At a time when many are dreading the approach of winter, Peter Revell is looking forward to his favourite time of year. That’s because the Microsoft Entertainment and Devices retail business manager is passionate about playing and coaching rugby.
“I coach the under-17 team for Eden Rugby. Last year we won the Auckland Championships, so the goal is to win again. I also play in the over-30s for Eden.”
It is also a chance for Revell to do some on-the-ground market research, utilising the coaching time to gauge reactions about Microsoft games from his young charges. “You seed ideas about products and services that Microsoft competes in and they tell it like it is.”
After gaining experience on the snowfields of Colorado and in New Zealand, he is also a keen snowboarder and loves to teach family and friends about the sport.
Revell is a relative newcomer to the IT industry, having only worked at Microsoft for five years. But he has become adept at the retail game and at spotting trends - a skill gained while working in the hospitality industry and at Nike.
“From the hospitality industry I learned how trends change. As one bar becomes great and another does not, they need to be able to adapt. With Nike, I learned about managing relationships and working alongside competitors for the best interests of the retailer. I’ve learned competition is a good thing for business.”
At Nike, he was selling products 16 months in advance of their availability, which gave him experience in planning ahead. “Your planning needs to be synchronised with your buyer. That works perfectly at Microsoft, as while it is a shorter product lifecycle the planning is just as critical.”
In his current role, Revell works with retail partners such as PB Technology, Playtech, JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith and Harvey Norman.
“Being predominately [at the] head office, the buyers are all based in Auckland so there are a lot of weekly meetings. But there is nothing greater than spending time in stores.
“I have moved from an account manager role to look at how we can capture share within the industry categories such as software and PC accessories. We are working to be our partners’ best partner.”
Revell says he started tinkering around with computers and electronics at a very young age, to the point where he thought he was going to work at a help desk.
Instead, he ventured into the liquor industry in a sales role. “I did the hospitality game after school and during university. I was fortunate enough to work for an on-premise distribution company in marketing for a year and a half. Then I spent three years in sales looking after premium bars and clubs in Auckland.”
Although he loved the socialising, Revell doesn’t miss the hospitality industry. “When you’re at the bar during the day and again at night, it takes its toll.”
Transitioning to Nike was a big step, he says. “I started off looking after a couple of the smaller accounts and worked my way up to some national accounts, with the likes of Stirling Sports and The Athletes Foot.
“We had our quarterly meetings in Australia talking about products six to 18 months in advance. I was fortunate enough to go to [Nike’s] corporate office in Oregon quite a few times and met some amazing athletes.”
These included basketball star Michael Jordan, who he had a beer with.
“I was there for a 30 great athletes of the world event. The sales team got together for an amazing show and were ushered off to a post-event party. There was an area where I managed to make my way into. Michael and his wife were there and I introduced myself. We talked about New Zealand beer and sheep. He was a great guy.”
From a business perspective, he says going to Microsoft was a big challenge. “In the sports industry it is all about a sell-in process, so you would sell to the retailers based on budgets, how much stock they had purchased and how that aligned to their marketing plans.”
The opposite is the case at Microsoft, as Revell is more focused on sell-through to consumers.
“We’re not looking to load the retailers up, but find avenues using their media campaigns to drive consumer push and pull strategies.”
After five years, he has no desire to return to the liquor or sports industries. “The products and services are constantly evolving and we are always asked to work smarter rather than harder. It is a huge asset working at Microsoft to make it easier for our customers and partners.”
He says the vendor offers real potential to advance within the company. “I can move into the business to business area or transition over to Australia. I’ve got many more years to go.”
Part of his job involves testing games and he is trialling the beta of Halo Reach, set for release later this year.
“My role started off just looking after the Xbox console, but then we transitioned to looking after software and peripherals so conversations aren’t biased to any category. We’ve just come off a great Windows 7 launch and we’are about to enter into an exciting Office 2010 phase.”
Revell has been following the company’s Office 2010 road warriors promotional initiative with interest and hopes to see some results that he can take across to other new product launches.
Apart from games and software, another technology he is excited about is unified communications.
“You’re not limited to being stuck in the office to attend certain calls, because we are so focused on the ability to work anywhere with the content you need using unified communications. I can use Microsoft Communicator to make phone calls anywhere in the world. The cost savings to businesses are huge.”