Channel Q&A: Ian Kilpatrick

q & a

What has been your journey to chairman of Wick Hill?

I started in internal audit in local government jobs. Later, I left my role as UK financial controller of a Fortune 100 company to set up a financial and management consultancy.

Among the clients were a Saudi royal prince, a very posh frock shop in New Bond Street, and the owner of the land that Stansted airport is built on. There were also lots of small businesses, which included some employees of HP who wanted to acquire a company called Wick Hill to sell IT products to HP commercial systems users.

Over time, I was dragged more and more into Wick Hill and, as it was a lot more fun than financial and management consulting, I sold out my consultancy and joined Wick Hill full time in the early 80s.

At that time, we were the smallest multi-national in the world with an “office” in Ashford and an office in Seattle. I lived pretty much on the breadline for a couple of years when the company was struggling to grow in what was a very small specialist market.

At some point, I’ve done every job in the company and now I have a fantastic team in the UK and Germany, who drive the company to greater heights.

Which other CEO do you believe has done an outstanding job? Why?

Stretching the question slightly, I would say Jack Tupper Daniels of State University New York Cortland.

Over a period of many years, he led his university team to multiple titles against much larger and better funded university opposition, developed thousands of athletes to exceed their expectations and win, including many national and all American titles. And, he was voted best coach in the world. He enabled thousands to exceed their goals with a scientific and psychological approach to winning. From my own athletics career, I am keenly aware of the skills required from a coach to get single athletes to achieve their potential. His achievements over decades are truly exceptional.

What has been your best moment in business?

Getting to the first £1m in sales. That was a long struggle, but we also had a hell of a lot of fun.

What was your biggest regret?

Not having enough capital in the early days. I sold my house, but still had to bootstrap the company for growth.

What is the best business advice you have ever been given?

Revenue is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is reality

Which company (other than yours) do you admire the most and why?

Apple. I learnt to sell IT when I was selling Apple II to accountants in the late 70s (yes, we had computers back then). Over the last 30 years, I’ve consistently seen Apple users as enthusiasts for both the technology and the applications (yep we had apps back then as well – we just called them applications), rather than just users of the technology.

What is the single biggest issue facing the channel in 2012?

We have what is likely to be a flat or declining economy for the next few years. Adding value in sales and services is going to be crucial, particularly as the cloud will increase pressures on pricing.

What’s next for Wick Hill?

More of the same; we’ve always prided ourselves on focused market making. Our core skills are based on supporting market expansion for our suppliers and partners, based on strong service and product margins for the channel.

We’ve grown conservatively based on those core values and our next target is to get our channel partners European revenues with us to over $100m.


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