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.

Business First - - CONTENTS -

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.

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