Serious about Scale
Growth strategies for international operations are often not prioritised by high-tech U.S. companies. But Silver Peak is bucking this trend with Ian Whiting, its new President of Global Field Operations.
Since joining Silver Peak last December, Ian Whiting describes his time at the company as being especially busy.
But this is a positive, because it speaks to the urgency and significance of Ian’s role which looks at all aspects of the go-to-market strategy for the Santa Clara-based company.
Ian said, “I’ve typically operated in companies that were medium-sized and then grew to become very large.” He also observed his hiring as Silver Peak’s recognition of its potential to be a more formidable player in the market, and being keen to grow in size and revenue.
“My specialty is helping businesses grow and scale.” he said, explaining that it also means adding different aspects to the go-to-market model, for example whether it should have more channel focus or more service provider focus.
“I’ve run big organisations, that weren’t big when I joined but grew to become large. That’s the key message – these companies were in the hundreds of millions in revenue and they grew to become companies with billions in revenues.”
One example is Brocade Communications, that Ian was at for 11 years.
Ingredients for growth and scale
The experience that Ian brings to Silver Peak is very relevant as it is growing very rapidly, and the company plans to tap into experience in a measured, thoughtful and strategic way.
When asked about what his secret sauce to growth is, he observed that most people in his role in other companies, have similar methods. Three main ingredients that come to mind for Ian are building strong leaders locally, time and effort in the region, as well as constant employee engagement.
“It all boils down to execution at the end of the day, but the most critical component is having strong teams and strong leaders in the key positions,” he said.
Admittedly, the Asia Pacific region is an exciting market, but it is also the most challenging because of its distance from headquarters, or ‘the mothership’ as Ian likes to call it.
Therefore, what’s required are strong leaders who are suitably independent with decision making, and who understand what it means to be part of a US company with specific compliance and governance requirements.
Ian recognises the importance of delegating authority to the people who are as close to the customer as possible. “I’m not going to make a better decision (than them) on a specific customer situation or partner opportunity.
“So, you have to rely on the people who are closest to the action ie. In the region or in the country.
“It all comes down to trust and knowing you’ve got people who have proven themselves, are trustworthy, have integrity, professionalism and know-how, to represent the company and make smart decisions.”
Ian shared as example, that he tries to give as much authority as possible around deal-making and discounting.
“You’ve got to give a lot of latitude for them to respond to local market conditions, competitive threats, and do what is necessary to win,” he emphasised while adding that HQ has to rely on the people nearest to the customer, because they are the ones on-the-ground who can effectively run the day-to-day business.
“There is tendency for small companies to try control everything from HQ. I think that is a recipe for disaster in the long-term,” he pointed out.
Time and effort
Job execution for Ian entails having to spend a lot of time in the regions that Silver Peak operates in.
“So, I spend a tremendous amount of my time; probably more than most others in my role; being present and being in the country (of operations).
“And it’s not just to meet with customers and partners, but also to spend time with the many teams to understand their issues, concerns, and their career aspirations.”
The president of global field operations found that his role has to do a lot of with dealing with people. “If we do not have motivated, well-trained teams, then a lot of of the opportunities we have cannot be leveraged.”
Spending time this way with his teams, also enables him to make informed decisions back at the ‘mothership.’
“The only way I can do my job is to be as knowledgeable as I can be about what’s happening in the local market,” he explained.
This leads to the third ingredient of his special growth sauce, which is constant engagement with his employees.
“I hear consistently about communication challenges as companies gets larger.
“Ninety-percent of my organisation is not based at HQ, so it’s very easy to get disconnected and not understand what’s happening in the company.”
According to Ian, there has to be constant communication with the team about what’s happening, how to compete, big changes that occur, strategies, as well as identifying successes and recognising people for their accomplishments.
“This is the constant employee engagement aspect that often can get overlooked (as companies grow and expand,” Ian said.
Silver Peak feels it has got the technology part covered. It boasts a SD-WAN technology leadership in the market which is validated by analyst companies like Gartner and Frost & Sullivan.
“But, we’ve got to focus a bit more on how to scale and expand sales and marketing activities to really accelerate our growth.”
Ian observed there is tremendous thirst for knowledge about the SD-WAN technology, or software-defined wide area networks technology, which addresses the massive shift of workloads from on-premise to the cloud, by ensuring low latency and high availability, among other things.
But while the company is growing faster than the industry average, there is still a lot of market share to be gained in Asia Pacific.
“There is tremendous thirst for knowledge about SD-WAN,” Ian pointed out. “People believe in the value proposition, but they do not necessarily know how to implement it, or know the different options that they have, to realise the value.”
Silver Peak believes this is where they come in. And they are getting ready with plans to not only beef up their partner ecosystem, but also enable them with training, support and know-how.
It would be the perfect way to start a new year.