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Paul Leslie: selling solutions with value

Paul Leslie: selling solutions with value

A 10-year veteran in business development at Soft Solutions, Paul Leslie has worked with some of the biggest personalities and companies in the channel.

His IT career has taken him around the North Island as he moved through a plethora of roles in digital electronics, data processing, programming, recruitment and sales.

Sales is definitely Leslie’s forte and he has loved interacting with other industry members since the early 1980s when he joined Wang (now Gen-i).

“I decided to move into sales because I enjoyed it and I love people. Although it was a technical role at Wang, it was in the marketing team and it was very much a sales organisation. I just like selling and it’s a comfort zone with me.”

Leslie is a firm believer in doing business with integrity. “That to me is the big thing – if you can’t do business with people on a handshake what can you do?

“It’s about adding value and doing business at a people level. One of the first things I say to new people is if you can’t add value, don’t bother going to see someone.”

Building markets for emerging brands is a hallmark of Leslie’s trade, so his skills in building relationships have been to the fore. As a result, he counts some well-known names among his friends and mentors – among them senior members of large integrators, former Ingram Micro head Tony Butler, his boss at Soft Solutions Chris Fitzgerald and storage expert Greg Wyman.

“You meet some lovely people along the way and do business with some lovely people,” Leslie says.

He also adds to the list Paul Jones, a former Internal Affairs department IT manager, and Eagle’s Steve Barnard.

“From Paul, I learned a lot about doing business in Wellington. Being on your toes, when you’re right hold your ground and when you’re wrong acknowledge you’re wrong. He know how to pull the right people around him.

“Steve supported me when I needed a job and in my role at Eagle he protected me when projects I did were strategic, rather than financially great.”

He also admires Gen-i’s Damian Toman for his passion and the inspirational qualities of Tony Butler.

Leslie got his start in IT after joining the navy straight from school at age 16. His 10 years in the defence forces were spent in electronic engineering where he found he had strong skills.

When he left the navy he joined Wattie Industries’ computer bureau, completing Auckland Technical Institute’s (now AUT University) Certificate in Data Processing in 1977 with a view to moving into programming.

The plan came to fruition and saw Leslie move to Wang in Australia, then a year in contract programming and then as a recruitor for contractors.

He describes the recruitment role as his start in sales and he hasn’t changed from this area of work, despite switching companies regularly throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Leslie can still recall his first sale upon returning to New Zealand and joining Montec, a subsidiary of Monaco distributors.

“We were selling Casio CPM-based PCs [the 1970s-developed operating system which was a DOS forerunner]. The first sale was to an auto-electrical company still in business in Auckland and it was a dual-floppy PC with a debtors software package installed and a printer. It cost $7000!”

Leslie held a number of roles, both as an employee and self-employed, before joining a resurgent Tech Pacific, now Ingram Micro, in the early 1990s.

Leslie can still recall his first sale upon returning to New Zealand and joining Montec, a subsidiary of Monaco distributors.

Leslie was taken on to look after technical accounts and worked a lot on the 3Com business, particularly in the North Island.

Among his successes with Ingram was a move to Wellington, which resulted in significant growth there. “It was a slow start but it picked up once we moved the office into the city. With 3Com in particular, we had some great success.”

However, meeting his future wife prompted a move to Auckland where she was based and he took a role with Imaging Solutions, followed by another stint of self-employment.

In 1997 he re-kindled his friendship with Soft Solutions boss Chris Fitzgerald, whom he had the chance to work for a few years earlier in Wellington but decided to go to PC Power instead.

“PC Power were really the ones which started selling packaged software in New Zealand and did it well for a time, but started to struggle. Chris Fitzgerald recommended me to take over the southern region for Soft Solutions. I had two options – work my butt off to maintain where Soft Solutions was at or take over PC Power and turn it around. I thought that PC Power looked like a good challenge to do but 10 weeks later they were out of business.”

However the second-time around, Leslie accepted Soft Solutions’ offer and has stayed for 10 years.

He enjoys working from his home base at Whangaparaoa, north of Auckland. “I’m not a nine to five type person. I enjoy being able to check my mail when I need to and because I’m out and about I could be here or Wellington or Christchurch so I’m set up to be very mobile.”

Leslie and his wife have even been known to go on road trips where he’ll be working from his tablet PC and she’ll be driving.

And besides the beach and a four-year-old grandson to keep them busy, there’s always the hope of dusting off the golf clubs.

Q + A

Favourite website:

I hate to admit it but I don’t use the internet much outside of work. I suppose the most commonly accessed URL for me is www.google.co.nz

Favourite gadget:

My HP Tablet TC1100E

Favourite cocktail:

I’m really a neat spirits man - scotch over ice or a nice cognac

What book is on your bedside table?

The Penguin History of New Zealand by Michael King

If you could have coffee with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

John Tamihere or Richard Prebble – as politicians I enjoyed their candour. Otherwise Raybon Kan – intelligence and humour make for great conversation

Favourite sports:

I enjoy riding my bike but I look forward to being able to enjoy golf

Who is/was your mentor?

My father – sagacious advice and great people skills – and Mike Clarkin (managing director of Wang New Zealand in the late ‘70s and Wang Australia in the early ‘80s) – he advised me to get into sales

What’s been the most important technological advance in IT?

Windows XP Tablet Edition – The handwriting recognition blows me away every time I use it


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