Martin Meitza has close to two decades of experience in channel distribution leadership roles having worked on the vendor side at Cisco and on the distributor side at Logicom and Ingram Micro.
We asked Martin to give us his insights into the complex and highly pressured world of distribution. Read on to learn all about the main skills required to thrive in a distribution leadership roles, what makes a successful channel model and why data and analytics are so important!
Please can you tell us about how you got started working in distribution?
I started in Distribution back in 2001. My girlfriend (now wife) and I had just moved to the village where she was born. She wanted to be closer to her family again, so she applied at the university there and got accepted.
I wanted a change in my career after more than 10 years in the clothing industry.
I listed all my interests and started to apply for jobs in the area we planned to move to soon. One night, it was already around 10pm, I got a call from the MD of a company I had applied to.
We had a quick phone interview and agreed for me to do a day ‘on-the-job’ to see if I would like it – and I guess, he wanted to be sure I’m the right fit for the role.
On April 10th, 2001 I arrived at the office for my ‘on-the-job’ day.
At the end of the day, I was called into his office. He asked me if I liked the role and would be interested to join. I was totally excited. I really liked the job. The team had been amazing.
Everything felt right, so I told him, Yes! His reply: “Excellent, you got the job, can you start tomorrow…?” I said, yes and the very next day, I started in Distribution. I would have never thought that it would be a journey which would last nearly 20 years. I’m so thankful for everything I learned and everyone I meet.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced in your roles and why?
Challenges, that’s a tough one, as there are more challenges within Distribution than days in a year. I think the most memorable moment was being on stage at a regional distribution event. One of my team members responsible for an area with lots of challenges at the time, asked me last minute if I could stand in for him on stage in a round-table as he wouldn’t feel comfortable doing it himself.
I said yes to support him. Clearly, he was the subject matter expert, but after a 5 minute briefing, I thought I knew enough to be dangerous. Jumped on stage and had my most devastating moment in Distribution ever.
Right after been introduced by the moderator on who I am and what topic I would represent in the round table, the audience started to ‘boo’ to express their dissatisfaction about the progress made on that particular topic.
I was shocked, but managed to carry on. After the whole thing was over, I thought for long, actually, it still comes back to my mind today from time to time, was I actually more shocked about what the audience did or that my boss at the time who was in the room, didn’t stop it, didn’t do anything to protect me? I learned my lesson that day.
What does a typical working day look like for you?
On a typical working day, I would get up at 5:30 am, wake up the kids and have two espresso. At around 6 am I would get out for a run. Sometimes just 30 min, sometimes 1.5h, depending on your training plan – I love plans and stick to them, no matter what, ok, nearly all the time.
After a quick healthy breakfast, I would head to the office where I want to arrive before 8 am to have a good hour before everyone else will be around. I first plan my day and the rest of the week. Right after I get the emails out of the way and update my to-do list accordingly. Around 9 am typically my meetings would start and run for most of the day. I work hard to have at least a 30 minute lunch break for a quick bite.
I block an hour in my calendar before going home to do my emails, update my calendar and to-do list and finish the day with a clean sheet – unfortunately, that’s not working all the time. I will arrive around 8 pm at home to have dinner with the family and at least a couple of hours to unwind before going to sleep around 10:30 pm.
What are the main skills needed to be successful in a distribution leadership role?
Persistence, focus and the ability to attract and keep the right talent. IT Distribution is one of the fastest industries I know of. Every day, you have to make dozens of decisions, give your team direction, manage your customers and CEO’s expectations.
As a leader you will be pulled and pushed in any direction all the time. Forming a strongly motivated team around you with diverse skills and experiences will allow you to achieve your joined goals.
Building a system that allows you to stay focused on the key tasks aligned to your organizations strategy is vitally important. Last but not least the main skill to survive this environment is persistence. Every day when you wake up and every event before you go to sleep, the first and last thought in your head needs to be “I will never give up!”.
Why is distribution important?
Even today, with more than a decade of value distribution, there is still the belief within many vendors that the essence of distribution has never changed: A distributor’s core role in the channel is to provide logistics, financing and partner relationships.
While these are vitally important ingredients of a successful channel, any successful distributor today provides far more services. The value added services range from channel enablement, pre and post-sales technical and customer services, advanced services, marketing and customer success engagements.
For any vendor serious about growing its business there is no way around a successful distributor.
What makes a successful channel model?
To be honest, I’m a bit biased here. To me, the best channel model is the one where there is trust and predictability. For any channel partner, it is vitally important to be almost certain that their investments into a strategic vendor relationship will give them protection around their investments. These investments include hiring and training dedicated staff as much as knowing that an opportunity developed will not be taken direct or been moved to another partner by the vendor. Based on my experience, Cisco is one of the most loyal vendors our there when it comes to protecting the channel and it’s partners.
What have been your favourite aspects of working in IT distribution?
I enjoyed most the fact that the IT distribution world is rather small. If you been around for a while, you know pretty much everyone of relevance within this community. It’s like one big family with regular gatherings at vendor events or industry conferences.
The fact it’s a global community with individuals from all over the world. You actually only realize that you have a truly global network when you talk with family or friends. Them talking about traveling to a certain part of the world and how excited they are about it, while you are thinking, yes, I’ve been there on business and I actually know somebody living there, in case anyone need a recommendation for something. I love that part the most.
What mistakes have you made that have taught you the most during your career?
That’s a difficult one. Not because I wouldn’t have made any mistakes, it’s more because of my beliefs and values. It’s easy to look back at a decision made back in time and say “I should have decided this or that way.”
I truly believe any decision made at the time is a good one. You may have chosen the more (or even most) difficult way, but to me, everything I learned on the way, everyone I meet on the way, any experience, is actually helping me to be a more ‘whole’ person, helping me to grow.
On a more tactical note, the moment I realized a mistake, I had the courage to declare it, take responsibility and course correct. Someone more wise than me said once “If you don’t make mistakes, you are not growing. If you are not growing, you are actually declining and won’t be relevant anymore soon.”
What is your approach to using data to build a successful channel strategy?
I’m a data geek. I’m obsessed with data, data analytics and business intelligence in general. Setting your strategic targets, making them measurable and tracking them along the way are key to success.
How else would you know that you achieved your goals? Having said this, my biggest frustration is with the lack of understanding within corporations about what kind of analytics their teams really need.
As a result, beside high level CEO-type metrics, there is often very little available. What will happen next in most organizations I worked for or with is that the business teams try desperately to build their own analytics from any raw data available, mostly ending in spending all their time in building it and no time left to interpret and action on the data.
If I would have one wish free here, I would like to ask for proper data analytics and business intelligence solutions to be available with all the relevant information to any employee, how they need it, when they need it.
Big thanks to Martin for his insightful responses to our questions. Martin recently decided to jump into the world of entrepreneurship, drawing on his extensive experience to become a business coach. To find out more, check out Martin’s website and connect with him on Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram.