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View from the Channel

With Hayley Roberts, CEO, Distology 

Distology is a niche value added distributor specialising in disruptive, cloud-based IT security solutions. Founded in 2014 and with offices in Greater Manchester and the Netherlands, it supports a network of resellers across EMEA with security solutions from best-of-breed vendors. In the UK, these include Okta, Yubico, Beyond Identity, Verkada, Shape, comforte, GalaxKey, Portnox, TrapX, CloudM, Celestix and, most recently, LogRhythm, which has appointed Distology as the exclusive UK and Ireland distributor for its SaaS-based NextGen SIEM. With an ethos based on trust, relationship-building, energy and drive, Distology has enjoyed consistent success, increasing year-on-year revenue by more than 75% over the past three years. In March, it secured investment from mid-market private equity firm NorthEdge to fund and support ambitious growth plans, including further expansion in Europe. Here, Founder and CEO Hayley Roberts gives her view from the channel.

Technology Reseller (TR):How’s business; better or worse than 12 months ago? And how confident are you about the future?

Hayley Roberts (HR): For me, the term ‘business’ in this context isn’t just about transactions, it’s about the relationships we’ve built too. 

I would say that we’ve got better, stronger relationships with vendors and partners than we had 12 months ago because of the value that we offer as part of our service and the speed of growth we’re experiencing. But we’re also transacting better quality deals and those two parts combined give us so much confidence for the future. 

TR: In what areas are you experiencing strongest demand?

HR: The past 12 months have been testing for a lot of businesses but, for us, Covid-19 has brought a shift and acceleration of trends, in terms of the products that are being requested. We’ve seen increased take-up of identity management tools to secure remote working, in addition to an acceleration of requests for cloud-based technologies as companies want to work remotely and realise they have a gap in their security strategy. 

TR: What recent wins are you most proud of?

HR: We’ve had a number of successes, but our recent investment from NorthEdge and the partnership with LogRhythm were pivotal moments for us as a team. 

We know that vendors are constantly evangelising, innovating and driving for success, and we try to draw parallels with our own structure and strategies, so it was testament to the team that we’ve been recognised as a truly added value distributor with areas of speciality that can aid vendors that have their own plans for evolution and growth. 

TR:Where is business proving most difficult?

HR: I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone to read that the challenges we’ve experienced exist within specific verticals, notably the retail and hospitality sectors. 

They’re consumer, service-led industries, which has meant there’s been a freeze on spending in the short-term. Whilst I’m sure this will return, we have seen a hold on future planning and longer-term security strategies for businesses within these sectors.

TR: How have you changed/are you changing business operations to exploit new opportunities?

HR: Our culture encourages our teams – at an individual and a team level – to be innovative in their thinking and to be accountable for idea generation. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to think about how we can improve the experience for our customers and, in turn, discover new opportunities and gaps in the market. 

We’re in the process of relocating our office to a brand-new HQ to fuel and support further growth and within that we will have a specific space to encourage ideas, collaboration and conversation amongst our teams.

What we do isn’t rocket science, we just deliver really good customer service and use tech to aid that experience.

TR:What do you see as the biggest challenges facing channel businesses today?

HR: When people think channel, they think ‘technology’, but our industry is actually very much more about people than technology. Whilst we’re all working remotely and unable to visit each other, it’s impacting the strength of our relationships with key individuals; video calls and virtual events give us the opportunity to over-think, over-prepare and put up walls that wouldn’t arise in a face-to-face meeting. 

TR: Could vendors and distributors do more to help you overcome these challenges? And if so, what?

HR: Every vendor is trying so hard to be the best, most innovative technology provider in the world, and as a result their sales teams have a multitude of targets to hit and KPIs to meet. 

I fear that by working in that way, we’re missing the opportunity to step back and ask the customer ‘What do you actually need?’ and then work together holistically and collaboratively to protect the consumer now and in the future.

 I would say: continue with the innovation, continue with the conversation, but we need to get the balance right between encouraging commercial success and thinking about the future business challenges our customers face and how we can help. 

TR:Are customers become more demanding, and if so, in what ways?

HR: Not at all. The tech industry is becoming more complex, so customers want and need reassurance from their channel partners that the solutions they are investing their time and money in are the right choices.

They need a partner that can offer a consultative style of service and has a genuine interest in their business challenges, rather than just being sent a black and white quote and being left to determine whether that’s going to solve their problem. 

That way of thinking feeds into our work with partners too. As the solutions become more complex, our partners trust the due diligence we do as a distributor into the technologies we represent. They want that holistic overview from us. 

TR: : If you could change one aspect of your job, what would it be and why?HR: : I’m very lucky to say I wouldn’t change a thing. 

As the company has grown and developed, my role has changed from chief cook and bottle washer to head of strategy. As long I have the opportunity to carry on learning and encouraging new ideas, I will continue to challenge myself, my role and the company as we grow.

I wouldn’t change it for the world, I absolutely love what I do and think more people need to get involved in tech.

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2020