This is the first of a series of articles we will publish profiling our successful channel partners. For the first profile we are covering our SELECT Partner PowerNET. This article is reproduced from the Fujitsu Channel Newsletter from an interview with PowerNET Director Daniel Williams.
PowerNET first signed with Fujitsu in 2014 and quickly became Fujitsu’s largest SELECT Expert Partner. This partnership has allowed both Fujitsu and PowerNET to grow rapidly and to build a strong foundation where we are able to work together to improve and evolve.
As a teenager, he was the go-to-kid for computer support, guidance and inspiration to friends, family and neighbours – a trend that continues today in the professional life of PowerNET director Daniel Williams.
Williams fondly remembers his early days. “Being a child of the ‘80s where computers were the in-thing I begged my parents to get me one; I used to love going to the neighbour’s place to play with their personal computer,” Williams said, explaining how his father’s fascination with pulling apart chainsaws and lawnmowers also sparked his interest in tinkering with technology.
“With my father’s knowledge as a small motors and diesel mechanic, as a kid I used to always watch him pull apart motors and put them back together. I transferred the interest in my father into pulling apart computers and became, as a teenager, the neighbourhood go-to if your computer wasn’t working.”
Certainly, big things have come from the Moonee Ponds suburban go-to-kid. Over the past decade, Williams has risen to the top of the PowerNET corporate ladder at the tender age of 33 thanks to his constant hard work and dogged determination. He has worn many hats including technical manager, national business development manager, general manager, head of service delivery and director.
Founded in 1994, PowerNET IT Solutions has grown from four employees in 2004 to 50 today. With offices in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland, it offers a range of solutions and services from security and monitoring, mobility, internet and communications, server and networks, hosting, Cloud, as well as business intelligence for consulting, delivering projects and strategy development.
Over the years, Williams has helped clinch customers across many verticals including health, retail, real estate and transport from Swisse Wellness to Barry Plant Real Estate to Peter Sheppard Footwear to Ventura Bus Lines – and he takes pride in the fact the company still maintains a relationship with its very first client, Frankston Anaesthetic Services.
No doubt customers have taught Williams a thing or two. From those early days helping out the neighbours to the business relationships formed with PowerNET clients, his love of technology was born and cemented, paving the way for a lifelong relationship with IT and his desire to teach and make a difference.
“There is nothing more rewarding than hearing someone preach something that you’ve helped them establish or see them teach someone something that you’ve taught them, and in their own way or own style. It’s something that I enjoy most about being in a leadership role.”
Spend any length of time with Williams and it is clear his passion for mentoring and inspiring others is part of his DNA. He credits his father’s disciplined and determined nature (working as a fleet manager for local government), along with his mother’s nurturing and supportive ways (working with kids with disabilities) as major influences in his desire to teach and empower people with the use of technology.
“I always did studies relating to technology because I was interested in what you could do with it, how far you could push it, but in also helping other people. I’ve always been interested in teaching other people new skills.”
Today, Williams continues to be a teacher, mentor, self-proclaimed “coach and skipper” and continually inspires the crew at PowerNET. Prior to PowerNET, Williams worked for Hume City Council (as technical support), Anderson Rice (as a system administrator) and HP (where he was a few weeks into a network operations job when he witnessed the HP takeover of Compaq).
But it is his PowerNET post that has profoundly shaped his career thus far, giving him a range of expertise and unmatched opportunities.
“I have come full circle. In the beginning I was learning, training and involved on the help desk side of things, and learning how to deliver a service. I’ve gone through selling those services, been in business development and account management, learning how to nurture those accounts, and running a business where I was effectively away from the client and running a business operation. Now this year I have gone back to service and focussing on applying what I’ve learned to help take it to the next level. “
Certainly, the company has already catapulted to the next level and Williams was pivotal in making it all happen. He helped the PowerNET team make the courageous decision to transition the company from a technically-oriented approach to adopting a more business-oriented strategy that is a customer-driven and solution-driven philosophy.
“My biggest achievements early days were establishing a support structure, and a leadership structure. In my life away from work I play a lot of team sport and I think that’s where I developed a lot of leadership skills and I introduced that to what was a very tech environment. It was five techs running around trying to deliver a quality service, so I introduced order and a support structure that would allow us to make decisions, and have some sort of due process,” he said.
Armed with the valuable skill of “making compelling arguments and being able to take people on that journey of understanding,” Williams created platforms and opportunities that enabled the company to develop business conversations, rather than simply focusing on the” geek-speak” and the technology layer.
“When I look back on it, the majority of my time at PowerNET I’ve been more interested in the business discussion, the business opportunity and less the technology. The technology is just going to enable all of that,” he explained.
While stopping short of saying the company was a trailblazer, he acknowledged the early-to-market transition towards solution selling is noteworthy.
“We made that change a couple of years ago. We moved away from looking at what technology we could build, and then going out and selling it, to taking it back and starting over, to talking to our clients about their business needs and then building a solution to suit. If you are going to run a business where you don’t have an off-the-shelf solution that you are selling, you need to be really flexible and achieve a lot of different outcomes.”
Forging new relationships
Looking back over company history, Williams said April 2014 stands out as a monumental shift in company direction. At that time, the company made a big, bold move to step away from a long-standing relationship with HP in the server and storage infrastructure space and forge a mutually beneficial marriage of the minds with Fujitsu – and Williams was there leading and guiding the company every step of the way.
“We’ve been an HP business partner since 2005. We were selling a lot of their equipment and servers and every time we asked for engagement to get them to help us work on a campaign we found it was really difficult. If you were talking to someone you’d find out during that campaign that their role had changed, or you had a different account manager, or sometimes they just didn’t come to the party at all,” he said.
Frustrated with the relationship in that space, Williams said PowerNET decided to take a leap of faith and forge an alliance with Fujitsu in part because of the attractive partner program and sense of community that was developing, but also because of the fact that Fujitsu had come into the midmarket quite aggressively on price, a pivotal move that PowerNET could leverage.
Already, Williams said the new relationship between PowerNET and Fujitsu has proved mutually rewarding: both companies are on complementary growth paths and strategically aligned.
“The personable and consultative approach that they have taken by including us in the building of the channel program has gone exactly according to what we needed. We’re in a growth stage at the moment, and Fujitsu are as well, and it feels good to be aligned with a partner that is also growing. I don’t necessarily fear that we are a small fish in a big pond. We feel included where they are headed in Australia in the channel,” he said.
And like any new and successful relationship, Williams said it is so important to be “on the same page” with vendor partners and to share a common vision.
“Fujitsu is part of that partner ecosystem that we like to exist in. They are our only server and storage partner now in that partner ecosystem. If you are going to make that work, you have to be committed to each other. We pride ourselves on being a good business to do business with, so we need partners that are geared the same way and have the same vision – and we definitely found that with Fujitsu. We are trying to build on that and take that to the next level and add partners in other key areas also.”
Additionally, partners want greater accessibility, enhanced support and ongoing collaboration from vendors, Williams said, adding Fujitsu is “walking the talk” compared to many of its competitors when it comes to accessibility and support, and staying relevant.
“You have to work together to make sure we maintain relevance together, that we understand what their product capability is, and they understand what we’re trying to put together, and having that collaboration that we do with Fujitsu, is what makes that possible.”
Certainly, Williams has proven he can take risks not only by transitioning PowerNET from a technology-centric company into a business outcomes-driven operation, but also forging a new relationship with Fujitsu – and he has some lessons learned about the journey.
“Our business has grown in capability and prosperity dramatically through the last few years on the back of being able to identify when things haven’t worked. One of my favourite quotes: The courage that it takes to say that something hasn’t worked is exactly the same courage that it takes to start it in the first place. If you don’t go into something because you’re scared it is not going to work, then you will never achieve anything,” he said.
“We’ve made some really tough calls in 2013 and 2014 – we invested more money than earned into establishing our business and restructuring our business and getting the right tools.”
But perhaps one of his greatest achievements in terms of career development was his choice not to focus on any one technology stream.
“I was definitely techie early days, but when I identified I didn’t want to be pigeonholed and be associated with a technology stream or a skill set, I became more interested in how businesses could benefit from the technology. Businesses are always going to need the technology, and if you could develop skills in helping businesses understand how to best utilise the technology, or what technology could work for them, that would stand you in good stead.”
So what does the future hold for Williams and PowerNET? He has his eyes firmly cast on the company’s strategic direction, planning to focus his time and energy on planned development.
“In five years I’d like to be taking what we’ve built as a business and seeing how far we can take it. I know we’re building a successful brand and successful model in Australia, but I’d like to look at taking that overseas – breaking into the Asian market.”
In the meantime, Williams is helping to create a vision for the company, ensuring that it stays relevant, competitive and viable.
“We have a real focus on scalability at the moment and we want to be able to maintain relevance and scale our business up with agility. That is something that you’ve got to be able to do. We’ve got to be able to attract a broader client base, but be able to scale our services to suit.”
And he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. His leadership style will continue to inspire as he leads by example.
“You need to be able to give direction at the front of the pack and then be able to get back in the trenches next to your team and show that you would support them – that you are willing to live the life of a team member. If you can achieve that, you actually build the goals together.”
Whatever the next move, if the journey is half as exciting as the past ten years, this grown-up ‘go-to-kid’ said he is up for it. “I dream big for the business and I’m prepared to go along for the ride.”