Canada has been doing well for SonicWALL, despite a mediocre economy overall. The company and some of its partners discuss what they see as key issues going forward here.
LAS VEGAS – As SonicWALL gears up for life as an independent company in two months, the company-to-be is looking for solid returns from Canada. While no shifts in strategy in Canada are expected, the same North America-wide changes in focus will kick in, including an emphasis on the recruitment of quality new partners.
“We are thrilled with the team we have in Canada, and our return on investment there,” said Curtis Hutcheson, who will lead SonicWall once it becomes a separate company under Francisco Partners.
“The Canadian market is right in the sweet spot for SonicWALL,” said Chris Auger, SonicWALL’s Executive Director Americas Sales. “It’s exactly our demographic, with a heavy focus on SMBs, so we should do exceptionally well there. Since I’ve been in the Americas role since January, Canada has had a growth rate faster than the U.S. market. We expect this going forward, especially since the currency seems to have stabilized. In Canadian dollars, before taking the currency issues into consideration, the Canadian operation has done exceptionally well.”
While the mood among many SonicWALL partners at the PEAK event at the upcoming split from Dell bordered on jubilation, the irony from the Canadian perspective is that Dell has invested significantly in enhancing the SonicWALL operation in Canada.
“Before Dell took over, there were two account executives for Canada, one for the east, and one for the west,” said Todd Crystal, President and Owner, at Spencomp Solutions, a Montreal-based longtime SonicWALL partner. Dell added a third account exec, so now there is one for the west, one for Ontario, and one for Quebec and east, together with attached SEs. Dell also invested in a SonicWALL country manager, and a Canadian marketing person. It’s great that they invested in Canada the way that they did.” Paul Dimoff has been SonicWALL country manager in Canada since 2015, and he reports directly to Auger.
Auger said that the Canadian team has a significant amount of autonomy in designing strategy.
“I’m a big believer in the philosophy that the best decisions are always made closest to the partner,” he said. “This means that a lot of that type of regional strategy I leave to the responsible territory manager. For example, western Canada is very resource dependent and has also been a very tough market recently. We empower the territory manager to come up with plans for growth based on that microeconomy specifically. The western Canadian market hasn’t done terribly. It held its own from a year-over-year perspective in the face of very negative economic headwinds, although it didn’t grow like other areas. We benefit a little there because security tends to be a little less elastic than other parts of the market, so may weather economic storms better. It’s an insurance policy, not something you use to grow faster.”
SonicWALL’s overall strategy going forward is geared towards getting its growth numbers up from the 10-12 per cent range where they are now into the back half of the teens.
“At the top level, there won’t be anything different for the core strategy in Canada, which will have the same channel-centric approach as in the U.S.,” Auger said. “The Canadian strategy is a regional execution strategy, to take advantage of what we see as the very strong growth potential of Canada. The primary goal in Canada is to expand the transacting base of partners, to get the ones we have growing faster, and also to onboard new ones.”
“We are aggressively building out the whole partner ecosystem in Canada,” Hutcheson said. “We know we can extend our reach into the channel, and we are actively recruiting and developing partners to build our channel there. As part of our strategy which has already been underway of reclaiming ownership of our distribution relationships from Dell, we have been fortifying our relationship with Canadian distis, including signing a contract with Ingram Micro Canada directly.”
“VAR recruitment is a fundamental sustaining activity for a successful business,” said Patrick Sweeney, SonicWALL’s VP Marketing and Product Management. “Always you have to recruit – new blood at the small end, at the middle, at the high. We would never pass up an opportunity to recruit a large VAR. And you have to bring in small ones because they are nimbler and their time to revenue is faster. We make sure we cover the gamut. We have multiple partners here who started with one box and one customer, who now manage thousands.”
The new structure of the company itself does not appear to be a concern to Canadian partners.
“We have been through these changes and divorces with SonicWALL before, so my main focus has always been the product, and what happens behind the curtain doesn’t matter,” said Spencomp’s Todd Crystal. “We have worked with private equity companies before, and as long as they put in the dollars, things are fine. What matters more with SonicWALL is that the product is there. The people are there. The key people have stayed with the company.”
“We’ve been getting told a lot about where things are headed from our internal relationships with Dell and SonicWALL,” said Farhan Selod, Technical lead at Toronto-based Eastbay IT Consulting. “We aren’t expecting a lot of changes for us. Dell is important to our business, and they are critical to our SuperMassive sales. However, we are also a 20 person company, so we can relate to the advantages that a more nimble SonicWALL will have. We won’t get bogged down in red tape.”
Dieter Epp, Eastbay’s Director IT Services, acknowledged that any major restructuring will always lead to some questions
“Any major changes often pose concerns,” he said. “Will the company still be innovative? That’s important to us, because we don’t just sell firewalls. We spend a lot of time with a client, and everything we do is customized specifically for them.”
SonicWALL placed great emphasis at PEAK on Capture, the new branding of SonicWALL’s Advanced Persistent Threat Protection Service, as a difference-market for partners.
“I’m still digesting it, trying to see where it fits for us,” Epp said.”
Todd Crystal said that Spencomp sees Capture as a differentiator in the market for them.
“You have to distinguish yourself from your competitors, and a lot of companies make good firewalls.” he said. “If that’s a distinguishing factor, that gives us an edge. We already provide services for that. We have had hosted GMS for the last 12 years, and have our own infrastructure for that.”
Crystal said that ultimately for SonicWALL, the firewalls themselves are the key.
“They have a solid product, and it’s the only firewall we sell,” he said. “We put them into customer sites for 30 days on a ‘try and buy,’ and I haven’t taken one out yet. People today now know they need a firewall. We don’t have to sell them about that any more. It’s just a question of right-sizing them.”