A tour of Ingram Micro UK's new office

UK and Ireland MD Brent McCarty and marketing execs Maria Jackson and Victoria New give PCR a tour
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Ingram Micro UK opened a new office late last year, but it’s much more than snazzy meeting rooms and impressive workstations...

It marks a shift in the way the world’s largest tech distributor works with its partners and attracts talent. UK and Ireland MD Brent McCarty and marketing execs Maria Jackson and Victoria New give Dominic Sacco a tour.

Stepping into the reception area of Ingram Micro UK’s second floor, I’m immediately impressed.

There’s no sign-in folders or pens needed here – I tap a mounted touch-screen on the right of the reception desk and a visitor badge is automatically printed off for my colleague and I.

As we head to the waiting area, I have a strange sensation as I look up to see myself staring back at me.
But it’s not a mirror – it’s a giant screen. “Welcome to Ingram Micro,” reads the text next to my Twitter picture and name, along with my colleague Jennie Lane’s, as well as the time, date and a couple of TV news reports. A neat touch. 

Before I know it, Ingram Micro’s UK and Ireland MD Brent McCarty, head of marketing Maria Jackson and senior marketing specialist Victoria New have arrived to welcome us and give us a tour of the new office. 

As we step into the large, open-plan finance department what strikes me first is the lack of typical whiteboards. Instead, there are pillars that can be written on and wiped clean when needed. Essentially this creates four slim whiteboards in one – and there are several of them dotted around the entire office. Each employee has a dual monitor on their desks. The decor is clean and crisp with an Ingram Micro blue adorning the walls. 

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The creativity also stretches beyond the little things (I’m told the entire office was designed completely from scratch). As I look to my right through the long window, I can see across the atrium and into the other two floors and the department opposite me. This means you can see other departments at work, creating a communal feel; there’s clearly a buzz about the place, and seeing everyone working and moving around validates that. 

“The feedback from customers, vendors and associates on the building itself has been unanimously positive,” Brent tells me as he leads us to a selection of meeting rooms on the left. “Our associates feel like they have a new job. You want to be able to bring people into something you’re proud of. We didn’t really bring customers to the old office, but now we have something we can be proud of, and can showcase and fulfil our role in the channel.

“It’s almost like it’s elevated everything in our organisation – the perspective, the marketing, the people. If we give our staff a place they enjoy working in and want to be in, they have a bit more bounce in their step and a bit more engagement, and the passion level for the business goes up. People are instead talking about something they believe in, rather than something they have to do. It’s great. 

“The vendors have also been blown away,” he adds, as we walk past the firm’s swish new kitchen area and tea room. 

“Linda Rendleman [Microsoft UK’s partner business and development director] was previously critical of us, the fact that we’re a huge global distributor but in the UK there was need for improvement. She recently came in and we showed her the building, how we’re evolving to the cloud, our marketing strategy, and her jaw was on the floor – she couldn’t believe the amount of change that had happened in 12 months. She was super complimentary. 

“When people start walking around they see the energy and the buzz, and when you experience that, you want to work with us.”

“We’ve got to take our level of game up in everything that we do and the new office is just one part of that overall formula.”
Brent McCarty, Ingram Micro UK and Ireland MD

It’s clear that Microsoft was impressed. There are several Office 365 tables with screens on them dotted around all the office, as well as a separate seating area complete with Microsoft-branded cushions in a Windows-style colour scheme.

I begin to notice other brands around the building. Canon’s logo is at the top of each pillar. Dell has a promotional wall in the tea area (also known as ‘The Delli’), and later on we pass a relaxation area complete with an Xbox, TVs and Crucial-branded cushions. Brother has even sponsored a cupboard. 

“This is an initiative that Maria brought forward,” Brent explains. “We bring customers and vendors together so you’ll see sponsorship from vendors throughout the office. It’s such a different experience for them and allows vendors to drive engagement with our customers.”

We walk into a training room. “How’s it going guys?” says Brent. “Oh I’m sorry – they’re doing their financials test!” he says before closing the door. “We have an iBoard Touch up there, so when you’re doing presentations, you can touch the panel and it moves things around. 

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“It’s important that when we bring new employees into the company they have a positive experience from day one. We want to attract the right people and create a great winning culture in the marketplace.”

Brent isn’t just talking about Ingram’s working environment. Milton Keynes is becoming a modern, thriving area. Young people apply for jobs at Ingram (there’s a technology school across the road) and there are plenty of bars, hotels and restaurants nearby, including All Bar One which is just next door.

“On our first day here, I found 30 people in there after work having a pint. Having staff that work hard and then go out and play hard afterwards so easily is great. As a leader, you just can’t buy that.”

‘Trained killers’

We head upstairs to the third floor where sales staff are situated. “There’s always a ton of activity here and usually all kinds of crazy stuff going on,” Brent says. “At the end of the day we’re going 100 miles an hour.

“This is where we sell enterprise products to our customers,” he points to a group of staff. “This can be complex to sell – but these guys are trained killers,” he jokes.

We pass Brent’s office on the left. There’s a picture in the corner of the room of his face superimposed onto an ice hockey player wearing a Toronto Maple Leafs jersey – a prior leaving gift for him. As a Canadian and former senior director of sales for Ingram Micro Canada, has Brent stamped a bit of Canada into Ingram UK? “Well I made sure we have the NHL ice hockey game for the Xbox here at lunch,” he smiles, “but I’m the only one that plays it!”

We head up to the quieter fourth floor, which boasts a mix of meeting spaces for business reviews, partner gatherings and rooms that can be tailored to a specific vendor. 

We enter an HP branded room complete with the latest computers, as well as blue lighting, an HP desk in the middle and a wall on the right running through the vendor’s history. 

Another room is currently Lenovo-branded, while the one next to it is empty. But the wall panels between
them can be unfolded to create one bigger room, which can sit 110 people. Screens pop out of the ceiling in both rooms to create a theatre presentation environment. Each meeting room has a tablet screen panel on the wall outside – indicating when the room is free. 

“It’s important that when we bring new employees into the company they have a positive experience from day one. We want to attract the right people and create a great winning culture in the marketplace.”
Brent McCarty, Ingram Micro UK and Ireland MD

“Many of our customers want to do events but don’t have the capabilities to do that, so we’ll also offer this space up as a service, where our customers can bring their customers in. For example, if Softcat wanted to host an event, it can be branded as Softcat,” explains Brent.

Maria adds: “We can change the branding and signage at the flip of a switch as there’s AV built into everything.”

We step into the large Apple-branded boardroom, and Maria tells me about Ingram Micro UK’s marketing developments. 

“We’ve gone back to basics and looked at every single area of marketing,” she says. “In 2015 our vendors will have a whole programme of activities. Everything is about value and real ROI. So for us 2015 is our year of coming of age in marketing. 

“We created a dedicated group in October 2014 within marketing – Agency Ingram Micro – working on resellers’ marketing programmes for them.”

Brent adds: “We understand our vendors better than any other third party agency will understand. And if we can help our customers be more successful, that means we will be more successful. Our customers need distribution to do more than pricing and availability, and we want to do more than that.” 

The future's bright

So what’s next for Ingram Micro UK?

“In 2014 we formalised the Venture Tech Network, launched our SMB Alliance, we hired 37 people, we grew in the SMB space, we moved new offices and we changed our marketing strategy,” Brent explains. “We added Dell so we have all the top brands, giving us a unique position in the marketplace. On a pan Euro level we’ve been restructuring the business.

“We also have a good-sized retail business that’s growing significantly but it’s been primarily focused on a smaller set of customers that have large buying power. There’s still work to be done but there’s an increased focus going into this area.

“There’s still a lot of work for us to do in the UK,” he adds. “After making those changes we want to carry that momentum into 2015 and focus on our enterprise side of the business. 2015 is about getting a bigger return on our investments.

“The new office is an investment and we’re advertising that over ten years. It was long overdue for us. We’ve got to take our level of game up in everything that we do and this is just one part of the overall formula.”

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