Ian French is changing his socks again. Ideal Hardware's managing director could be forgiven for casting a wry smile in the direction of Basingstoke and waving his finest pair of Argylls in triumph. It was only a few weeks ago that French accused Datrontech, during a war of words over the AMI franchise, of losing money and changing its staff as often as he changed his socks.
Datrontech's latest staff reshuffle has come uncomfortably soon after the bust-up with French. Senior members of staff have been leaving the group's various companies in droves over the past few weeks, giving substantial credence to French's sock theory. Data Connectivity and Summit Peripherals have both been depleted of experience, while group chief executive Ray Peck is seeing out a notice period.
The share price has dropped to under 10p and the spark to reignite the group's fortunes has not yet emerged, despite attempts back in April by Allan Mack, chief operating officer, to talk up the company's future prospects following its reported £8.1m losses.
Are we about to witness another distribution casualty? History suggests Datrontech will soldier on and try to make its profit through the Data Connectivity, peripherals and retail business. But the trouble with Data Connectivity is that it has lost senior management, and with it, networking and convergence experience at organisational level.
The right man for the challenge
If James Morgan, new chief executive at Data Connectivity, can steady the ship and retain engineers, support staff and franchises such as Ericsson, the division should grow again. At Datrontech UK, Morgan showed that he can face a challenge. He faces all sorts of new challenges, but the main thing to consider here is that the convergence market is awash with cash.
Convergence resellers are snapping up the smaller ones, and there is a real sense that telecoms and IT convergence will develop into a highly skilled, channel-led industry. Robin Falconer, who filled Morgan's role at Datrontech UK, will probably relish pushing system builders towards networking and services businesses.
However, we will have to wait and see how the team develops and whether or not the distributor can finally emerge from the shadows.
Floating or drowning?
Unfortunately for Datrontech, being a floated company means that it is working in a goldfish bowl and the bad news is that it has rarely had any good news over the past two years.
In contrast, Ideal has found a big US buyer and its story has been more readable. French has pulled the company out of a potentially difficult period where the long-term management team (now ensconced within InterX) broke its ties with the distributor.
Datrontech may well need to take a leaf out of Ideal's book. And that leaf is about management.
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