IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Meet the New Leaders of Lenovo’s PC Business

A new president for North America (Matthew Zielinski, pictured) and new channel chief bring a new commitment to the customer. By James E. Gaskin

Forgive the feeling of déjà vu reading about the new president of North America for Lenovo. After all, Matthew Zielinski is the sixth person to hold that position in six years. But with a laugh, Zielinski, who spoke with ChannelPro last week at Lenovo’s 2018 Accelerate partner event in Las Vegas, states emphatically that he took the job to provide some stability, and that he’ll be in the same role at next year’s Accelerate.

Zielinski has spent his first 13 weeks on the job digging into Lenovo’s place in the North American market and working on ways to increase its market share. And he needs help from the channel to do that.

“85 percent of our revenue in the region flows through the channel, and there are more than 20,000 partners,” says Zielinski. “Our focus was on the data center and product-centric before, and now the focus is on the customer.” The plan is to “re-instill some swagger and confidence and unleash the beast.”

Helping Zielinski in his mission is Rob Cato, executive director of North American channels for Lenovo. Cato was the interim director for three months, following the departure of predecessor Sammy Kinlaw in January, and took over officially last month. A 25-year IBM veteran, Cato moved over with Lenovo’s acquisition of the IBM ThinkPad notebook product line in 2005.

“Our personal computers are still the core of our business, where we have the most innovative products, and we’re making sure we get back to our top-of-the-game, world-class innovation,” says Cato. “We’re dominating right now in some of the workstation markets and taking market share.”

The PC and Smart Devices unit responsible for those workstations also markets the ThinkSmart Hub 500, a purpose-built Skype Room Systems device introduced last September that makes video conferencing a one-touch event rather than a ten-minute battle for a connection.

Lenovo’s successful Tiny line of full-featured micro desktops are further examples of customer-focused innovation, adds Cato. “Our customer base there is still growing, and we’re regaining our footing in the education market,” he says.

Globally, Lenovo’s market share is far higher than in the U.S. Zielinski describes the roughly 10 percent domestic share as “plenty of headroom for growth.”

More products are coming in the next several weeks. “These will show our core values of supporting businesses, reliability, and how easy it is for partners to sell and deliver our products,” Zielinski promised.

Services, along with new products, play a huge part of Zielinski’s approach to improving Lenovo’s U.S. market share. “We’re expanding professional services, all done with partners, to improve the customer experience,” he says. “Maybe we image PCs at the factory to deliver to customers, help with deployments, whatever we can do to help the partner and the customer.”

During his Accelerate keynote address, Zielinski stressed four things for partners to remember: outcomes, disruption, commitment, and customers. ThinkPads are 25 years old and a great business platform, but new products and markets will help produce great outcomes for customers. Lenovo plans to disrupt the cloud market, and since they have no sacred products to protect, they can do what’s needed. Their commitment to leverage the channel to serve customers is firm. And Zielinski pledges to focus on the quality customer experiences that lead to positive outcomes.

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