Changing Channel Chiefs

October 14, 2008 at 5:52 pm Leave a comment

By Diane Krakora

Watching Channel executives changing jobs is nothing new. The industry sees about six notable moves a year. However, there seems to be a recent cluster of movement among the ranks of “channel chiefs,” which includes both long time leaders and recent appointees.  The shuffling began with Leonard Iventosch leaving NetApp. Then Pat Bernard left Novell after a short year in that position. Then after many distinguished years of service, Nancy Reynolds left Trend Micro for a start up.  And, Julie Parrish just announced she is leaving Symantec.

In this economic downturn, recession, or crash, what inspires these channel executive to leave their stable, albeit not cushy jobs, in search for greener pastures?   I recently caught up with one notable mover in this cluster, Mike Brunner, who recently vacated his role as VP WW Channels at Wyse for VMware.  In our dialog, I was searching for why shift at all, why now, and why choose VMware?  Here are the highlights of our conversation.

Q. Why did you leave the VP position at Wyse for a Sr. Director level job at VMware — it seems a risky step in this economy?

A. I was looking for a challenge (include insider chuckle here).  All kidding aside, I was concerned Wyse was not being aggressive enough, and we were going into a “prevent defense.”  Sometimes that works, but too often you leave yourself very vulnerable to attack. I was intrigued by some of the bold channel moves made in early ’08 by Steve Houck and his team at VMware, and after confirming my instincts with some trusted joint partners, I decided to make a move.

Q. As you enter the organization with a fresh perspective, what is your perception of VMware’s biggest challenges?

A. As the market leader, we need to stay extremely close to the partners who got us here because we are relying on these same partners to take our next generation products into their customer base. We have to pay close attention to what they’re telling us they need in order to be successful because we’re no longer the only ones they are talking to. Our challenge is to make sure we do a lot of listening and don’t let past success lead to any bad habits. Losing a customer here and there hurts; but losing a key partner hurts much more.

Q. Where do you expect to impact VMware?

A. Other than my continuing to inspire the internal VMware teams on the value of engaging partners, my largest impact will be to make sure it becomes easier and more profitable to do business with VMware vs. our competitors globally. Right now, we have some great benefits in our program, but we need to simplify how a partner actually realizes benefits — visibility into achievement, and how quickly they receive benefits.

Q. Why now, during this crazy economic time, would you make another bold move?

A. Economic downturn or not, this was a unique opportunity to join a world-class organization at a critical point in its history from a channel perspective.  I couldn’t pass it up. There is a cage match about to go down in the  virtualization space, and the time was “now or never.”  I was well aware of the risks heading in.  If I knew two months ago what I know about the economy today, would I do it again? Absolutely.

Would I consider moving again? No, but it has nothing to do with the economy or current stock price. We have big channel plans for the end of ’08 and 2009; and I m looking forward to seeing them through to completion.

Q. In a big, bold move such as yours, what keeps you up at night now?

A. It’s not the economy! I guess I’m just an optimist.  Virtualization plays well in both up and down economies. My concerns have more to do with making sure that any program enhancements we choose to make don’t also layer complexity into the equation. Partners don’t want or have the time to dig through fine print to figure out how much they stand to make on any given opportunity.  If we can continue to add value and simplify at the same time, we’ll be in great shape.

* * *

After my conversation with Mike Brunner, I’m starting to think I’m either listening too much to the evening news and it’s not as dire out there as Brian Williams tells me every night, or I’m just a risk-adverse wuss.  A risk-adverse entrepreneur? Is that possible?

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