Technology Reseller v50

01732 759725 46 Q&A With Stuart Sykes, Managing Director of Sharp UK Q&A Technology Reseller caught up with SBS UK Managing Director Stuart Sykes to find out more about these developments, how he sees the market developing and what that means for Sharp and its resellers. Technology Reseller (TR): Four years ago, at your last pan-European dealer event, Sharp INSPIRE in Edinburgh, there was a lot of talk about diversification. What impact is that focus having on your operations? Stuart Sykes (SS): At a corporate level, Sharp have quite distinct views on the future and three broad areas of interest: the SMART Office, the smart home and smart healthcare. In Sharp Business Systems UK, we work very much on that SMART Office piece. The NEC display acquisition is similar to the dynabook acquisition, but more relevant to Sharp in the UK because it helps us broaden our portfolio of collaboration and visual solutions in a growing area that would have taken us years to do organically. The NEC integration is ongoing at the moment. We’re bringing in people from NEC, with all their products and their skill sets, and incorporating them into a new business in Europe called Sharp NEC Display Solutions Europe (SNDSE). NEC has products in areas of the market that Sharp weren’t really in before, like projection and LED, and that is giving us access to a much broader portfolio beyond what we’ve always been good at, which is interactive displays, touchscreen etc.. So that’s really positive. When Sharp Corporation add on big things like that it really makes our jobs easier at a local level. TR: One of the benefits of having a diversified portfolio is that it enables you to withstand shocks better and, obviously, print has had a big shock over the last two years. Having that display side must have been useful. SS: The print market has had a tough couple of years, but before the pandemic we’d acquired Complete I.T. (CIT), so we already had a sizeable IT business, and then we’ve got the visual solutions offering as well. Print was by far the worst affected by the pandemic. Visual solutions was affected, but people’s need for collaboration means that that part of the business, although quiet during the pandemic, has really taken off since. Then, the IT services business performed ahead of expectations. It had a plus to it rather than a minus because people needed more IT. They didn’t need as much print, but they needed more IT. So, yes, having a diversified portfolio really does help you weather changes in the economy and world events. TR: How advanced is the integration of this broader portfolio with Sharp’s traditional print offering? Are resellers benefiting from these new products and services? SS: When I became MD, the one thing I told our channel partners was that I remember my days on the dealer side when a printer manufacturer would come knocking on my door and say ‘This product is going to be amazing for you’ and I’d say ‘Why? Where’s the test? Where’s the proof? What’s the market? What are the margins like etc.?’. Often, they were just a printer manufacturer selling through the channel and they had no real experience of how it was for the reseller and how the reseller could make it work. What we say to our channel is ‘We’ve now got this really broad offering, including IT services, which we would have brought to you faster if it hadn’t been for the pandemic. For now, we’ll give it to our direct business and work out how, as a print company, to sell it to our existing clients. Once we’ve done that for a while, we can come to you and say, ‘This is how we’ve done it. Is it of interest to you? Do you want to invest in these things that you will have to invest in to make it work? Can we partner on packages?’. All that is currently in the mixing bowl because we’ve been locked down for most of the time we’ve had CIT, but we are getting to the stage where we’re starting to talk to our channel partners. One size doesn’t fit all; you can’t just go out and say this is it. Instead, you go to your key partners and say ‘This is what we’ve got. How can we make this work together?’. Since its take-over by Foxconn in 2016, Sharp has made two major acquisitions at the corporate level that have given its direct sales business and channel partners the opportunity to diversify into new product areas (i.e. laptops through the acquisition of Toshiba’s mobile computing business in 2018) and/or to expand an existing business area (i.e. displays through its majority 66% stake in a joint venture with NEC). Sharp has also been diversifying at a regional and national level. In the case of Sharp Business System UK (SBS UK), this strategy has manifested itself in the acquisitions of MFP dealer Midshire in 2017 and, more significantly, that of IT services provider Complete I.T. in 2019. By its own admission, and mainly down to the pandemic, Sharp has been slow to extend the extra capabilities it has gained through these activities to its reseller channel. However, that is set to change with the launch of a new UK channel partner programme; the unification of the Sharp and NEC display portfolios under the umbrella of Sharp NEC Display Solutions, shown publicly for the first time at ISE 2022 in May; and a greater appetite for diversification amongst Sharp’s reseller community. On the eve of Sharp’s first panEuropean dealer event for four years, Stuart Sykes