Lenovo Channel Chief Kinlaw Takes On New Role To Target Small Biz, Workstation, Services For Growth

Lenovo North America channel chief Sammy Kinlaw is taking on an additional role leading the company's effort to boost sales to small and midsized businesses as it tries to drill down into specific segments it has targeted for growth in the fight with other industry heavyweights like HPE and Dell EMC.

Kinlaw was tapped by Lenovo North America President Emilio Ghilardi to become vice president of the company's U.S. SMB group in a move that mirrors the structure of Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, a key competitor. The job puts Kinlaw in charge of customer accounts between 1 and 999 seats, he told CRN during Lenovo's Accelerate channel partner conference in Orlando on Monday.

With Kinlaw at the helm, Lenovo hopes to capitalize on recent growth in the channel among SMB accounts, Kinlaw said. "What excites me about the role is that the power of the channel can be unleashed on SMB," Kinlaw said. "Our VAR community in the U.S. last year in SMB grew 47 percent year-over-year. If you're going to hit 47 percent year-over-year in a market that's essentially flat, how and why?"

Related: HP Beats Dell, Apple In Bruising U.S. PC Market-Share Battle

Kinlaw said the move is part of a broader effort on Lenovo's part to grow through specialization, whether it is in market segments or product lines. There was no SMB specialization within Lenovo before now, Kinlaw said. "We've carved it out," he said. "It's its own unique mission, just like there's a public sector mission, a corporate mission. There's now an SMB mission. For me, that's 70 reps, six managers and a $1 billion segment of the business."

The move comes just after Lenovo organized its Data Center Group channel program into tiers – Platinum, Gold and Silver – for the first time. In addition to Kinlaw's new role, Lenovo put Stefan Bockhop, a veteran Lenovo Canada channel executive, in charge of coverage for DCG Gold and Platinum accounts, Kinlaw said.

The company last week also hired Jimmy Holbert away from HP, where he mobility channel sales manager, to revamp Lenovo's workstation sales coverage. Holbert will report to Kinlaw and will hire a team of workstation channel reps, Kinlaw said.

"If I think about how I'm going to get to 20 percent growth, I look at third-party data and say where am I under-indexed?" Kinlaw said. "The biggest thing that I've uncovered is where I stand in workstation. HP has something like 60 percent share. I've got 20-some percent share. I've got competing product that can go after that space. In order to get there, I have to make sure I have the right programs, sales coverage model and people."

In addition to focusing more carefully on the DCG and workstations, Kinlaw is also looking to get more specialized on services and called on Stephanie Fagan to run a dedicated services team within the Lenovo channel operation. "I'm under-indexed to my competition on attaching around-the-box services. For whatever reason, Lenovo has been slower to achieve penetration rates and attach ratios and we can't tolerate it," Kinlaw said.

Russ Denet, an account manager at WBM Office Systems, a Calgary, Alberta, Canada-based solution provider that works with Lenovo, Dell and HPE, said Kinlaw is improving an already-strong channel program.

"They're focused on the partners," Denet said. "We work with Lenovo, Dell, HP, and it depends on the client, but we probably sell more Lenovo than anyone." Denet said Lenovo's bonus programs and back-end rebates have been especially effective, along with "really good relationships with their reps. That keeps us in the game," he said.

The personnel changes are just the latest in a long line of executive shakeups for Lenovo over the last couple of years, including a broad restructuring last month when the company brought on Intel veteran Kim Stevenson as vice president and general manager of the DCG.

Stevenson followed Kirk Skaugen, a former Intel SVP, to Lenovo. Skaugen himself was hired in a flurry of executive moves that included making former data center group boss Gerry Smith head of the company's PC business. Those moves followed closely behind the departure of Chris Frey, the company's high-profile commercial sales chief just 18 months after he took that job.

Smith has since left the company, too. He became CEO of Office Depot in January. Lenovo has shuffled its executive deck several times in recent years as it confronts the challenges of a contracting PC market and struggles to settle on a strategy in the data center following its purchase of IBM's x86 server business for $2.3 billion about two years ago. Lenovo's share of the server market lags competitors including HPE, Dell EMC and IBM.

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