Not that Edwardson, CEO of the Vernon Hills, Ill.-based solution provider, could have foreseen the economic collapse this year. But as a solution provider with a huge products business focused on small-business companies, CDW is not immune to the economic challenges facing many solution providers. Add to that the departure of executives Harry Harczak (retirement) and Paul Shain (resigned, reportedly to look for an entrepreneurial role), and it's clear Edwardson has his hands full.
Brian Alexander, managing director of equity research, technology hardware/distribution/EMS at Raymond James & Associates, said that CDW is facing mighty challenges. "Overall, the macro economic conditions, especially the tight credit markets, are going to make it difficult for SMB spending on technology products to grow in 2009. That's where CDW plays," Alexander said.
Edwardson declined to be interviewed for this article.
One factor that hasn't come into play yet that could impact CDW is the chance that many small businesses, and even VARs, could be going out of business in 2009. If CDW loses customers, the company will have to adjust, Alexander said.
CDW has always been a polarizing figure with solution providers, which both compete against the company but also use it as a supplier. That may be changing, according to some solution providers.
"I don't run up against CDW anymore. I run up against New Egg more now and if I need something that I can't get through distribution, I'll get it through New Egg," said Michael Bidwell, vice president of Know Problem Business Technologies Inc., an Erie, Pa.-based solution provider.
Jay Tipton, vice president of Technology Specialists, Fort Wayne, Ind., said he still competes against CDWbut he's found he's winning the deals for bigger-ticket products. "They may get a hard drive here, a workstation there," he said.
All of which may tie to CDW's struggles for a smaller SMB spending pie.
Still, Edwardson is the right man to lead CDW through the downturn, Alexander said. "With John Edwardson's leadership, I'm confident CDW is in good hands to weather the storm," he said.