#4 Newsmaker of 2009: Lynn Smurthwaite-Murphy of Westcon Canada

Published: December 21st, 2009

Comstor, a division of multinational distributor Westcon Group, expanded its business into Canada this fall with the announcement that it would be Cisco Systems‘ (NASDAQ: CSCO) first global distribution partner.

Widely known as Comstor Worldwide, the distributor has contributed about 50 per cent of Westcon’s revenue over the past few years. The Comstor business unit expanded into Canada this year, with plans to also eventually expand into Brazil.

The Comstor unit focuses on the delivery of Cisco networking and technology solutions. This also allows partners to leverage Cisco’s OneX series of channel programs, which offer Cisco partners the tools they need to be more competitive. In Canada, Comstor functions as an internal division of Westcon Canada, which is led by Dan Forbes.

Westcon was the first distributor to sign a multi-year distribution agreement with Cisco. Shortly after, two other distributors, Ingram Micro and Tech Data, also decided to do the same thing.

Lynn Smurthwaite-Murphy, vice-president for Canada and the North American director of SMB at Westcon, said the distributor globally launched the availability of Cisco products under the Comstor brand as a way to diversify its line-card and to more efficiently conduct cross-border transactions. Together, the Comstor Canada and Cisco teams will be able to further address emerging markets, she explained.

In a previous interview with CDN, Dean Douglas, president and CEO of Westcon, said the distribution agreement between Comstor and Cisco would open up further partner and sales opportunities.

“This agreement allows a small to mid-sized reseller as well as the largest resellers to begin thinking about cross-border transactions,” Douglas said. “It broadens the opportunity for those resellers (and) nearly all our resellers (can) begin thinking about going global.”

Smurthwaite-Murphy says the relationship between Westcon Canada and Cisco will bring good things to partners.

“Before we launched Cisco in Canada, a lot of our partners were already buying Cisco (products), but they had to split their business,” Smurthwaite-Murphy said. “Now that we launched this business, partners see cost savings because now they can buy most of their supplies from one supplier.”

She also said that because of Westcon’s deep roots and expertise in convergence technologies, partners appreciate this focus and the Cisco line is complimentary to the distributor’s other offerings.

“It (the Cisco line) has been a very seamless launch for us,” Smurthwaite-Murphy said.

On the Cisco side, Dave O’Callaghan, vice-president of distribution for worldwide channels at Cisco, said the distribution agreement is an opportunity for both the distributor and the vendor to expand their businesses with partners.

“This is a strategic new business model for Cisco,” O’Callaghan said in a previous interview. “Cisco believes this will enable Westcon to better service our partners in Canada and (to) potentially bring us new partners in Canada.”

Thanks to launching Comstor in Canada and making Cisco products available this year, Smurthwaite-Murphy says the business has been able to achieve double-digit growth, year over year.

“The growth has been tremendous,” she said. “2009 has been a very exciting year for us. This year challenged our business capabilities in a good way because we had to think outside the box and do things a little differently and be very strategic in the way we go to market. It’s been a time where we’ve learned and grown.”

With all of the growth and success that the business has experienced this year, Westcon recently moved its Canadian headquarters office from Lachine, Que. to Dorval, Que. The company also has another office located in Oakville, Ont.

As to why the distributor chose to expand its base in Quebec, Smurthwaite-Murphy said it made the most sense because “it’s an easy facility for border crossing and the location allows us to get to most places between Ontario and Quebec within a 24 hour time period.”

In addition to the distributor’s Cisco-centric business, the company also focuses on solution areas including those around unified communication, collaboration, security and networking. This year, Smurthwaite-Murphy says security has been a strong growth area for the company and its partners.

Westcon also did a number of things this year to help its partner community cope with the economic downturn. Among these are continued access to financing and credit services, in addition to making internal resources available to partners.

An example of this is the Situational Judgement Test, which Smurthwaite-Murphy explains is an internal recruiting and skills tool that Westcon also made available to partners. In the New Year, Smurthwaite-Murphy says Westcon will continue with its profitable growth by continuing to bring new opportunities to its existing base of partners and customers.

The distributor will also be on the lookout for new partners and vendors, to further expand its base and offerings where it makes the most sense, she added.


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