ShoreTel Partners Gear Up For New Sales Chief, Program Changes

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ShoreTel partners will have a lot to keep an eye on over the next few months, as ShoreTel integrates its acquisition of hosted VoIP provider M5 Networks, and makes some planned changes to its partner program.

In a few weeks time, they'll also meet a new global sales chief, following word that Don Girskis, senior vice president, worldwide sales, is departing.

Girskis, whose pending exit from ShoreTel was first reported by CRN, will officially leave the company on March 31. He'll turn his attention to philanthropy, he said, in hopes of following the footsteps of Richard Stearns, the former Parker Brothers and Lenox executive who in 1998 joined Christian charitable organization World Vision, where Stearns is president.

"He made the change from the corporate world, chasing the traditional business definition of success, and moved his life to really trying to achieve that significance rather than business success," Girskis said in an interview with CRN. "That's what I want to do with my life. I want to meet my maker and be able to say more than 'Don sold a lot of phones.' It's totally my decision and everything to do with my personal goals."

[Related: 10 Things VARs Should Know About ShoreTel]

Girskis will pursue work with organizations such as World Vision and the Catholic Relief Fund, to which he is a regular contributor. Philanthropic work has been a long-term personal goal, Girskis said, "but given how jobs in charitable organizations pay, you pretty much have to be financially independent."

ShoreTel is not retaining an outside search firm. Girskis said Peter Blackmore, ShoreTel's CEO, is actively evaluating both internal and external candidates and a decision is expected soon.

"We're not ready to make an announcement but Peter has had plenty of heads-up time on this one," said Kevin Gavin, vice president of marketing.

Girskis is departing ShoreTel at a pivotal time when the scrappy unified communications player has used much of its cash hoard on the recent acquisition of M5 and is also fueling momentum behind the year-old ShoreTel Mobility practice in built following a fall 2010 acquisition of Agito Networks.

ShoreTel partners said Girskis' replacement will need to rationalize all of those priorities as ShoreTel, a $200 million company as of the end of its fiscal 2011, sets its sites on $1 billion in revenue.

"I can't really attest to what [Girskis] was directly responsible for, but a lot of good things did happen during the period he ran it. The organization went through a lot of growth during that time and he seemed good for the stage they were at," said Rick Hall, managing partner of StormWood Technologies, an Alpharetta, Ga.-based solution provider and a ShoreTel partner since 2003. "They've now got their sites set on $1 billion in revenue, so I anticipate the next person will be someone who's experienced and ready to take them there."

Robert Plessett, managing partner at TeleSwitch, a Miami-based solution provider, said Girskis was "very approachable and easy to talk to and obviously engaged." As ShoreTel tackles bigger customers beyond its traditional SMB base, however, Plessett and several solution providers said ShoreTel's next head of sales would need to be more visible in field engagements.

"In the phone business, once you get upstream with larger customers, it's very difficult to get them to change their system to a new vendor -- there are a lot of forces at work against you to get them to do that," Plessett said. "It's a lot of work getting them to turn the way you want them to turn -- that requires some executive involvement from the [ShoreTel] side."

Next: Changes To ShoreTel's Champion Partner Program

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