As part of our ‘meet the shortlisters’ series, CRN catches up with distributor Ethos Technology’s CEO Omar Galbraith (pictured) to discuss the firm’s ongoing growth spurt, what it means to be shortlisted for three Channel Awards, and how the firm is planning to outgun the competition in the coming year
Give us a flavour of your business - what verticals/product sets are your sweet spots, how do you differentiate yourself from the competition etc
Ethos Technology is a Value-Added Distributor (VAD), or Disti with a difference, which specialises in accelerating the adoption of next generation, disruptive technologies. Our considered portfolio is built around complimentary storage, data management, analytics, and security technologies, with minimal overlap between vendors. This approach ensures we offer significant value to all our partners and maximises the effectiveness of our, value-add, demand generation activities. Our business model is all about customer acquisition for our Reseller and Vendor partners. We generate fully qualified opportunities which we use to forge strong relationships with our Reseller partners, accelerating our vendors growth into these strategic accounts.
How have you supported your customers during the pandemic? Has it made you change your strategy in any way? If so, how?
Ethos Technology does not work in isolation, our success is incumbent on us being an extension of our vendor and reseller partners. The pandemic changed so much, with remote working exploding to levels never before seen, practically overnight. We identified three focus areas that we needed to invest in to ensure we were able to meet the incredibly high standards our partners have become used to from Ethos. These are:
1. Improving Business Intelligence to ensure and we are able to meet opportunity generation targets
2. Bolstering remote demonstration facilities to ensure opportunities can be effectively progressed
3. Doubling down on Channel enablement
To address these requirements, we have:
- Invested heavily in, TPS and GDPR compliant, business intelligence platforms. This has enabled us to improve our hit rate with opportunity generation activities, making sure that we keep the quality and quantity level the same or even better, than before the pandemic started.
- Made significant investment in the expansion of our demonstration facilities, enabling our partners to offer remote PoC's during social distancing.
- More than trebled our training programmes and pivoted to remote delivery, enabling us to reach even more of our Reseller partners, wherever they may be located, arming them with the knowledge necessary to identify opportunities within their customer base. We have successfully completed multiple account mapping sessions and call out campaigns with our partners, and where opportunities have been identified, supported them from beginning to end.
- We've continuously built pipeline and brought opportunities to our partners throughout the pandemic, and have frequently been met by feedback that the quality, quantity and level of qualification the Ethos team have been able to deliver far exceeded that which they had been able to achieve themselves; as such, the individuals we have been working most closely with are fast becoming our champions within those Reseller partners.
What has been your company's biggest challenge during 2020 and how did you overcome it? What role did your own teams play in that?
Our highest priority, and in many ways our biggest challenge during 2020, was ensuring that we maintain the quality and quantity of opportunities generated and progressed, which has become synonymous with the Ethos Technology name. Our company structure is built from the ground up to facilitate this, and every member of the team plays a significant role in its execution.
To support our growth and meet demand we have significantly increased our head count, particularly in teams focused on opportunity generation. Onboarding new hires and ensuring that they are integrated and enabled with the knowledge and tools to be effective in their roles is less than straightforward in these challenging times; to cap things off, during lockdown we moved to bigger offices to accommodate our growing team!
Fortunately, team members old and new more than rose to the challenges presented, with the entire Ethos family/company showing extraordinary teamwork and determination; from ensuring the workplace was safe for all Ethos staff and contractors, to giving the time to the newest team members to get them comfortable and in a position to generate those all-important leads. Adversity can make or break a team; without a doubt, 2020 has made Ethos even stronger.
What lessons have you learned from this year?
Honestly if Aliens landed in 2020, I don't think anybody would be overly surprised! However, I'm sure they would pick Ethos as their go-to distributor for any cool technology they have to offer! Joking aside I think our main lesson has been that by conscientiously looking after our staff and partners, they repay the favour with interest by looking after our business in return.
We completely restructured our sales teams and put them into three groups, Red, Blue, and Green. This not only promoted more internal competition, and ownership over the activities and campaigns we run for partners, but has also given individuals a more supportive team structure to flourish in. Each team has a Channel Lead to support them and a Team Captain. This is proving very successful and is helping staff who had not previously stepped up to gain confidence, participate more in group SPIFFs, and to find their voice within their respective teams.
One last thing to mention is that we are still a fast-growing company who are reshaping the way distribution works with its partners to deliver true value-add, and this year more than any other, we have learned that both resellers and vendors are crying out for the service we offer. They have been delighted at the level of intel, and qualified opportunities we have provided to them. Our approach to distribution remains unique, and like the technologies we distribute we continue to iterate and evolve, to improve our execution and meet the growing demand for our services.
What has been the highlight of 2020 for your business?
As well as being shortlisted for three CRN awards, our highlight has been our continued growth during the COVID-19 crisis. It feels good to be offering new jobs and helping people in this climate.
Our proudest achievement over the last 12 months is how we handled COVID-19. Our systems were ready so when we sent staff home a week earlier then the Government advised. During this time, we have had a coffee-break at 1pm every day, pub quizzes every Friday, and created our own virtual pub "The Stay Inn" where staff and partners could meet up (virtually). Every day we supported our staff through numerous issues be it health, finance, or mental health, whilst assuring them that they all have a job, and the company is in good standing. This may not be a technical response, but it shows how highly we care about the people and culture at Ethos. That said we did have another great achievement in 2020 and this was being awarded the EMEA Distributor of the year for Cohesity. This award is a great achievement especially since we were up against the whole of EMEA including several huge, long-term established distributors.
What does it mean to you to be shortlisted for an award?
We will be six years old on 12 January 2021 and we can honestly say that we have been waiting for the right year to enter the CRN Awards. We wanted to enter when we were confident that we had a great chance of winning, in all the categories we submitted entries for. We attend the CRN Awards every year with our partners, and we are delighted to be shortlisted this year. We truly value and respect the CRN Awards as they are judged by a panel of industry experts, unlike some others where winners are decided by popularity contest, or how much has been spent on tables and sponsorship! It also illustrates, along with seeing how we are helping and supporting our Channel partners, that the need for the Ethos brand of distribution is growing, and its value and differentiation is becoming recognised in the most established/respected way, through CRN.
How do you think the industry will change as a result of Covid-19 and how do you plan to thrive/grow?
I think many industries will change forever. High Street retail will never be the same, aviation will likely consolidate, which may not be for the better as there is significant risk of it becoming further monopolised by just a few large airlines. But at the same time online shopping, pharma, healthcare and local government have all seen growth.
I think that certain verticals were already heading this way, COVID-19 has simply accelerated things.
Our growth plans are simple. We have adapted and maintained our agility. We will keep holding our monthly board meetings and quarterly briefing reviews with our Vendors and VAR's partners to make sure we have a simple but effective message to take to market. Our plan is to outperform our competition by working harder and smarter.
The fourth technical revolution is a phrase that has been thrown around for some time, and what we have seen during this pandemic is how crucial technology is at keeping businesses and people moving forward. The industry is going to lean into its strengths of understanding and improving technology to make tasks, lives, challenges simpler and quicker to solve. Some industries will change for the good and as we have already seen some will change for the worse.
We will continue to thrive by delivering a much-needed service to our Channel, finding qualified opportunities, and enabling pipeline to be built in collaboration with our vendor and reseller partners.