Exit Interview: Ingram's Justin Crotty
Five years ago, it was hard to find any support from distribution for managed services tools or business models. Recognizing the growing interest in services-based technology delivered through the channel, Ingram Micro’s Justin Crotty – vice president of services, North America—founded Seismic, which provided hosted solutions, tools and technical support to VARs transitioning to the managed services model. After four years, Seismic is grown to become the standard for how distributors adopt, engage and support the managed services community.
On Friday, Crotty marks his last day at Ingram. He will transition into the new role of senior vice president and general manager of Netenrich, a provider of hosted infrastructure and application services. In his new role, he will oversee operations, marketing and channels, ensuring that he won’t venture far from the same community that helped make Seismic a success. His goal: Help build Netenrich through partnerships with Ingram, VARs and managed services providers.
I recently sat with Crotty to discuss the development of the Seismic program, the lessons he gained from the experience in managed services, and what he sees in the future for cloud computing in the channel.
WALSH: Why are you leaving Ingram Micro and Seismic now?
CROTTY: This is purely a personal career decision. This move does not indicate any doubt or issues I have about the direction of Ingram or Seismic. It’s strictly that I’m getting a little older and have an itch I want to scratch. And I have an opportunity where I can get personally rewarded and I’m going to take it. I cannot overstate my admiration and gratitude to this company. Ingram has been a great place to work, but it’s just time for me to go and ultimately learn to be a better executive.
Seismic started as a managed services program. Today, it has many cloud elements. How do you describe Seismic?
The services division at Ingram includes a lot of different services, and Seismic is the brand of the managed services offerings. The services effort is really bigger than just Seismic, although Seismic has been the focus. Seismic is both managed services and a source for tools for VARs to build managed services practices. It's always been the spearhead of Ingram’s cloud services strategy, so it’s both and it’s evolving.
Did you think Seismic would grow into the market-leading organization that it is today?
Yes, but you never know how it’s going to go. We always had huge confidence in what we were doing and in talking with customers we knew the strategy was dead-on. In order to be successful in anything, you have to absolutely believe that your strategy is fundamentally correct. You make course corrections and learn from your mistakes and try to get better as you go along. We knew that we were probably on a winner and that ultimately Seismic would be the future of Ingram and of the distribution industry. It’s still in the growth phase, and it’s everything we expected it would be.
What was your greatest challenge in starting and establishing Seismic?
It was always internal. The challenge was changing the thought process and attitude of a very large global hardware distributor that services was something that needed a very high level, strategic effort. We needed to convince the organization that the company was going to eventually come to depend on services. That was a hard sell. Generally, when you’re dealing with a $30 billion top-line business, everything is small. Convincing the organization that in the future we would depend on this business for profitability and our relevance in the market was a long sell and an ongoing sell. The good news is that this is a great company that accepts new ideas; if you have a good idea and a good strategy, they let you do it. Ingram has embraced Seismic and it’s now one of the top three global initiatives for the next five years.
What would you consider your biggest failure in developing Seismic?
We’ve made a lot mistakes, but I wouldn’t call anything really a failure. We’ve learned a lot. One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned from the early days is that the sales process for services is significantly different than fulfilling hardware. It’s longer and more consultative in nature, and you have to be a solutions architect to customers. We have a large sales organization and we didn’t address compensation and mandatory metrics early enough to get it adopted fast enough. If I could go back, I would spend more time and focus ramping the core sales organization around the offering.
What is the biggest lesson you’ll bring with you in your new role?
Significant change is hard. People don’t resist change by nature. They just need to understand the benefit that these changes bring to companies like Ingram Micro and why it’s relevant. I learned that being persistent and having the patience to articulate new strategies and business models, as well as maintaining a consistent selling effort – both internally and externally – was a necessity. You have to be absolutely convinced that what you’re talking about is going to work. Stay persistent and stay passionate and consistent, and don’t let naysayers take you off course.
How will you interact with the channel community in your new role?
I’m a huge advocate of the channel, and a huge believer that the channel has a role to play in the cloud computing evolution. Netenrich is betting the farm on the channel, and our SMB and small enterprise sales will be all channel. I’ll be helping to develop those channels, and I’ll be working closely with Ingram Micro to grow our reseller channel and our offerings. Channel is front and center of that strategy, and I’ll continue to be a VAR advocate and resource in my new role.
LAWRENCE M. WALSH is a vice president and market expert specializing in security and channels at Ziff Davis Enterprise. His blog, Secure Channel, follows security technologies, vendors and trends in the channel. You can reach him at email@example.com; and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.