Empa energised after front office overhaul

After employing 10 former ex-Tech Data staff on the same day earlier this year, components distributor Empa always faced a tough challenge in bedding down the new team and putting in place a structure for growth. Shahood Khan - who joined Empa as sales and marketing director after previously running Tech Data's and TDME's broadline units - has been leading the firm's transition.

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By  Andrew Seymour Published  September 30, 2007

After employing 10 former ex-Tech Data staff on the same day earlier this year, components distributor Empa always faced a tough challenge in bedding down the new team and putting in place a structure for growth. Shahood Khan - who joined Empa as sales and marketing director after previously running Tech Data's and TDME's broadline units - has been leading the firm's transition.

There has been a fair amount of restructuring at Empa in recent months. Talk us through the new set-up in place.

Earlier we used to only have one sales manager and something like 13 or 14 people reporting to him, but we realised that our sales management needed to be stronger so that each account is managed properly. What we have done with the restructuring is divided the business into three regions: the UAE, GCC and the emerging markets. For us, the emerging markets are CIS and North Africa. We are currently only doing small numbers in these markets, but these are the places where we see there is long-term growth for us and our vendors.

So the UAE is still Empa's primary market these days?

Most of the business comes from the UAE, followed by Saudi Arabia where we have our in-country operation. We have offices and warehouses in Jeddah and Riyadh, and soon we are planning to open an office somewhere in the Eastern Province to cover the Dammam and Al Khobar area.

Has the restructuring only been focused on sales functions?

No, we now have a dedicated marcomms department. Again, we were not doing the full marketing functions, but now we are looking at things like event management plus we are going to provide marketing to smaller vendors because many just have one or two-man offices in the regions. They can't really do their own marketing because of the co-ordination involved. The aim is to provide marketing services to the smaller vendors which don't have the infrastructure and only require marketing from time to time.

So what benefits do you expect to see as a result of the changes made at Empa?

We are talking about better account management, serving the customers more efficiently and getting a good share from the customer. So if there is a customer whose business is US$1m, we need to make sure we get the maximum out of that, probably 30%. That's why there was a need to have a strong account management team.

What else have you done?

Apart from strengthening the sales and marketing functions, we have added a customer service function manager. One of Tech Data's strengths was its customer service. What happens in our environment is that you have a customer for six months and then an issue will arise, something happens, and the business drops. And then you look for a new customer. So we have hired Mariam Ahmed, who was the ex-customer service manager at Tech Data.

What is her main task?

She is currently looking at automating our RMA department. Along with credit, RMA is one of the most important functions in distribution. Empa had a manual system before so Mariam is automating it and then putting procedures in place for RMA.

After Empa hired 10 ex-Tech Data staff, several employees left. Did bringing so many people on board in one go have a disruptive influence on the team?

What happened, happened quickly, and probably the team in place was not informed so initially there was some, I'd say, hiccups. But my experience today is that it has worked out very well because we already had people experienced in different territories and different functions, and the new people didn't just come from the sales side, but the operations side and purchasing side. The way we have managed to improve things inside Empa in a very short time would not have been possible without having so many people experienced in different functions.

There still appears to be uncertainty over whether Empa wants to remain a components-focused distributor or move up the value chain. Can you clear that up?

We already have a retail focus so we want to continue doing our normal IT distribution, as well as consumer electronics, and definitely enterprise products.

Empa doesn't seem to have made many moves to expand its enterprise portfolio though.

We couldn't just sign up vendors without having the people and systems to take care of it because vendors expect results from the first quarter and that is the maximum time they will give you. Our infrastructure is now in place and we are talking to some vendors. Hopefully we will have some news on that soon.

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