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Supply Chain Prowess Has Put Dynabook Into Channel Fast Lane

Dynabook, formerly the Toshiba PC Company, is experiencing a channel resurgence as a result of its ability to provide much-needed laptop inventory to channel partners in the wake of supply chain shortages.

When a national solution provider recently couldn’t get delivery on a large number of laptops, it switched the customer to Dynabook laptops that were readily available in order to get the deal done.

That big deal is one of many that Dynabook Americas, formerly Toshiba PC, is winning because of its ability to supply laptops in a timely manner to channel partners that have been waiting months and months for orders from other laptop makers, said James Robbins (pictured, center), general manager and president of the fast-growing Dynabook business, in an interview at the XChange+ 2021 conference, run by CRN parent The Channel Company.

Dynabook’s business is growing at a 30 percent to 40 percent sequential growth rate each quarter because of its supply chain visibility and prowess, Robbins said.

“We’re growing like crazy,” said Robbins, a channel-savvy 25-year industry veteran who has implemented a sweeping “channel first, channel best” sales strategy since taking the helm five months ago. “That’s why I’m excited. I can’t sleep. We are kind of in this perfect storm of our business. That is why we want to continue to invest and expand in the channel because that is going to help us grow faster.”

Robbins has brought Dynabook back into the channel full-force after a three-year period in which the company had pulled back from its once-strong indirect sales strategy.

Fueling Dynabook’s channel growth is the visibility it has into the supply chain through its corporate parent Foxconn Technology Group, the world’s largest electronics manufacturing provider with $180 billion dollars in annual sales. Foxconn owns Sharp, which acquired 80.1 percent of the Toshiba computer business in 2018 and the remaining 19.9 percent in August 2020.

Foxconn has provided visibility into the supply chain that is giving Dynabook a significant competitive advantage, said Robbins.

For example, Dynabook has guided partners and customers toward 14-inch touchscreen models when 13-inch touchscreens were hard to find. Similarly, it has recommended systems with 512 GB SSDs when 256 GB SSDs were in short supply.

“Being owned by Foxconn gives us line of sight to components so we are able to stay ahead of the shortages a lot of the other manufacturers have faced,” said Robbins. “By having availability and inventory in the channel with SKUs in stock that are ready to ship—which very few manufacturers have today—we have been able to pick up market share. That’s because we are ready to deploy products when customers need them.”

That Foxconn connection has provided Dynabook with an early alert system to what components are going to be available and what components are not. “We have definitely been able to use that to acquire net-new customers,” Robbins said. “We have had a great quarter in [customer] acquisition because of our ability to provide thought leadership on what is going to be available and what is not.”

A top sales executive for a large national solution provider, who did not want to be identified, said Dynabook is providing much-needed laptop supply to the channel. “It feels great to have Dynabook in the channel,” he said. “At the end of the day we have to service our customers, and there is nothing out there right now. We are waiting months and months to get product from the other manufacturers. We need to know what we can sell that is available today. We are doing our forecasts on a weekly basis. Right now, we need to be able to take care of our customers.”

The supply chain crisis has hit the channel hard across the board, said the executive. “[Getting] anything with a chip is a problem,” he said. “It could be a laptop, router or a server. We have seen two-, four- and five-month wait times on laptops.”

With laptops in stock, Dynabook has a “big opportunity” to grab share from competitors, said the executive. “We have to take care of our customers,” he said.

To take advantage of the opportunity to grab share from rivals HP Inc. and Dell, Dynabook recently made a significant investment, adding eight people to support both the large national solution providers like CDW, SHI, Zones and the bread-and-butter SMB channel.

Robbins said carving out a bigger piece of the national solution provider pie could have a big impact on Dynabook. “Those partners give us tremendous reach, and the great news is, when you look at the enterprise space, they have key relationships in accounts that have been Toshiba-Dynabook friendly for decades,” said Robbins. “We are going to be targeting growth with those partners for the enterprise as well as small/medium business. We really want to partner very deeply with the channel—NSP, MSP and traditional VARs—because that’s how we’re really going to scale.”

Taking the top job at Dynabook Americas is a homecoming of sorts for Robbins, who started his career as a regional territory manager at Toshiba in 1996 and climbed the corporate ladder during his 11-year tenure to become Channel Sales Manager.

He also spent eight years at Apple in several channel roles, including director of worldwide small business sales.

Among the blockbuster moves Robbins made upon taking the job was delivering a revamped, robust partner program and bringing back highly respected Toshiba channel chief Richard Vaughn (pictured, right) as senior director of channel sales. “We are a channel company. We have always been a channel company,” said Robbins.

Bringing Vaughn back to the company has delivered a channel boost to Dynabook. “The great thing about having Richard back is that he deeply understands the channel and our place in that,” said Robbins. “Richard has great relationships that we can go in and ignite overnight. He has this deep relationship in the channel. So very quickly we can go in and get engaged with partners we haven’t been doing business with.”

Another key Dynabook channel veteran, Darren McGeorge, a 22-year Toshiba channel sales and marketing veteran, has helped pull together a deep three-tier partner program with significant partner benefits. That includes a special bid program, deal registration, try before buy, demo discounts, a build to order configurator and market development funds and lead generation capabilities.

One of the big channel changes Robbins made was a major internal compensation change that neutralized the conflict between direct sales and the channel reps. Now both channel reps and direct sales reps are rewarded to drive channel sales. That change has provided “way more incentive” for direct and channel reps to team together to drive channel sales, said Robbins.

“We are one team as an organization driving towards one goal, which is channel first, channel best,” he said. “That is really how we are going to grow the company is scaling through the channel, especially with the deep brand heritage and relationships we have. The channel is going to be our true driving force for growth.”

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