BlackBerry Partners Upbeat On Reported Layoff Period End


Partners say the worst is over for BlackBerry and see smoother sailing ahead.

This is coming off news, reported by Reuters, that the company released a memo to employees signaling an end to layoffs and plans to hire in certain departments.

"We have completed the restructuring notification process, and the workforce reduction that began three years ago is now behind us," BlackBerry CEO John Chen said in a memo sent out Friday as reported by Reuters. "More importantly, barring any unexpected downturns in the market, we will be adding headcount in certain areas such as product development, sales and customer service, beginning in modest numbers." 

[Related: MobileIron CEO: Apple-IBM Partnership Signals 'The Death of The Desktop']

The memo from Chen reflects a change in tone in the hallways of the Waterloo, Ontario-based company, following a 60 percent reduction of its workforce over the past three years. BlackBerry's smartphone market share was 19 percent in late 2010, according to IDC, and fell below one percent in the most recent quarter.

"The last couple years, it's been a rollercoaster ride," said Rick Jordan, director of mobility sales at Tenet Computer Group, a Toronto-based solution provider and longtime BlackBerry partner. "But I think Chen has done what he's needed to do. He's gotten rid of jobs that aren't creating revenue. Unfortunately, there are layoffs that happen. They've downsized and they have a clear focus."

Jordan said BlackBerry could be a remarkable turnaround story, referencing Apple scathing off bankruptcy in the mid-90s to become what it is today. He believes BlackBerry's strength in product is something that can fuel such a comeback.

"We're excited about the company, about the change and the involvement we're going to have. I think exciting times are ahead," Jordan said. "You have to look at the importance of having security. BlackBerry, for the longest time, was looking for the "cool" factor. Blackberry wasn't so much in the phone business, they were in the security and server business. I hope BlackBerry is a Cinderella story, and they got a damn good product. I think they got the right guy at the helm in Chen, and now he's in building mode. Hopefully they can prove a lot of people wrong."

Chen, who took over as CEO in November, has a reputation for turning around failing companies, and intends to do the same at BlackBerry. He assured employees in the memo that the company will meet its goal of having positive cash flow by the end of the fiscal year, Reuters reported.  

"I think [Chen's] doing a great job, not only from a customer standpoint, but also from a partner perspective," said James Hawkins, owner of RedHawks IT Solutions, a Washington, D.C.-based BlackBerry partner. "When he first was hired, I was hopeful, so I'm really not surprised, but I'm certainly glad. I hope this means they are stabilized and they can move forward."

Hawkins said he sees better days ahead for BlackBerry and looks forward to its new product development lines that are expected this fall.

"I think since him taking the helm, they are going back to the roots," said Jordan of Tenet Computer Group. "That's ecosystem, that's enterprise. They've gotten a reality check and Chen has got the right team in place. Sharpen the pencil and let's write a new chapter."

PUBLISHED AUG. 5, 2014