Colin McIsaac, Executive & General Manager at Lenovo Canada talks about how he got started working with Lenovo and the biggest benefits that Lenovo brings to entrepreneurs when it comes to running their small and medium-sized businesses through advancing technology.
As Lenovo’s General Manager of Canada, Colin is responsible for sales, operations, culture, strategy, and customer satisfaction of the region. He has overall P&L responsibility for Commercial, SMB, and Consumer products through all major routes to market. Colin’s 23 years of experience spans multiple roles, opportunities, and experiences in the technology business. He has held numerous key leadership positions in both Canada and the US at both Lenovo and IBM. He is passionate about driving broad market engagement and has a strong desire to help enable the customer journey to successful business outcomes. Colin has a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Toronto, Canada, and sits on the Board of the Information Technology Association of Canada (ITAC) and First Robotics Canada.
Can you start with telling me more about your career and how you started with Lenovo?
My career started at IBM in 1997. I was a business school graduate from the University of Toronto. From there, I was fortunate enough to have my first position in a finance role at IBM. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn the technology business and after a few years, I decided to switch from a finance role to sales. I haven’t looked back since. My experience in sales ranges from sales individual to sales management; to executive management and now currently I’m the General Manager for Lenovo Canada. This role has responsibility for our personal computer and data center businesses along with related services and software.
Lenovo has made quite the comeback in recent years and distinguished itself as a strong contender when it comes to the small and medium sized businesses. What do you believe is the reason behind this turnaround?
Yes, absolutely! Traditionally, we’ve had a strong legacy of success in Canada of which we are very proud. We are well represented in larger organizations, such as banks, telco, insurance, and large government entities. This is a direct result of our heritage in Canada and continues to be an important part of our business. To realize the full value of our business opportunity, however, we began to turn our attention to other market segments – including the SME market.
Within SME, we are taking the approach of augmenting our strong channel relationships with defined, Lenovo-assisted end-user relationships. This effort has brought together many areas of our business including marketing, operations, customer data, client engagement, and channel partnership. It has also meant a renewed value proposition that strikes a chord with SME prospects.
This value proposition tries to address a fundamental question of “will they (SME) see value in what we bring?” We think the answer is Yes.
As a result of our focus, we are well on our way to increase the amount of Lenovo SME end-users in Canada. Lenovo’s ultimate goal is to bring technology value to more and more people and businesses.
Lenovo already had a strong reputation in the enterprise and public sector. Why go into the SME industry? What was the deciding factor to tackle that sector?
IDC tells us that there are around 5,000,000+ PCs sold in Canada annually, with 50% belonging to the commercial market. Within that market, there is an even split between large enterprises and SMEs. That’s a very clear statistic that can’t be ignored and that makes sense to focus on from a business equation perspective.
More importantly, however, is the fact that we have such an established and strong value proposition in the commercial landscape. We built our reputation through our ThinkPad legacy and with it, developed a very strong and loyal customer base. We have a great story and products that are innovative – bringing the best quality and reliability and overall experience. We strive to improve our products on a daily basis and continue to help businesses succeed worldwide. So why would we privilege that only to the very large businesses?
How has entering the small business industry affected Lenovo?
The “go-to-market” strategy has certainly been different when approaching the SME market and overall it has been a very positive journey. It has helped us to move at a much faster pace considering there are fewer layers of decision-makers. It’s also been very important to be more engaged with the decision-makers and provide them with more options.
Additionally, it has also helped shape Lenovo’s culture. We have shifted from only focusing through a large business lens to broadening our view to encompass SMEs. These learnings influence product design, introduce new solutions, offer different services, and enable new partnerships. SME customers want organizations that are easy to do business, creative, and always available and Lenovo is evolving to deliver on this experience.
The results have been tremendous. We grew 29% in the Canadian SME market at the close of our last fiscal year on March 31st. In addition, all three segments of our business Large Enterprise, SME, and Consumer have contributed to Lenovo becoming number one in the PC business in Canada for the first time ever, according to the IDC.
We started this journey in 2005 when Lenovo bought the assets of an IBM PC organization and in the last 14 years, we have never achieved the number one status in a quarter of business. As a result of years of effort, we have just reached this milestone.
Entering the SME industry contributed greatly. It’s helped us evolve our business and culture. It also has had a significant impact on our supply chain, our marketing organization, and our product development organization as we start to look at this part of our market a lot different than what we had previously.
What is the number one benefit of entrepreneurs using Lenovo? How can it help them run their business successfully?
Entrepreneurs are looking for a faster time to value because they don’t have the luxury of time to mull over and make decisions that may be larger organizations have. Entrepreneurs want to surround themselves with organizations that can provide fast value for them in a quick and efficient manner. That is why it’s essential to always be available, accessible via mobile, and providing the most amount of value.
We have become very knowledgeable about the business community and can anticipate upcoming needs. That’s why we offer fast value through a diverse portfolio of devices and services. Our line of ThinkPads includes leading technologies such as extended battery life (up to 15 hours), RapidCharge technology, and optional multi-touch screens. We have built on our ThinkPad legacy and have now introduced the ThinkBook – which serves small-to-medium businesses. We also go beyond personal PCs and offer data center, cloud, services, and security solutions
Our security solutions are an area that we are really excited about at the moment! We recently launched a campaign for our ThinkShield with Olivia Munn, who happens to be a tech investor. With ThinkShield entrepreneurs can completely customize end-to-end protection that secures their business based on their specific needs.
Datacentre and Cloud technology is something that we’re really proud to offer. Our infrastructure products and engineered solutions, combined with our Lenovo professional services, can deliver every aspect of an entrepreneur’s cloud transformation project. Lenovo offers customized, simplified, and turnkey cloud solutions – ThinkAgile CP composable cloud, ThinkAgile SXM solutions for Azure, and ThinkAgile solutions for Nutanix, to name just a few
What sets Lenovo apart from other similar companies? Why should SME owners choose Lenovo as opposed to another brand?
There are probably a lot of adjectives I could provide. From a pure PC perspective, our business is, in my opinion, the most innovative of all the major PCs in the market. Innovation is our core business and livelihood. It is what people first identify with as they engage with Lenovo and is evidenced through the myriad of technologies and innovations that we have brought to market over the years. While we continue to lead here, now, we can offer a very compelling data center organization as we look to drive our value proposition beyond PC into cloud-based, private, and public solutions.
The other biggest differentiator is how easy it is to do business with us. You can buy from one of our resellers either over the telephone or online. We are not always perfect but from a trusted perspective, we are quite high up in people’s evaluation.
What is the best Lenovo product for SME owners who are in the start-up phase of their business?
We provide solutions anywhere from the data center all the way to the pants pocket.
For an early to mid-startup business that’s looking to evolve or build up its infrastructure, I would say you need a really good laptop. The ThinkBook is a great option that fits into this market very well. If you are looking to buy the best, I would recommend our X1 carbon.
This is not just a product relationship; it extends beyond the product in the SME space to more of a lifecycle offering. With Lenovo and our Resellers, there’s this ability to turn a capital payment into operating, creating a monthly payment for the utility of the product over a life cycle.
The ultimate goal is to provide the most flexibility and the most value to our clients in all stages of their lifecycle.
What has been the biggest accomplishment of Lenovo since targeting the SME industry?
We are most proud of our clients that come back and say, “thank you for helping my business and for this amazing relationship we have with Lenovo”. Those are the things that all Lenovo employees get excited about! When you survey your clients and continuously see 10/10 results, we know we are doing our job well, and get excited to do even better.
Providing the best customer experience is integral to our business in Canada and Lenovo Canada consistently receives a very high rating. This is a testament to the great relationships we have fostered with clients over the years and proves that the hard work and constant desire for bigger and better innovation and experience are worth it.
What are some of the future projects or initiatives that Lenovo has planned that can benefit small and medium-sized business owners?
There are quite a few.
We have our ThinkBook, which is a purpose-built product for SMEs. The device offers an innovative design, is well-stocked and with attractive pricing, and backs it up with the power and support that is expected of Lenovo. In addition, the ThinkBook has a rapid response with Windows Modern Standby that brings smartphone connectivity to a business laptop – the device can download emails, receive Skype call alerts, and get app updates, even with the lid closed. The ThinkBook also comes with business-grade support and built-in self-management features.
We also focus on continually looking for additional program offerings and flexibility around financing relationships. Giving SMEs the ability to manage their spending appropriately especially as they scale their business.
We are now also in the office collaboration business! Creating meeting room products that help enable broad-based collaboration in all organizations but especially with our turnkey offer in the small-medium more importantly.
In addition to other ongoing adjacent technologies, we’re working on edge-based computing. One of our newest offerings in that space is the SE350 – a great server that manages data and analytics at the edge of the network, which has great applicability in the SME space.
All of this is enhanced by a great reseller business in Canada that can help to provide end-to-end value to SMEs.
What is your final piece of advice to Canadian entrepreneurs when it comes to technology?
My advice would be to keep looking for the next opportunity to integrate technology into your business as a differentiator. More and more, technology is becoming less about the product or offering and more about what the technology can do for you. Technology strategy is now a key part of the business strategy those organizations that are able to leverage this to drive innovation will put themselves in an ideal position to achieve better business outcomes.