I have probably already spoken to most of you since returning from Monte Rosa, the second highest mountain in the Alps, so you know that Team Polycom conquered yet another mountain range. This time our team of climbers, including myself, Neil Lombardo, Ibrahim Aoun and Murtuza Viramgamwala completed 4 Peaks in 3 days.
This climb was tough - as the heat, altitude, snow, nausea took its toll on several of our group this time. Day one was a 4.30am start, kit was all prepped the night before along with the sampling of the local reds so sleep was limited.
Unlike the Kili trip, we had to carry our own kit, so we had to be economical with what was taken this time, but even then our guides told us that we’d carried too much kit. After starting at 1,200m, the flag was raised on the Breithorn at 4,100m by midday but lots of us suffered.
Day two was a 5am start, it was a long way up, lots of stamina required and we reached the second peak, Castor at 4,200m at 9am. This was particularly challenging as we walked down a ridge about a meter wide with unbelievable drops either side, then the last 100 metres to the top was very steep and was essentially ice!
We were on our knees hanging on for dear life, but we kept pushing through to the top, adrenaline kicking in. Reaching the top left me with an overwhelming sense of achievement, which in many ways is the same feeling and buzz I get when we meet our business targets.
That afternoon and after a well-earned rest, and I caught up with the Polycom executive team on RealPresence Mobile to discuss the recent developments within the company. It is a particularly exciting time for us at Polycom – we have accepted Siris Capital’s offer. We have a bright future in front of us and I am already in the process of sharing this great news with the customers and partners.
Once business was complete, the next peak to conquer was Lyksams Nose another 4,200m which we did the following day before breakfast!
And before lunch, on our final day of the tour, we climbed the last peak Le Pyramide.
As you may have already gathered by now, I like climbing and setting myself tough challenges every few months. For me, it isn't just the physical kind of challenge that gives me the buzz, its also true in a business sense. There is nothing better than setting up a team, reaching a goal and then enjoying that success. I am a firm believer, if you put enough blood sweat and tears behind it, you can conquer anything, be it a mountain or reaching your business goals!
So I can now add Monte Rosa, Kilimanjaro, Mont Blanc & Mount Elbrus to the list. I am not done yet – next up is Aconcagua, Argentina in 2017!
Marco Landi joined the EMEA team as our new President on the 12th January 2015. As he approaches his one year anniversary, we caught up with Marco to find out how his first year has been and more about his plans for 2016.
So, Polycom, one year later… was it everything you anticipated?
Pretty much! It’s been a year of transformation for the company and for the EMEA team. We have made lots of significant changes and made progress in all areas of the business which I will come onto later.
From a performance point of view, it’s been an interesting year. Almost a story of two halves. Some countries and regions performed to their best, while we have seen others being challenged by the adverse economic conditions.
I am proud of what we have achieved in this last year. Whilst it’s bought its challenges, in particular the difficult phases of restructure, we were also able to celebrate lots of successes.
One thing that is clear to me now is that the workplace of the future is already here; we have customers using our technology in innovative and exciting ways, all having a positive impact on their businesses and customers in turn.
Have you made many changes since you joined?
My management style is very ‘hands on’ and I don’t think there is one area of the business that I haven’t touched! By working very closely with the EMEA leadership team, I introduced some changes in each of the business areas and put plans in place.
So, for example, within the sales team, I introduced several new initiatives over the year to encourage some healthy competition, grow topline revenue, take market share from our competitors, as well as to inject a little fun! We are continuing to develop our channel strategy and, working with the marketing team, we are monitoring market share data each quarter to assist with quarterly planning.
Improving communication across the EMEA team has been a big focus for me over the last year. To be successful, I feel it’s important to meet face-to-face, including via video, on a regular basis with customers and partners. Therefore I introduced a weekly target for the sales team to visit at least six existing / new customers a week. I also introduced the ‘Latte with Landi’ meetings, providing EMEA employees with the opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback in an open forum. These sessions have given me invaluable insight and the chance to hear fresh ideas; it’s great to hear first-hand what’s on people’s minds.
I have also focused on the importance of training – by reworking the complete schedule. Regular training is fundamental to our company ethos and our aim to becoming the trusted advisor to our customers. As a team, we now commit to two hours training per week, to gain a deeper understanding of our products and an insight into key developments.
Following a year of many changes, I really feel that things are starting to come together now.
What is your / the team’s biggest achievement?
For us in EMEA, our biggest accomplishment is the creation of our strategic plan. A lot of time went into assessing the business, providing a very clear focus on what needs to be done. As mentioned earlier, this led to the introduction of new sales initiatives, a productivity audit and a robust training programme, as well as an increase in employee comms, encouraging us to work together as one team.
We have had lots of new hires, at all levels, including senior management. With a solid team now in place, we are in good stead to continue to execute our plan into 2016.
What is on your hit list for 2016? Where do you see the biggest market opportunities for Polycom in EMEA?
If you boil it all down, what we do need is ‘net new’ to continue to grow and expand our business. Net new for us means new customers, channels and incremental channels, products and services. The big challenge for us is how we get to each of these; it requires a lot of work and a new approach. Essentially, ‘net new’ simplifies what our strategy is going to be.
Our new solutions provide huge opportunities for us in 2016. The breadth of our portfolio makes us even more compelling to potential and existing customers. For the first time we are able to offer to our customers a depth of new solutions, regardless of business size, sector or budget, and this is something we have never been able to do before. One of our big priorities will be looking at our ‘go to market’ strategy for some of our new solutions and exploring creative ways of introducing further opportunities for our channel partners.
Of course, it goes without saying that the other opportunity we have is our partnership with Microsoft; our relationship is at its strongest and remains a critical part of our strategy in EMEA. It’s a key differentiator for us in attracting new customers and expanding our partner base hence our continued development of solutions for this market, such as being the first to market with our Polycom® VVX® Business Media Phones voice solutions for Microsoft’s new Office 365 PBX.
Voice remains a huge opportunity for us. The hosted telephony market is doing extremely well and we made some great progress in this area, this will continue to be an opportunity for us moving into 2016.
Another big priority for me will be to ensure we are using the strength of our brand and products with existing and new customers, as well as our channel partners. Working with several external consultants, this was consistently reported back as an area to focus on moving forward.
With 17 new solutions announced this year, including the significant launch in October, we have solid foundations in place for next year. We need to continue to execute on the EMEA plan, and take advantage of what we have learned over the course of the last year. We will continue to build on initiatives that have worked, and continue to build on areas that sought improvement. If we can execute on what we have planned to deliver, we will be in good shape.
What is the one thing you want to achieve most in 2016?
My top priority for 2016 is, as always, driving profitable growth. Showing a positive trend in growth, in particular in the adverse economic conditions that we are experiencing, will be a tremendous achievement for the EMEA team.
What’s your favourite thing about the company culture at Polycom?
We have a great culture at Polycom, and that is because of the people. As mentioned earlier, I have worked with several external consultants over the last year, in which all of them have been impressed by our employees. I find the entire EMEA team are extremely open and have responded well to the changes I have introduced, they are always willing to try new ways of working which is what I like to see.
You climbed Kilimanjaro this year – any plans to do something similar next year?
Yes! I am planning to climb Aconcagua, in Argentina in January 2017. Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Southern and Western Hemispheres and the second highest of the Seven Summits. It will take me three grueling weeks to complete the climb. So this year, I will be training by climbing all five peaks of Monte Rosa in three days. This is the second highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, situated between Switzerland and Italy. So watch out for a video call invite from me; it would be great to talk to one of you at the top of a mountain again!