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Ingram Micro’s Kirk Robinson: ‘Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable’

‘The industry we're in if you're comfortable, you're either probably not growing or you're getting run over,’ says Ingram Micro Chief Country Executive for the U.S. Kirk Robinson in a keynote at the Best of Breed conference.

Ingram Micro Chief Country Executive for the U.S. Kirk Robinson told partners that the key to thriving in today’s fast-changing technology climate is to rely on your trusted advisers and “get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

“The past year I've been telling my team, ‘You have to get comfortable being uncomfortable,’” he said. “The industry we're in if you're comfortable, you're either probably not growing or you're getting run over. So you have to look at the market fluctuations, all the M&A activity, all the changes and you still have to have the courage to take those risks to go grow the business. And at the end of the day, we have to have those partnerships with those trusted advisers that we talk to: our employees and third-party companies that are going to help us be a better company than we can be on our own.”

Robinson delivered his remarks at The Channel Company’s Best of Breed Conference in Philadelphia Monday.

For Ingram Micro, Robinson said, innovation isn’t only about technology or software but also about finding ways to help partners run their business more effectively, such as with creative financing. The distributor is now meeting with partners to find out what their needs are, he said.

“What we're doing is we're talking about cash flow and working capital,” Robinson said. “We have a product called Direct Express. It's basically if a deal goes beyond your credit limit from a size standpoint, we will look at the credit worthiness of the end user, set up a lock box, and you get paid right away. The deal gets done. Nobody knows that Ingram's even involved.”

For John Sikaras, principal at longtime Ingram Micro partner Fulton May Solutions in Chicago, Direct Express is a big win for his business. He said it allows him to sign deals that are larger than the company could otherwise support.

“As a growing MSP, there are a lot of moving pieces so sometimes we leverage them for help for from small to big projects,” he said. ‘’We use Direct Express. For our size, we have customers who want a lot of equipment and that costs a lot of money. We can’t front it, so we use them and it works really well. When big companies come out and ask you for $200,000, or half a million worth of products, you don’t want to say no.”

Robinson said Ingram Micro also recently revamped its customer relationship management database to update every one of its partners and assign them the correct designation after discovering that many were still labeled simply ‘VAR.’

Robinson said that led to better conversations with partners about ways Ingram Micro can help their business.

“It didn't just come down to what you call yourself, by the way—most of you are not just one thing,” he said. “As an example, we have a conversation with the partner and they say, ‘I'm an MSP.’ ... Then when we ask the next question, ‘What percent of your business is services?’ Some are going to say 3 percent. Some are going to say 93 percent. Those are two completely different business models. We need to get to know you better. Then we can look at what type of support we can offer you.”

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