Call of the kiwi brings globetrotter home

Call of the kiwi brings globetrotter home

Dean Butchers’ career with Lenovo has given him vast experience of international business, though the lure of a return to New Zealand and the chance to do more fly fishing were too hard to resist when he became country manager about two months ago.

Since joining IBM in 1995 and being part of the PC Division’s acquisition by Lenovo in 2004, Butchers has been based in Tokyo, Wellington, North Carolina, and had responsibility for a territory spanning from Japan to India.

However, it isn’t just his work life that has provided global business expertise.

Completing an executive MBA programme at Duke University in the US, he was part of a team that came from all parts of the globe.

“It was very innovative because they were looking to replicate real-life work. You have to work as a team but how do you collaborate when you’ve got distance and how do you use technology?”

Butchers’ project team included members from Thailand, the US and Europe with each semester involving a block of study focusing on a different continent.

“It was a very insightful programme and a great opportunity to exchange views from the people with different backgrounds who came into that role,” he says.

It was an experience that stood him in good stead as he went on to market management in Asia Pacific for IBM for two years, then to a worldwide operations role in the visuals and options business before his return to New Zealand.

“Visuals and options products were everything that goes in, on and around Thinkpads and Thinkcentres, including all the monitors. It’s a huge business in every accessory you could imagine.”

Sales was Butchers’ initial path into IT, beginning at Databank Systems after a stint in the airforce and a Bachelor of Science at Canterbury University on an airforce scholarship.

“[The Databank Systems role] was an opportunity for me to cut my teeth and understand the whole sales process. That then led to my interest in IT.”

He capitalised on the interest by landing a dealer account manager role at HP, moving from sales into market development.

In 1991 Butchers was increasingly aware of telecommunications and IT convergence, and made a move to the telco sector.

“I had the view that it [telecommunications and IT] was a logical interconnection. Telecom presented a lot of opportunities. It had just really come out of being a government department and was looking to create a far more commercial presence and that was part of the appeal,” he says.

Establishing national call centres for 123 and 126 services (for business and residential customer enquiries) was one of his biggest challenges while managing the telco’s alternate channels.

“There used to be national operating companies that were regionally run. I led a project of national call centres for 123 and 126. It was everything from securing of locations to the technology that went into the call centres and the resourcing. It was also how we consolidated the services which at that time weren’t common across operating companies.”

However, Butchers felt the sector lacked the ‘buzz’ of IT and he was compelled to move back. “It didn’t have the speed of what IT had and it wasn’t as frenetic. The market wasn’t as open as the IT market so didn’t have the market forces at play. I had the opportunity to go back with IBM so I picked that up and ran with it.”

His part in the performance of the local business soon won him the promotion that would be the start of his global career with IBM and then Lenovo. When Butchers joined IBM, he says Thinkpad products’ market share was in low single digits. Within 18 months it had risen to 15 percent here, he says. “That was part of the reason I was offered a role to go to the head office in North Carolina."

Achieving that market share involved a greater focus on partners after signing Tech Pacific (now Ingram Micro) as a distributor. Butchers says his current role offers another chance to be out among the channel.

But he still prioritises time for family – his wife and two teenage children – and his beloved fly fishing.

“I came back to New Zealand because we have two high-school children and we wanted to make sure they really understood that they were kiwis.”

And the fishing? “It’s about having that balance and connecting with all the things that are good about New Zealand.”

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