Five Minute Interview: Phil Smith, Ipanema

Ipanema's Phil Smith talks about his industry history, novelty ringtones, and reveals which crew member from the Starship Enterprise he'd turn to in a crisis

Tell us what you do for a living.

I am the UK & Ireland channel director of cloud services at Ipanema Technologies.

Why are you the right person for this job?

I consider myself a ‘business problem solving’ type of person, which suits my job very well. I essentially help businesses to pinpoint their areas of concern within IT, and then work with them closely to help them overcome those issues.

IT should be considered an enabler for all businesses, and it’s satisfying to know that I can consult with businesses and help them implement a more efficient IT setup.

Sales is something I know very well; I’ve been in the industry for many years. Before joining Ipanema I was the service provider account director at Network Utilities. I also worked for several years as the UK & Ireland sales manager for Cisco within the SMB space.  

What gets you up in the morning?

I like to start my day early with a good breakfast – I’m definitely a morning person. I’d never recommend working on an empty stomach!

I’ve been working with many of the same partners for years, and I’m driven by the idea of enabling companies to become more efficient and solving new problems every day.

Who helped you get to where you are today?

My friends are responsible in part for my career. I started out as a quantity surveyor but quickly discovered that a fixed monthly-salary working pattern was not meeting my overheads. I moved into estate agency sales management but it seems I was always destined for the IT industry.

With several friends at IBM and a brother-in law at BT, I was surrounded by the rapidly changing world of IT. As a result, I became something of the IT ‘guru’ within my estate agency group, becoming responsible for IT decisions on PBX and IT development. This made the move to IT sales an easy decision when the opportunity arose.  

What is the best or worst business advice you have received and from whom?

My first sales manager told me the most important thing is to listen to the customer. Before doing anything, make sure you know what the customer wants. It’s a bit of a cliché, but I’ve found it has served me well throughout my career.

What advice would you give to someone starting out today in IT?

Be adaptable. IT is dynamic and the industry is constantly changing. To succeed, you have to be flexible and recognise changes.

In channel sales specifically, you must have passion and be interested in people. If you’re not passionate about the product, people won’t believe you and they won’t want to buy from you. They need to feel that you are personally invested in their success. Being persuasive and well-read around the subject matter is crucial; channel sales will increasingly rely on resellers taking on a consultative role to their clients, and this can only happen if they really know their stuff.

What’s running on your smartphone?

My ringtone is Daft Punk, which always makes me smile. As for apps, I use LinkedIn to stay connected; AppsWork (in the mobile-specific version) and Waze as my sat nav. I’ve also got the Despicable Me game for some fun; I’ve got fantastically dextrous thumbs, now!

What does the next five years hold for the channel?

I think those in the channel will increasingly move into a consultancy role. In addition to managed services, today’s end-users are seeking advice more than ever. It’s here, in this combined role of consultancy and technology, that VARs have amazing potential for growth. I’ve also found that systems integrators and service providers are consolidating. I think this trend will only become more prominent in the next five years.

I also think the cloud is going to become more important, both for the channel specifically and IT generally. It presents the ‘perfect storm’ as businesses grow into new consumption models to maintain business agility in a tough market. What I mean by this is that there will be tension, opportunities, and change. The atmosphere is almost ‘crackling’, if you will, with potential.

Tell us something most people do not know about you

I’m a musician and am very inspired by music.

What goal do you have to achieve before you die, and why?

I want to learn French, and plan on starting lessons soon. I work for a French company and love to travel, so I think knowing the language will be very beneficial.

What is the best book you've ever read?

There’s a book by David H. Sandler called You Can’t Teach a Kid to Ride a Bike at a Seminar, which I think everyone interested in sales should read. I wish I had discovered it 15 years earlier than I did – it’s a fantastic and insightful read.

And the worst film you’ve ever seen?

Rocky and Bullwinkle. (Endured this with the kids!)

What would be your Desert Island MP3s?

‘Hotel California’ by the Eagles; ‘Sexual Healing’ by Marvin Gaye; ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ by Pink Floyd; anything by The Family Perry.

What temptation can you not resist?

A really good Spanish red wine.

What was your first car and how does it compare with what you drive now?

My first car was a very old Ford Anglia; it’s what Ron Weasley drove, although mine didn’t fly! I now drive a faster 4-wheel drive, though I do still miss the Anglia. I have slight pangs of regret over having sold it!

If you could be any animal for a day, what would you be and why?

A hawk – they have incredible eyesight, so I would be able to fly everywhere and see everything.

If you could take part in one event in the Olympics, which would you choose and why?

I live in the country and enjoy shooting, so clay pigeon shooting would be my event.

If you were facing awesome peril and impossible odds, which real or fictional person would you most want on your side and why?

Spock from Star Trek. He’s highly logical, and that’s something you want in an escape partner.

And finally, a grizzly bear and a silverback gorilla are getting ready for a no-holds-barred rumble. Who is your money on and why?

My money is on the silverback gorilla. He’s more intelligent and more agile over the grizzly bear’s potentially bullish attempts at fighting.

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