Dove Electronics general manager Chris Rycroft breaks the rules to talk to Heather Wright – albeit about the company, teamwork, changes, and even a little about himself.
The Christchurch-based distributor has a proven track record, having been in business for 30 years, handling a solid portfolio of vendors across computers, peripherals, components, AV, industrial automation and point of sale, and building a steady business.
Rycroft, who is also a director and shareholder, says while the core principals of distribution have remained the same over the years, the competencies around logistics, product and price information, and support, have always had to steadily increase.
“And systems now make these aspects much more manageable.”
Consolidation, especially in the PC segment, means there are far less manufacturers and Rycroft says in general the industry is better capitalised than it used to be.
“Obviously plenty of other distributors have come and gone, and we expect that to continue. Our part of the distribution landscape has stayed pretty stable.
"We have a broad base of more than 2500 resellers active on an annual basis, and that's been about the number for the last five or six years.”
The removal of restrictions on parallel importing laws a number of years ago, combined more recently with the 'massive' increase in accessibility to overseas pricing and product, have wrough some of the biggest changes.
“While there are benefits and drawbacks, ultimately pricing pressure on vendors, distributors and resellers has reduced the ability to invest in a product or brand's growth, whether that's a restriction on the range of product or the investment in marketing and channel support or service levels,” he says.
“From an IT perspective, the industry itself has been under consistent margin pressure anyway, so over the last few years when the impact has really kicked in, we've probably been less hurt than other industries who haven't had 25 years to get used to it.”
The decline in margins and average selling prices have also driven efficiency and forced distributors to understand who they are, where they fit in the market and what their core business is, he says.
“Historically, some tried to be all things to all resellers and no-one has been able to maintain that position.”
Perhaps reflecting Dove's focus on enjoyment, Rycroft also notes 'there is less competitive fun' in the industry nowadays.
He recalls the days of nightly fax-outs of price updates – and the banter and potshots that often accompanied them, including a rival's fax out featuring Dove in the crosshairs.
“Everyone has got a bit too mature for that now,” he says.
Just as Dove and the distributor market have undergone big changes, so too have Dove's customers – the resellers.
Rycroft says the reseller market is now so diverse and so fluid it can't be grouped together.
“IT resellers have matured as the industry has, particularly around the brands and products they choose.
"Comparative benefits of alternatives are very much weighed up against the comfort of knowing what or who they currently deal with.
“There is more attention to how change or development is going to improve [their] overall business as opposed to individual merits of the product.”
The ever increasing implementation of cloudbased applications and remote management is also adding to the changing face of the market, he notes.
In such changing times, Rycroft says maintaining good relationships and listening to customers remain key to future-proofing the business – though he also throws in owning their own buildings and not having debt, as key factors too.
“The rest of Dove would have a better – but possibly not printable answer,” he quips, when asked about his own management style.
“I'd say I have several, which is good because it keeps the staff alert. “I'm analytical and have a strong drive for efficiency. I can also get through the decision process pretty quickly. To the untrained eye this might look like autocracy.
“I have a short fuse when it comes to carelessness, or careless errors. A lack of attention resulting in an error for a customer winds me up more than an overly optimistic stock purchase.
“Underscoring any style I might be labelled with is that I care about people, and I care that we reach good positive outcomes on a consistent basis.”
Which, by the sounds of it, pretty much sums up Dove.