Breaking with tradition
– Late in 2013, Alloys under the direction of CEO Paul Harman, expanded operations across the country. It was a move designed to reinforce the company’s position as Australia’s leading specialist distributor.
The acquisition of Integrex Systems by Alloys in July 2013 allowed the organisation to extend their footprint across the country. With a presence in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide, Alloys could execute an integration plan designed to combine the operations of the two companies into one, under the Alloys brand. Ultimately, this means that Alloys has been able to offer a bigger and better service and product offering.
The expanded Alloys operation now offers Australian technology resellers a range of benefits including: • Localised sales teams and distribution centres in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Adelaide • Access to the largest portfolio of print and imaging products in Australia • Faster fulfilment of orders across
Australia • Increased online capabilities and
services • Expanded customer service options • Expansion of the Integrated
Technology division • Transparent location-based stock holdings for better customer visibility and availability. Alloys CEO Paul Harman said “The new business brings the strength of Alloys and Integrex together to provide our customers and suppliers with an even stronger reason to business with our team.”
He added, “It means that Alloys and Integrex will now be one brand, with one goal, one sales methodology and managed as one team. This will give our customers and suppliers an easier line of sight as to how to work with us, and allows us economies of scale that we haven’t had before. The merged business now has the largest portfolio of print vendors in Australia and provides greater access to our Integrated Technology solutions right around the country.”
Alloys has a history of value-added distribution. The company has been around for 32 years offering SME technology resellers a range of non-traditional services. It informs their branding as the ‘non-traditional distributor’.
“Our non-traditional approach requires the Alloys team to be more knowledgeable, offer greater flexibility, and to build stronger relationships with their customers, suppliers and the product solutions they sell,” says an Alloys spokesperson.
Alloys has two specialist divisions Print and Imaging and Integrated Technology. Alloys brands include: ACTi, Axis Communications, Brother, Canon, D-Link, DTG Digital, Elite Screens, Epson, Fuji Xerox Printers, HP, IQEye, JVC, Kodak, Kofax, Konica Minolta, Kyocera, Leviton Security & Automation, Lexmark, Milestone Systems, Mitsubishi, Oki, Optoma, Panasonic, QNAP, Samsung, Sony and Verbatim products.
CEO Paul Harman is no stranger to brand management. He enjoyed various sales managerial roles before the 10 years he spent with Fuji Xerox. Seven years ago he joined Alloys to build the business.
‘ When he took over at Alloys, Paul took about 100 days to understand the magnitude of the business. He listened to his staff and learned from them. He discovered what was and wasn’t working.’
Those sales roles, as he went from territory to territory, and indeed his time at Fuji Xerox taught Paul a great deal about customer service, customer fulfilment and leadership. And while he admits that taking over the senior management role of a company wasn’t his initial aim, this was certainly the path on which he was headed.
“I spent a great deal of my life thrust into leadership roles. And so when I was visiting businesses on the road, I was exposed to a lot of different leadership techniques and styles. A lot of those techniques are still with me today in terms of understanding and knowing what works and what doesn’t. It is advantageous to view a one man company or a five hundred men company and how they go about trying to keep a business afloat and keep it running.”
One of the biggest lessons was one of adaptation, particular in the technology sector. In fact, according to Paul this is a challenge for any business.
“Probably one of the greatest challenges that any business has going forward is how they are going to keep up with the rate of change in the market, in the globalisation of the economy, or the technology that’s required to drive the business.”
It is almost impossible to keep up with every change and so what works for Alloys is that they are a specialist, they specialise in certain areas of the market and ensure that their research, client feedback and customer feedback is up to date. It is also important to pick which technologies you focus on due to the ever-changing nature of a technology, which may actually evolve in a three month cycle when it used to be 24 months.
“If you narrow your focus too much to actually want to provide the latest and greatest trend, you are going to find it very difficult for your suppliers, your customers and your staff to be able to follow what the vision of the business is. In some respects you have to balance the core business with what is gaining traction.”
So how the market develops, what the different markets are and what the current product offering is, all play a key role in service and branding of the business. To keep on top of this, Alloys gathers its key managers around the country for 15 minutes a day to look at their critical numbers and find out what they are doing right, what is going wrong and what actions they need to take to make sure the business continues on the right track. That puts a lot of pressure on the business that a: the data is the right data and b: that data is available.
Alloys is a smaller business than Fuji Xerox and Paul finds it easier to keep his finger on the pulse. He says sometimes at a larger organisation, you can fall further away from where the decisions need to be made.
“It doesn’t matter if you are the Operations Manager or the General Manager of a particular business unit, unless you have complete central control you never have the entire picture. At Alloys we have the ability to make a close connection. I can gather around the ten people that need to be involved in decisions and we then hope all the staff in our business actually see the decisions that we make and why we’re making them. In a large organisation you don’t actually have that clarity.”
Making personalised decisions that helps the company and its clients pay their bills is part of the brand strength of Alloys and Paul has been doing this since he moved from the COO position into the CEO role. That was a significant move as he transitioned from making sure everything works in an operational sense, to leading and setting the agenda for the business. He sees his role now as threefold: making sure he is setting an agenda for the business and positioning the business so that they are on the right pathway to success; looking at the commercial and combined interests of the business and strategy interests so that the business can pay its bills and not break the law; looking after the security and welfare of the staff.
That’s a weighty agenda, but Paul was ready to take it on.
“I know a lot of people who wanted leadership positions for the title but at some stage didn’t actually want to do all the things required to be a leader. There’s unglamorous things about being a leader in terms of the decisions that have to be made and being on top of management needs. I hit a stage in my career where I had the will to want to continue leading with my very own style.”
When he took over at Alloys, Paul took about 100 days to understand the magnitude of the business. He listened to his staff and learned from them. He discovered what was and wasn’t working. The next step was to really outline to people what Alloys was going to do to move forward to make the business even better.
“That’s a personal phase and that’s probably a phase that in various times in my career I haven’t always got right. It’s really about making sure that you’re setting an agenda and vision for the team, for everybody in the team to relate to and understand.”
Paul set a new pathway, while expanding on the direction of the company. Again it was about understanding what needed to be done to reconcile the business. Alloys was focused on print hardware specifically and some of the various different products surrounding that. So it was a matter of understanding the product selection criteria and the markets Alloys wanted to serve and therefore the critical success practices to reach into those markets.
“It really meant that we initially went from being a five or six division business without any of them really being complete, to a two division business where we always take more holistic approaches in the marketplace.”
According to Paul, this meant client relationships became easier. Suppliers could see that Alloys were more aligned with their own vision. They could see a wholesale distribution business with a vision and pathway that added value to them and the area that they are involved with.
This is where the brand of being a ‘non-traditional distributor’ really strengthened and where brand values became aligned with those of the suppliers and even the customers. Take suppliers for example.
“Our suppliers are manufacturers of products. And generally manufacturers have a particular goal in mind when they are manufacturing the product. Not all of those goals constantly line up with customers’ expectations or localised needs. Our non-traditional distribution philosophy aims to be able to change that disconnect between the manufacturers and the customers. We went about gaining real knowledge about the product and developing real flexibility about how we are able to work with the supplier and customer. Those relationships are about making sure that the customers can get everything they can out of the products even if it means adding other parts to finalise the solution for them. The non-traditional distribution philosophy is giving our resellers the best opportunity to achieve growth profit and cash flow. Most distributors are a combination of a post office and bank, we aim to provide a further range of services that add value for customers and suppliers.”
Paul believes this sets Alloys ahead of competitors.
“We wear the non-traditional distribution tag with a badge of honour because we think that sets the standard in the market place.”
Alloys is a family business, which adds a further dynamic to the structure. However the values and the context of what the business is designed to do for that family is synergistic with what Paul is trying to achieve with the Alloys’ business model. The business has morphed from being a traditional small family business where it’s a vehicle for employing a number of family members, to having families working in the business who are actually making a difference; corporatising and delivering on a national business approach rather than just a family business approach.
That being said, Paul shares similar values with the family.
“It’s very important that when you bring in an outsider, that you have someone who has all the same values and wants to drive the business as hard as you do, but is going to be totally cognizant of what went before and how the business has run. So relationships are very important not only externally but internally as well. And we have a really cohesive team at a leadership level and we enjoy working with each other.”
Alloys has 85 staff all working in the same direction to fulfil the motto and brand of ‘Having the flexibility to meet our customers needs and expectations’. They are all on song because if Paul leaves one legacy it is to develop really good leaders in any organisation that he has been involved in.
“We’ve worked very hard in developing a strong leadership team which allows me to work on the business and allows them to do most of the day to day running the business.”
It is a simple matter but it is key, because it creates consistency within the business, which in turn creates consistency with suppliers and customers and it is that synergy which is so important to Alloys to live their motto of being a non-traditional distributor.