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Climb CEO talks emerging vendors, expansion and UK importance

We speak to the distributor’s chief executive, Dale Foster, who has plans to widen the reach of the business and believes the need for specialists remains as high as ever

Specialist distributors have always played a crucial role in the channel ecosystem, identifying emerging vendors and bringing fresh options to resellers and managed service providers (MSPs).

Despite consolidation and increased competition, there continues to be room for firms like Climb Global Solutions to make a difference in the market.

The challenge for its CEO, Dale Foster, and his team is to continue to identify opportunities it can take to market to retain that specialist position.

“We play a role where the reseller or the MSP doesn’t have to go out and figure out [the vendor’s credentials],” he says. “We can simplify what that value pitch is and why they should take a look at XYZ vendor, and then we can make it easy from a transactional side. We could bring on a vendor every week, there are that many coming out of the second phase of startup.”

Foster adds that the key is working with them once they get to the right stage of their development, but even then, the process is a delicate one. “Are their channel mechanics similar in how they want to go to market? Do we have cross-sellable brands? I don’t want to bring a brand on board that’s directly competitive to one of my other ones.

“It sounds really simple, but it’s what we know. And we believe we can out-execute our bigger competitors and some of our direct competitors, just by showing up,” he adds. “You build those relationships and they last a long time.”

“We could bring on a vendor every week, there are that many coming out of the second phase of startup”
Dale Foster, Climb Global Solutions

Foster says there is an established route to distribution, with vendors starting out of a bedroom, growing a base of resellers and then getting to a point where, for the purposes of growth and reducing logistical headaches, a distie is appointed to take things to the next stage.

Getting the timing right around that is important because the expectations around a distributor are significant, and if it is to deliver, it will need to get the timing right.

“The plan is to recruit good vendors, because if you have the vendors, you can get the MSPs, the resellers and the customers. I believe the best marketing is a handshake. You can market all you want, but if you meet somebody, get to know them in person, you can have that customer for life and build a relationship,” he says.

“We exist because of speed and efficiency,” he adds. “We are selling speed – how fast and how many people can I get to look at your vendor product in the shortest amount of time?”

Experience and ambition

Foster knows what he is talking about, with a CV that includes plenty of channel experience, including building a distributor in North America called Promark Technology, which was sold to Ingram Micro, before embarking on the current chapter with Climb.

Climb hit the headlines last autumn when the company bolstered its position in the UK channel with the acquisition of distributor DataSolutions.

Foster’s desire to expand means looking for firms that will benefit from its approach. “Let’s acquire companies that are of like mind that need more technology products in their portfolio that we’re good at,” he says.

“The plan is to recruit good vendors, because if you have the vendors, you can get the MSPs, the resellers, the customers”
Dale Foster, Climb Global Solutions

From the outset, Climb saw mergers and acquisitions as part of the strategy. “We were going to look at acquiring companies that have like mind, spirit and go to market,” says Foster. “Western Europe is a target for us because the roll-up of distribution happened in the United States 10 years ago, it was all pretty much complete ... there are really no targets in the US. It’s really western Europe, and then the rest of EMEA after that. But the UK is very important to me.”

The ambition is to get half of the gross billings coming from the UK. Foster is optimistic that it can build momentum and expand in the market.

The UK channel can expect to hear the name Climb more often as it continues to build the business and market dynamics are working in its favour. The emergence of new vendors continues at pace, and the space for a specialist distributor to add value remains.

“It is as good as it ever was. There are two parts to that. There are the emerging vendors that come up – we can give them real care and feeding, and get them sat in front of people very quickly. The other side of that is our competitors don’t go there,” he says.

Given the nature of startups is to rapidly grow the portfolio, a balance with more established brands should continue to propel Climb forward.

Fun and passion

Foster has earned the right, given his past successes in the channel, to head off to the golf course and leave the hard work of building a UK, European and EMEA business to others. But he has a passion for the channel and won’t be going anywhere soon.

“I enjoy it and I have a passionate team behind me that feels the exact same way. It’s more fun now than it ever has been. We have multiple targets [in the] UK and Europe, and then we’ll look beyond that. But then, I don’t know. There’s no no end game for me, that’s for sure,” he concludes.

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