D-Link Guts North America Management Team

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D-Link is pledging to stay the channel course in the wake of a management shakeup that includes the departures of three top North American executives.

The end to end networking provider Friday confirmed that D-Link North America President Nick Tidd and two of his top sales executives, Pat Piwowarczyk, vice president, U.S. enterprise and channel sales, and Rod St. Michel, D-Link's vice president of consumer sales, have all stepped down. Tidd's imminent departure was announced internally Friday. Both Piwowarczyk and St. Michel left the company several weeks ago.

D-Link said it is actively seeking a North America president. A.J. Wang, CTO of D-Link, will be taking over for Tidd on an acting basis.

Tidd could not be reached for comment.

Reached by CRN, Piwowarczyk said he left to focus on other opportunities.

Piwowarczyk said he is happy about the job his team had done at the company, pointing to 22 percent growth year-over-year in U.S. enterprise sales since he took over the position in 2010.

"It's not clear to me where the focus is right now," he said of D-Link. "We were focused on building a channel and a full set of solutions for D-Link, and what we accomplished was people selling on solutions, not on boxes and price."

Dan Kelley, associate vice president of marketing at D-Link North America said D-Link's commitment to solution providers remains intact. "Our strategy is not changing. We are 100 percent committed to the channel," said Kelley. "We have built programs based on partner profitability and ease of doing business, because we know how programs can get quite complicated. Our commitment has not wavered. We are continuing to build up that program."

Kelley said, D-Link is reallocating resources to support the hiring of more inside sales representatives -- something that will benefit D-Link VARs.

"We have to have the ability to talk to and touch more of our partners on a regular basis," he said. "We realized we needed a wider breadth of resources, and we were looking at where our sweet spots are, and then how to make modifications to our business to make sure we're available when a partner needs us. The decision was made because we needed more resources inside to talk and touch on a regular basis to thousands of VAR partners."

Kelley said that D-Link will be making updates to its Value In Partnership (VIP) channel program in the first quarter next year. "This will be a very significant set of enhancements," he said.

Kelley said Tidd's departure "was a mutual decision on both of our parts, and looking at the bigger picture of how we're suited for our respective futures." Kelley declined to go into details on the departures Piwowarczyk or St. Michel.

Other executives well-known to D-Link VARs that have also recently left the company include Kevin Lahm, associate vice president for North America field systems engineers, and Betsy Roddy, senior director of marketing communications and field marketing, according to sources. The management shakeup follows what Kelley described as a small number of layoffs in the fall.

Replacing Piwowarczyk as D-Link's new channel chief is Albert Ling, whose title is senior vice president of channel operations for D-Link North America. Ling has been an executive in D-Link's North America business for 14 years, Kelley said, and most recently had a business operations role covering sales operations for D-Link's channel business. His most recent title was AVP North America of Business Development and he is based in D-Link's Fountain Valley, Calif. office.

The North America management shakeup follows a major change this fall to D-Link's Taiwan-based leadership. In September, Roger Kao -- brother of the late Ken Kao, D-Link's co-founder and former CEO -- was named D-Link's chairman and CEO following eight years as chairman of D-Link's Greater China division. At the same time, longtime board member A.P. Chen became D-Link's president following 14 years as its chief financial officer. The two men replaced Tony Tsao, who had been D-Link's president and CEO since 2008.

Several D-Link solution providers said they hope the upheaval doesn't derail their efforts with the vendor.

Neil Medwed, president and CEO of Preferred Technology, a Richardson, Texas-based solution provider, said he'd asked D-Link why there had been so many recent changes, and the company told him that D-Link was consolidating resources and that he as a partner would be better served as a result. Medwed's D-Link area account rep, former sales manager Doug Chase, was among recent departures from the company.

"I'm hoping that they continue their channel-friendly ways and that they don't stub their toes," said Medwed. "The product is good, the channel program has been good and I felt I had a partnership with D-Link and the regime in place.'"

Mark Essayian, president of KME Systems, a Lake Forest, Calif.-based solution provider who is now selling about $10,000 a month in D-Link products, up from zero before he took on the portfolio in 2010, said he is concerned about the North America management changes.

"They were gaining traction with us and with other partners, so I see this happen, I have to wonder," Essayian said. "We're a big HP shop, but D-Link took time to understand us and where we thought they could fit in with our clients."

Kevin Gregg, vice president of business development at Business Continuity Technologies (BCT), a Las Vegas-based solution provider, said he plans "to stand back and wait and see how this pans out. There was this momentum, but now the tree shakes again and these guys are gone. So what happens now?"

NEXT: D-Link's Channel Advocacy

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