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Last fall Bob O'Malley left his position as senior vice president of marketing with distributor Tech Data to take on the challenge of turning around Wilsonville, Ore.-based projector vendor InFocus as its CEO. When he started, InFocus was coming off its 11th un-profitable quarter.
CMP Channel spoke with him one month after his arrival and he felt the "heavy lifting" was over and the company could get back on track. CMP speaks with him again to see how his views on the industry and the projector market had evolved and where the channel fits into the InFocus picture.
How long have you been with InFocus now Bob?
I started on October 1, so it's more than four months.
How have your first few months with InFocus shaped up?
It's a little bit like showing up at the gym and there's a treadmill going already, and it's the only one in the gym so it's what you now need to use. Now you have to figure out how to start running next to the treadmill and jump on it without getting a broken leg at the same time.
Part of that first 100 days are getting a sense of the organization, getting a sense of the people, spending time with customers and understanding supplies so that you can be effective and in sync with things that are already in progress. You don't want to shut anything down. You want to keep everything going.
Before you came over to InFocus you were on the marketing side for Tech Data. What do you think is different about being back on the vendor side?
One of the nice things is that I've been involved in channel-related things for 25 years, and I think that probably means I started when I was around 12. I've been with manufacturers three different times in three different customer organizations, two distributors and one hybrid integrator/distributor, so I've been on both sides before. One thing I think about this business that I've always enjoyed is that there are so many great friendships. You might compete on a deal but you're still close friends because those that are involved in technology, especially on the channel side, realize that they get things done by partnerships and by working with others.
At Tech Data I was a customer consultant, so shifting to this side, that's a perspective that I can certainly bring to the InFocus organization.
What are the parts of your role as CEO of InFocus?
First of all to be a voice and that's both internally and externally. InFocus has been through an awful lot of change, all for the right reasons. If you look at our financials we've lost money now 11 quarters in a row, but over the last year we've narrowed that loss. We're approaching break-even, and the company and people of InFocus have done an awful lot of hard work to bring this company back with the stated objective of being profitable in the near future.
First of all I need to recognize and compliment that and continue to steer that ship and make sure we stay on course. Externally my job is really to listen first to customers and I have probably spent a third of my time over the first four months with customers and talking to customers. My first 30 days I think I either talked to or met with 35 different customers. The second 30 days I went to understand our international operations in Amsterdam for our customers in Europe and in Singapore to support our customers in Asia as well as interfacing with our manufacturer partners.
We're a company that's shifting from a product focus to a company that's going to be much more customer focused, much more market focused and much more solutions oriented. We realize that value-added partners are going to be a key to our success.
How do you plan to revitalize the brand within the channel?
That's part of the good news. I just looked at a study that was done by a branding organization and InFocus came out as No. 1 in both the un-aided and aided awareness categories in projectors. VARBusiness just did a story with Ann Mozer from Ricoh on the cover, and they talked about peripherals and InFocus came out No. 1 in terms of the market.
In some sections it is a strong brand and it's a question of taking that strength and leveraging it. On the Pro/AV side of our business, on the video business -- I characterize the VAR side as being the service side and the data projectors -- the PRO/AV side is video projectors. That's the area that we as a company need to spend a little more time with. I believe what we're going to see is data and video coming together. It's one of these convergence trends that we believe not only does InFocus need to be involved in, we need to lead.
What we are doing is brining InFocus back into focus.
Next: O'Malley Explains Growth Strategy