Panelists reveal most-respected rivals at Reseller Rumble by Doug Woodburn

Leaders from Softcat, Insight, Ingentive and Convergent pulled no punches at the recent Reseller Rumble event

“No sitting on the fence, or saying you respect everyone,” host Marc Sumner warned as he posed the question to gasps from the audience.

Held at Colours Hoxton, the event saw four of the UK channel’s top leaders ditch the corporate double-speak for brutal honesty in a pub setting.

“We want it to be rowdy,” was Sumner’s plea.

“Bit of a negative outlook”

Warm-up act Neel Arampatta, a Principle Analyst at analyst Megabuyte, earned the first big cheer/jeer of the evening when he noted he is “genuinely starting to see a pullback of budgets”.

“It’s not just delays and putting things into next quarter, or next fiscal year; [clients are] now cancelling projects,” Arampatta said.

On the plus side, IT solutions providers focusing on data engineering services, cybersecurity services such as Cyber Essentials, ISO 27001 and MDR/XXDR, as well as cloud application native development are commonly enjoying 15%-30% organic growth, Arampatta said.

As illustrated by Focus Group’s recent £800m sale, a 12-13x EBITDA multiple is starting to become “standard” for businesses with decent organic growth and margins, Arampatta added.

David vs Goliath

As implied by the event’s name, the four panelists then took to the stage for some gentle verbal sparring.

Highlighting the size difference between the four companies represented on stage, Sumner asked the two smaller partners how they approach the David vs Goliath style battles with their larger peers.

Andrea Bright, Ingentive

“For me it’s being able to stand up and say we have the same capabilities and skills, but also the agility of a privately owned business that can cut through the red tape,” Ingentive CEO Andrea Bright replied.

“We do what they do but at absolute speed,” Convergent’s Jody Pawson chimed in.

Defending his position, Softcat CEO Graham Charlton stressed that the UK’s largest reseller has a mantra of keeping it simple and avoiding complacency.

“[We’ve] got to leverage [our] broader proposition, without allowing it to slow [us] down,” he said.

Karen McLaughlin, SVP EMEA Solutions at Insight, said it is “about playing to your strengths and knowing that if you come up against a competitor who is very niche, perhaps that’s a deal you shouldn’t be chasing”, meanwhile.

Magic money tree

Sumner also put the four panelists to the test by asking them a range of quickfire questions, including on how they would react if they were handed a magical multi-million pound investment to move their company forward.

“I’m a data person – I absolutely love data, so I’d probably invest in some sort of data managed services,” McLaughlin said.

Bright said she would invest in Ingentive’s capacity, while Charlton said he would plough the cash into boosting Softcat’s security and data capabilities.

“Maybe it would be an acquisition of a security business, as well as recruiting more heads,” Pawson added.

Jody Pawson

Most-esteemed rivals

In one of the final questions of the evening, Sumner asked the quartet to pinpoint which rival they have a grudging admiration for.

McLaughlin nominated Softwareone.

“When I was particularly new into the channel a few years back they were one that particularly impressed me – particularly their application of data and AI techniques in software asset management,” she said.

Bright nominated fellow Microsoft partner Transparity, meanwhile, while Pawson plumped for Computacenter.

“Mike Norris is the longest-serving FTSE 100 CEO and I quite appreciate listening to some of his controversial stuff. The company is a bi-product of that,” Pawson said.

“I’d agree with Jody on Computacenter,” Charlton said.

“They’re a bit of an outlier. They took a slightly different route. And there’s a lot of good people in that business over many years who have built a terrific organisation.”

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