Fortinet has rebuilt its UK team around staff who are aligned to the channel rather than driving key account business.
The security vendor's UK headcount fell as low as five at one point last year as a string of top staff – including UK sales director Paul Judd – exited one after another.
Staff numbers have since swelled back up to 13 under new country manager Mark Hyland. Most of the new hires, including channel boss Mark Peters and finance head Richard Fern, have a background in the channel, Hyland said.
"We have to reinvest in our relationship with the channel," he said. "We have always been a channel-centric organisation but, in the past, the country managers have all been very good major accounts guys and not channel people."
Despite the recent staff turmoil, Fortinet is looking to almost double its UK sales this year.
Communication with partners has been patchy in the past, Hyland said, but Fortinet will now begin to work with top partners on drawing up joint business plans. The vendor, which has 300 UK resellers, is also now giving partners technical updates every two months.
"Even our direct touch guys are ex-channel people and we are telling them to engage rather than just throwing things over the fence," Hyland added.
Unlike most other European countries, the lion's share of Fortinet's UK business is generated by the lower enterprise segment, with just 10 per cent coming from the vendor's SMB stronghold.
Hyland said the goal is to increase SMB to 30 per cent of the total by the end of the year.
Fortinet's two UK distributors – Exclusive Networks and VADition – merged last summer and Hyland said the vendor had no plans in the short term to move away from a sole-supplier relationship.
Hyland admitted that credit lines could be an issue, but said Fortinet would step in any time a reseller had an issue with obtaining stock. Exclusive Networks now has eight dedicated Fortinet staff.
"If you had asked me six months ago whether I would ever sign an exclusive partner at this stage in Fortinet's development, I would have said no," he said. "But it is working very well and the advantages are outweighing the disadvantages by a factor of two to one.
"Exclusive Networks is taking exclusivity very seriously."
Chris Walsh, sales director at Exclusive Networks UK, said the sole-supplier agreement means the distributor can focus on growing business rather than squabbling with competitors.
"In the past, Fortinet has been acknowledged as one of the best firewall and UTM vendors but didn't have the weight and resource to back that up," Walsh added. "Now it does have the resource, we are seeing some big names in the industry coming to the table."
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