As country manager, Harri has steered Synnex from a non-entity in New Zealand to a contender in broad-based distribution in just under two years.
Since September 2005, Synnex has grown to 20 staff and now boasts warehousing capabilities six times larger than its former premises.
But as exciting as this rapid growth is for Harri, it has not surprised him. “This is exactly where we expected to be. Synnex Australia’s business doubled every year for 10 years and that is what we’re seeing as well.”
Harri has been in IT for more than a decade, starting at distribution giant Tech Pacific in 1996 shortly after graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce from University of Auckland majoring in both marketing and management.
During his eight years at the distributor he moved up the ranks fast and held around seven roles. He started out as an assistant product manager, but was soon promoted to his first product manager role for Kingstons.
Over the course of three years, Harri managed 30 of Tech Pacific’s top agencies – the largest of which were IBM and 3Com, before becoming account manager for the company’s largest accounts in Auckland and the Bay of Plenty.
In 2001, Harri was given his biggest opportunity to date – working on a major regional ERP project for Tech Pacific. “I managed one of four processes across eight countries. I was living in Auckland, but working in Sydney. That was a huge opportunity to really understand best practices in every country.”
Following this, Harri took a year off and travelled 30 countries.
On his return to New Zealand, he once again joined Tech Pac as a product manager launching six of its new brands. “I was then given over half of the revenue responsibility managing the commercial channel reporting to national sales manager Gary Bigwood.”
But in 2004 Harri had the chance to become national sales manager at Ingram Micro, which was then a relatively small player. “I helped turn the Ingram ship around.”
However, later that year Ingram Micro acquired Tech Pacific. When the two firms merged the Tech Pacific management team largely remained in place, and Harri “moved sideways” to become country manager for networking vendor 3Com.
But, he could not stay out of the distribution game for long and within months was selected as country manager of Synnex.
And it is here that Harri’s business acumen has truly come to the fore. “Synnex is really where I realised all the tools I learned both at Tech Pacific and Ingram Micro. There were a lot of very talented people in those companies that I learned from.
“Having taken a building, turning it into an IT distribution company and setting up the relationships with vendors, all the way through to renegotiating the lease now at Highbrook has been huge.”
Harri is however quick to note that he cannot take the credit for Synnex’s success alone. “The success has been as a result of the team – making sure we had the right people at the right time, with the right vendors.”
Finding the right team was paramount from the start. “Any reseller looking at making a [buying] decision wants to mitigate their risks – if I went out to the market and employed a person who wasn’t known in the industry, representing a company that wasn’t known in the industry, I would have two black marks. That’s why I hired people who already had customer relationships.”
The company’s growth also resulted from Synnex’s processes and global backing, says Harri. “Synnex is very process driven, as you need to be in hi-tech distribution where you operate on minimal margins. The processes we put in place have been stress-tested by the largest distributor in Asia.”
Another ingredient in the company’s success was starting from day one with 13 staff in place, even though it had no customers yet. “You have to get it right from day one. We had every functional area of the business represented from the start. If you have too few staff trying to do too many things, bad habits develop. The processes aren’t followed correctly.”
Customers followed, and even though the company set off as a PC components specialist, it has now moved into broad-based distribution dealing with companies across the channel spectrum, including the largest systems integrators, says Harri. “The brands we have taken on lately, like Kingston, AMD, Epson, D-Link and Logitech have catapulted us into that wider arena.”
The support from the local channel has come as New Zealanders like to have a choice, says Harri. “Resellers are voting with their purchase orders. They want choice and Kiwis tend to reward the companies that make an active effort to get to know their business.”
But Harri’s career success has not been attained through idleness. “Whatever job I am in I want to be the best. I don’t mind working 12 or 13 hours a day. I don’t mind getting up early or being the last car in the carpark, but I want to go home feeling like I’ve accomplished something.”
Harri starts each day at 5.15 and swims up to 2.5 km every morning before starting work at 7.15. “On the weekend I let myself sleep in a little – I get up at 6.30 and I’m back at the pool. I am really into my exercise. I am very disciplined and have a lot routines.”
Although he loves gadgets, like his home audio system and iPod, Harri cannot stand watching TV. “Watching TV is like watching other people live – I’d rather just be doing the living. I’ve got a 50-inch plasma that doesn’t get watched!”
While he travels a lot, Harri’s favourite places to be are in New Zealand. When he is not thinking of the hills around Wainuiomata, where he was born, he dreams of sitting on Wellington’s Oriental Bay. “You have the late afternoon sun looking over the city, the Freyberg pool, the beautiful beach, the wind and the hills – it is like my Shangri-la. I’ll buy a property there one day.”
Q & A
MyYahoo – I like it because I can store my favourites and no matter where I am in the world I’ve got access to my favourites, which is huge.
My iMate Smartflip phone. I used to change my phone every two to three months, but this has been so functional it has been my favourite device for the past year.
I don’t watch any sports, but I am very big on my swimming. I dropped 35kg in 2001 from running and swimming every day.
I’m a pinot noir man.
If you could have a cup of coffee with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Motivational life coach Anthony Robbins – I am big supporter of his, he has given lots of guidance. He is like a whole lot of people rolled into one because of the amount of research he has done to come up with his work.
What’s been the most important technological advance in IT?
It’s got to be the internet and everything that comes from it, including email – the ubiquitous connectivity.
If you weren’t in IT what would you be doing?
I’d probably be an engineer designing buildings.
What book is on your bedside table?
The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari by Robin Sharma – it is a life-changing book – very motivational and practical.
Who is/was your mentor?
Vivienne Larsen, Scott Cowen and John Dunbar have all had an influence.