Q&A: ScanSource CEO On How Partners Will Profit From Mobility

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All of ScanSource's major business lines are touched by the mobility trend in some way, so it was no surprise that mobility solutions were the big theme of this week's ScanSource partner conference in Greenville, S.C.

As ScanSource CEO Mike Baur sees it, solution providers need to focus their energies not so much on iPad but what surrounds iPad, and figure out how their expertise contributes to that infrastructure solution, whether it's security or data capture or app development.

Baur was one of the original six employees of ScanSource when it was founded in 1992, so the celebration of the distributor's 20th anniversary this year holds special meaning for him. He was president from the beginning, presided over ScanSource's IPO in 1994, became CEO in 2000, and yielded the president title in 2007, all the while overseeing steady growth and addition to ScanSource's varied holdings via acquisition.

These days, ScanSource is a roughly $3 billion value-added distributor still very much focused on infrastructure and communications but building its businesses particularly in UC, video, POS systems, mobility and security, and expanding its international footprint further into Europe and Latin America. ScanSource overall has about 1,500 employees.


[Related: 10 Mobility Trends To Inspire and Scare the Channel]

Baur joined CRN Editor At-Large Chad Berndtson for an interview during the Greenville event this week.

CRN: There's lots of opportunity for solution providers in mobility, we've established that, so where do you see ScanSource partners having the best opportunity to make money, especially if they aren't Apple resellers?

Baur: So let's talk about the POS and cash register and data capture side of the business. They're excited right now because retailers are actually buying technology. It isn't iPad from them but, well, here's an example: I spoke to a partner last night who sells software to manage beverage inventory at restaurants. He wants to link that to the iPad and to the backroom management so they can track trends and what people are looking at and how they're buying. An iPad, our channel makes nothing on, but they're looking at what else can we surround the iPad with. I asked a partner the other day, 'Why do you have all these iPads here in your office if you don't sell them?' He said customers want them, and I'm their trusted adviser so I have to understand this. It's a little scary at first, but there is so much opportunity around it.

CRN: So the play is understanding the infrastructure that goes with iPad and mobile devices?

Baur: Yes. The integration of the IT infrastructure and applications and software systems isn't clear to a retailer. Our channel has a great opportunity to do that.

CRN: And the profits are good in that end of their business?

Baur: I think so. And another thing is this: I had a reseller last night who said, 'Mike, I'm asked by my customers to configure their iPads and provide them the [software] to handle that piece of it.' That reseller in turn is dealing with a larger partner who's taking its software and making it part of their overall deal. Customers are asking for that, so partners get together and find a good opportunity.

CRN: Do you expect to see more of that type of behavior, with partners leveraging each other?

Baur: It always looks like it's going to hurt business, but the truth is that there is so much more business potential. You are their systems adviser and everything that goes with that. That's part of the reason that with mobility we're seeing demand in all of our wireless business. Our Aruba sales are up, our Ruckus sales are up, our Cisco wireless sales are up, everything. Wireless is driving new infrastructure choices and customers -- if they haven't already -- are finally saying, maybe I do need to enable my retail shop.

NEXT: ScanSource Cutting Security Vendors

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