Watchguard’s ANZ country manager Pat Devlin says that when he travels from Sydney to New Zealand, resellers and customers sometime turn a deaf ear.
“People don’t really respect you until you have a local presence,” Devlin says. “The attitude is, ‘more seagulls from Australia’. I don’t like to think of us as seagulls.”
In the past, when Watchguard rolled out a new product — as it did in February, introducing two access point security appliances — the company would have flown in a Pat Devlin to do the rounds.
Now, as part of its effort to distinguish itself from the gulls, the company is on the lookout for a New Zealand representative. Devlin was in New Zealand last week, partly for recruitment purposes, as the company is poised to enter a unique relationship with its sole-distributor in New Zealand, Exeed. Whomever Watchguard hires, the plan is to have that person on-board in April, working out of Exeed’s office.
Devlin says Watchguard needs a jack-of-all-trades, but the idea is to develop the company’s channel business. Watchguard works with 30 or 40 resellers, and another dozen resellers in the vendor’s certification programme. Most, he says, are managed service providers.
Devlin says placing the new hire in Exeed’s office makes practical — and social — sense.
“It’s a great way to get a start in a market and have someone be part of a team,” he says. “The challenge of being the lone employee is that it can be so isolating. Now they will be part of a team, integrated in the business. I’m conscious of the human elment. Not everyone is cut out for going it alone, and the ones that are, are odd.”
Devlin says he wants to ultimately add an engineer to the staff as business grows.
The new Access Point products are not expected to attract new resellers, but to add the WLAN security capability to stregnthen the overall offering. The company switch to Intel a few years ago allowed it to add AP controllers, and the benefit of regular code updates from the chip manufacturer, fitting with Watchguard’s ‘best-of-breed’ approach to UTM.
Watchguard emphasises that best-of-breed capability, and price, as selling points. For resellers, it is difficult to find time to prove technology.
“To go down the evaluation path, really fully, in all situations, we just can’t afford the resource to do it,” says John Dunbar, of TTS, one of Watchguard’s biggest reseller-partners in New Zealand. “We have to be really careful about how much time we spend on R&D.”
The way TTS would evaluate the product is to have vendors pitch around “our situation and tell us why we should use their product for our kind of customer,” says Dunbar.
“If there is one technology that stands out, we’ll test that, and then look at things around price-point, upgradeability, service, support, and those issues,” says Dunbar.
With TTS’s focus on the education sector, the company did put Watchguard through its paces at one time, and considered competing solutions from Fortinet. In the end, the Watchguard solution fit the market segment it worked in.
“It suits the education market well,” says Dunbar. “It works well and it doesn’t cost our clients the earth.”
Dunbar says he was less familiar with AP technology, but if he were to consider Watchguard’s new offerings, his questions would be around ease of use and management.
As for the new hire, Dunbar says it probably would not change how TTS — with its staff of 120 — does business with Watchguard.
Devlin says his visit also included talking to a potential reseller who was in the middle of considering competing offerings from Watchguard, Palo Alto and SonicWall. The company, he says, is fairly selective about recruiting partners.
“The danger in selling to everyone is they just trip over each other and learn to hate you,” says Devlin. “If I have five guys bidding for the same business, nobody is going to be happy and everybody makes terrible margin.”
Devlin says that he hopes the new hire will bring a “good vibe” to a sales engagement like the one the company currently enjoys with Watchguard.
“You can teach people technology,” he says. “But if they have a downtrodden view of the world, it’s a little hard to make that sale.”