Distributor Differentiators: CEOs Dish On What Sets Each Apart

Secret Sauce

Pick, pack and ship -- that's distribution at its core.

But what makes a distributor different from the next is how each chooses to layer in different solutions or services.

Click through to hear straight from the mouths of top executives how they set their business apart from the rest.

Ingram Micro

"First and foremost, our people and their drive to provide the best possible service and support to our customers and partners. Second, our proven ability to be an indispensable business partner. Ingram Micro offers the technology, solutions, services, expertise, business resources, enablement tools and support channel partners want and need to be successful."

-- Paul Bay, Ingram president of North America

Tech Data

"Each of the distributors, we all have kind of landed in a slightly different place ... Back in the day, we were kind of mirror images of each other. Now we really look different and have specialties. ... The other thing is, we invest in a certain set of customers, our competitors invest in other customers … and so I think most of the channel would say that they have a primary distributor that they've worked with and a secondary distributor.

"The reason they come to us is they've already determined we're they're primary and they work with us, or they're not happy with their primary for whatever reason and they want to switch. There's enough business out there for everybody. That's the way I look at it."

-- Bob Dutkowsky, Tech Data CEO


"In any given year, I will meet with literally thousands of our customers. ... I asked them that question in different ways and basically what I hear back is 'You guys know our business and you care about our business.' I think there's a lot behind that statement. It's around we care more about you than just what you're going to buy from us today. We want to understand where you're going to go, what your challenges are. We want to understand how your family is doing, too.

"But what we try to do is try to figure out how to bring new opportunities to them. … It just comes down to customer intimacy and caring about our customers. As much as everybody likes to talk about their third platform and cloud and mobility, at the end of the day it's still the basics. It's still the fundamentals that make you successful."

-- Kevin Murai, Synnex CEO

Westcon Group

"In many ways, all distributors form important functions. ... The core of our functions are transferrable between our competitors. Everybody is looking for what makes you unique. What I love about Westcon and I'm surprised by, we go deeper than I think our competitors. We have fewer relationships with our vendors -- we have just 15 global relationships. We're not trying to be everything to everyone, but where we specialize we like to go really deep and really understand both our customer issues and our vendor issues and build enough technical expertise as well as industry and market expertise.

"The second part is our global footprint. I think in our industry there are probably few players that are truly global the way that we are. ... And then really our people. It sounds hokey ... what I love here is the loyalty that the people have. The employees have loyalty to the brand."

-- Dolph Westerbos, Westcon Group CEO


"D&H Distributing looks to create loyalty among its solution providers, supporting them in a way that will incite growth; we don’t just source products. Our roots go back to a decade when territories were restricted, so the only way to succeed was to work closely with the customers you had and help develop their businesses, more along the order of a partner. Though the market has changed, we’ve held onto that philosophy of one-on-one consultation, discovering the reseller's real-world needs, introducing them to new opportunities and providing the right tools to help them capitalize.

"It’s our role to keep our customers educated so they can adapt to the market and thrive, and we stay agile enough to apply that individually, VAR-by-VAR."

-- Dan Schwab, D&H co-President


"When we're operating at our best with our partners, we are really functioning as a business development manager for them, helping them have a very open and straightforward dialogue on how are we going to help grow your business. The VAR needs to make choices. The VAR can't be everything to everybody. So what verticals, what markets, what specific geographies, what industries, what applications -- these are decisions that VARs make based on what they want to do and what their goals are.

"Hopefully we can bring resources, expertise and tools to help make progress on those specific goals. ... That linkage and communication back to the strategic plans for our suppliers as well to help the VARs make decisions and ultimately be their business development. When we're operating at our best, that's where we're at: helping accelerate their success."

-- Rick Hamada, Avnet CEO


"I think the reason resellers come to us is because we're very focused. We've always had a significant investment in a business unit, business model where our telephony group only sells telephony, and our barcoding group only sells barcoding. We've been able to get big enough where we can do that but most distributors can't afford that, not at scale. You've got to be the biggest player in order to do that with enough volume. We believe that in all the markets we're in that that focus is what makes us different.

"We're really less of a warehousing distributor. We're really much more of a channel marketing, channel enablement distributor. I think that's our secret sauce. Enabling the channel. That's what I think we do better than everyone else."

-- Mike Baur, ScanSource CEO


"Arrow is unwavering in its commitment to the value model and to fully supporting the enterprise data center. We provide industry-leading and comprehensive technical, marketing and financing support to help solution providers grow faster than the market. Additionally, I’d say Arrow helps solution providers with reach by helping them get to more end users more quickly through analytics and supplier alignment. We also are progressive in helping them think about their future, not just next year but three years, five years and beyond."

-- Sean Kerins, Arrow president of global enterprise computing solutions segment