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'People buy from people'

Shirlinia Jacobs, Tarsus Distribution

In this disruptive digital age people’s current jobs will become redundant if they don’t change with the times and evolve.

Shirlinia Jacobs, the general manager for channel sales at Tarsus Distribution, describes her career as a journey of learning and growth that has allowed her to do what she loves; dealing with people and solving their business problems.

Jacobs ended up in the IT distribution sector by pure coincidence, or ‘some may call it fate’.

She started out in banking, and as she remembers it, ‘some 23 years ago, we had to be creative with obtaining IT equipment as South Africa was under sanctions’.

“We were unable to get crucial equipment and we had little choice but to start our own internal IT import company to ensure that the bank could continue to service its customers with the appropriate technology. This company was later sold to a reputable reseller partner and I decided to leave banking and join the IT channel.”

'People’s person'

Jacobs describes herself as a people’s person and says customer and staff interaction has always been a top priority.

“People buy from people and we can have all the technology in the world but if you cannot connect with people, look them in the eye and solve their business problems, you will not have much success.”

She adds that happy staff members equals happy customers, and Tarsus ensures it has a fully engaged workforce. “This is my passion; a love and desire to make people’s lives better after they have interacted with me and our organisation.”

She does however wish that Tarsus could move quicker to position itself as an employer of choice within South Africa.

Similarly, she spends a lot of time thinking about the struggle to spur Tarsus staff to empower others and improve themselves, as well as gaining knowledge in the IT sector. “Our industry is constantly changing and in this disruptive digital age people’s current jobs will become redundant if they don’t change with the times and evolve.”

A defining point in her career was being nurtured by her mentors and encouraged to complete an MBA, which she has found to be tremendously helpful on her journey.

Would she have done anything differently? “I would have been more assertive earlier in the drive to inspire women empowerment in our industry to ensure more young girls of colour aspire to join our sector.”

Custom programmes

Describing how she thinks the channel views Tarsus, she says: “Agile, collaborative, efficient, and innovative. Tarsus’ channel programmes are customised and work in conjunction with vendor and manufacturer programmes as each of its vendors or manufacturers have different requirements for qualification.”

“We drive programmes specific to reseller partner needs. Our resellers are segmented based on how they serve the corporate or consumer or end customers. Different programmes are developed to assist in serving them better. An example would be the introduction of our Tarsus distribution portal, which aims to assist resellers in obtaining quotations, placing orders, checking on invoices and POD’s - all electronically - 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  This allows our resellers who have embraced digital interaction greater flexibility to deal with us around the clock."

The real competition

What challenges does the channel face today?

“Digitisation."

"Many of our traditional reseller partners are still not seeing the danger of not adopting digital technologies to improve their businesses. They are also not seeing that a traditional reseller partner is actually not their competition but their real competitors are the likes of Amazon, Take-A-Lot and Import It All.”

If she had one piece of advice for the channel, it would be to partner with a distributor which can remove inefficiencies from its business to allow it greater scope for customer engagement.

Similarly, when asked what partners need from vendors to be successful, she says an understanding of business needs and requirements, a partnership of trust and reliability, and commitment and innovative solutions to business problems.

Azure game changer

In terms of the events and developments in SA’s tech sector that stand out the most, Jacobs cites the digital journey that most organisations, and Tarsus in particular, are embarking on. “The impending launch of the Microsoft data centres in South Africa, and the impact, will be change the game in our industry completely.”

Speaking of the IT trends she expects to see dying out over the next 18 months to two years, Jacobs believes there is definitely a downward trend in the print and cartridge segment. It won’t die a complete death just yet, she says, but with more and more businesses adopting digitisation and automation, businesses are definitely printing less.

“On the PC-front, small form factor devices will replace desktops. Servers and storage will be under huge pressure due to Microsoft’s data centres in South Africa and everything will be bought as a service. With the drive for ‘software defined everything’, traditional networking device sales will decline. The key message is standardise, consolidate, virtualise and automate.”

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