a company becoming X Exertis or Exertis X almost immediately and then over time migrating either to Exertis, if they are the only entity in that geography, or an Exertis specialism as we look to evolve the branding of that specialism. There are a number of companies in the family that as yet haven’t had Exertis specialism branding, but in time they will.
TR: Is this just a branding exercise or are there platforms and infrastructure supporting it?
TG: It’s more than just branding. It’s about the creation of a platform that enables us both to communicate and to execute the benefits of scale that we can bring to vendors and customers. Obviously, part of having a platform is that it allows us to plug in acquisitions faster than we would if we were just a loose collection of businesses. So, it’s a crucial part of our journey in terms of operational excellence and delivering value to customers across the supply chain.
TR: What are some of the obstacles you have encountered in this process?
TG: I think data would be one. At the heart of our DNA is acquisition and being able to be good owners of businesses and enabling them to grow faster than they would on their own. Every business comes with its own ERP, its own data systems and so on, and we are constantly acquiring, so being able to create a data lake as part of that platform, which people can plug into and which enables us to share practices across the group, has been a major project during my tenure here.
TR: Has the current climate, with Covid obviously but also political problems with China, affected the global roll out in any way?
TG: Addressing the Covid question first. I think most people recognise that there is no horizon point where it will all be better and so one has to adjust and manage the circumstances in which you find yourself. Obviously, it has had an impact; we have had businesses that have really thrived because changes in the social fabric or the way people use technology have played into their areas of specialism, but there have also been businesses that have had to morph their capabilities to adjust to the new landscape. The reality is there are always peaks and troughs in any business. One of the benefits of being diverse, as we are, is that it allows you to have top performers and those performing less well in the portfolio and still delight our shareholders.
Re: China. The challenges that have evolved as a consequence of US-China relations pervade our industry, and we are having to work through those, like everyone else, both in terms of being a good partner to vendors and putting together solutions that recognise some of the limitations that have been created.
TR: Presumably with the recession and all the difficulties businesses are facing, there might be opportunities for you to acquire other businesses.
TG: You would like to think so. And, as you say, we are an acquirer. One of the challenges for any economically challenged business that is looking to be bought is that they might be in that position because they didn’t have good business fundamentals and so might not necessarily be a good business to acquire. It is a mixed bag, but, clearly, we look at this as an opportunity and we will step into it appropriately.
TR: Does your notion of a new era of global distribution run counter to current trends, such as the rise in nationalism and protectionism?
TG: I think you are right that those are long-term trends, but even some smaller businesses and enterprises are probably going to have three or four geographies outside their home territory, and to deliver a solution they need a partner who has that reach. So that is an aspect of ‘global’ that we see continuing; while there may be a preference to buy locally, there is still a requirement to reach globally.
The point we are making with the announcement is around specialisms, articulating how our scale enables us to be specialists that can invest in IP and subject matter experts who can enable our reseller communities to do more and leverage that specialism to a greater extent. That’s really the point about global specialists, which is where we think the future lies.