Inductive Automation’s very own Annie Wise joins us to discuss the benefits, successes, and importance of our International Distributor Program. We hear about how the program got off the ground, the story of our first distributor, what territories currently have partners, and how the program has grown over the years. Annie shares what qualities we look for when partnering with new distributors and tells us about the new international track at the 2021 Ignition Community Conference.
“We really saw the call to action as a company to support our global customers at the rate of their growth.” – Annie
Annie Wise is the International Development Manager at Inductive Automation. She joined Inductive Automation in 2017. Annie works to establish and support authorized distributors around the globe to empower Ignition integrators with local sales, support, and training.
Joanna: Hello everyone, and welcome to Inductive Conversations. Thank you for listening. My name is Joanna Cortez, I'm the Video Content Producer here at Inductive Automation. Today we are going to talk about our Distributor Program at IA, and joining me here is our very own Annie Wise who is the manager of the program. Annie, thank you for joining me on the podcast.
Annie: Thanks for having me, Joanna.
Joanna: Of course, so we will get into your role as the manager further into the episode, but before we dive into that, why don't you share your origin story with Inductive, how and when did you get started, and how did you get into the role of manager of the Distributor Program.
Annie: Yeah, so I started with the company back in 2017, and initially I was involved with a specialty program within the Integrator Program, so I was working with local integrators for contracts, public contracts. So request for proposals, request for information, and immediately I fell in love with our integrator community, they're so passionate, they love what they do, and they're engaging, they’re interesting people. So I was attracted to that. I jumped right in. We had tremendous success with the program and helping to support our integrators with these proposals, and I knew I wanted to continue to work directly with our community and helped to facilitate their growth. And additionally, just personally, I have a huge passion for the international community. I've had the opportunity to travel both personally and both professionally, and that's always just been a big part of a value for me in a job, and when the opportunity came up at Inductive to help to build the international program, I absolutely wanted to be a part of it and I said yes.
Joanna: And you have been absolutely amazing at managing and growing this program ever since, so thank you for taking it on and for that introduction to yourself. Now go ahead and give a brief description of what the international Distributor Program is for the listeners today.
Annie: The Distributor Program provides local sales support and training outside of North America where Inductive Automation does not have offices. Our authorized distributors have comprehensive knowledge of local markets, they have experienced industrial automation, sales and marketing. The program’s focus is really to empower our international customers with local resources and to help them grow their businesses and be successful.
Joanna: That's really awesome, Annie. Thank you for explaining the program further. Now I'd like to go into the history or the background of this program with Inductive as our company started gaining more international attention. What did the process look like for getting the Distributor Program off the ground?
Annie: So when Inductive Automation was first founded, most of our initial sales started in California, naturally, and then moved across the US. And while the domestic growth was happening, the international community started growing as well, and customers from around the world started contacting our office in California. And then in 2012, an Italian distributor, EFA, asked if they could distribute our products in Italy. We didn't have a formal program at the time, but we worked with them and we wanted to see if a distributorship could be successful and valuable to a local market.
Annie: And I have to say a big thank-you to EFA because from the start, they've demonstrated that value and the qualities that a local partner brings to a region. EFA focused on their system integrator community, providing training and support, and they marketed Ignition across Italy, creating an Ignition community between the system integrators and end users. So then in 2019, we formalized the program and made the announcement at our Ignition Community Conference. We really saw the call to action as a company to support our global customers at the rate of their growth and in order to achieve that, we had to find other partners like EFA who could support their local end users and system integrators. Our distributors are an extension of our team at headquarters here in California. We all have the same mission to create opportunities for our customers with Ignition.
Joanna: Very true. Alright, well, now that we know more about what the Distributor Program is, this feels like a good time to dive into your role as a manager.
Annie: Well, one part of my role is continuing to identify new regions and partners to join our network, while the other part is facilitating our current distributors’ regional growth. So I coordinate the internal touch points between departments like Sales, Sales Engineering, Marketing and Training. We place a high value on continued learning and development in these areas. Inductive is known for providing best-in-class service, and we expect our distributors to provide the same experience in their territories. And the key to that accolade is really a big part of our history, which is Ignition was built on the idea that business should be fun, easy, affordable and fast, not at the expense of the customer's time and money. And the Distributor Program has grown out of that same idea.
Joanna: I do have more questions about your role in the program, but first I wanted to circle back to something you said about holding distributors up to the same standard as Inductive when it comes to providing services and making integration easy, fun and affordable. What qualities are you looking for in new partners? If someone is listening today and wanted to be part of our Distributor Program, what would we be looking for to consider them?
Annie: So I look for exciting members in the Ignition community. I wanna work with people who like to make things fun and really love what they do. That passion for innovation and creativity is key. In addition to those qualities, of course, we wanna look for companies that have a long history, good standing. We're really looking for partners that have a long established history of being a distributor. So firms that don't do integration services, but offer hardware that's complementary and or software that's complimentary as well to Ignition, we want partners that have familiarity with Ignition, they've demonstrated successful projects. And we want folks that have enthusiasm for the industry, they need to be passionate about what they do, they need to be engaged with growing their relationships with the SI community, and developing a great book of business for the community, both the end users and the system integrators. They have to put customers first and place value on continued education and training.
Joanna: I really like that in addition to the more conventional qualifications or requirements to being a partner, that you're also factoring in their level of enthusiasm, passion and commitment to the community. Which kind of leads me into a follow-up question that I said I had for you. As the manager, I just wanted to know what it's like for you to work with these international distributors.
Annie: I absolutely love my job. It is new and different every day, and that's something that I look forward to. I've had a tremendous opportunity to make relationships with people all over the world and learn about the different regions and the cultures, and they've become a part of our Inductive family. And the best part, I would say, is really hearing their success stories when they share about the new system integrators they've signed up, when they talk about the people they're hiring the business and the jobs that they're creating, and the joy that they all experience from really making business a little bit easier for everyone. That is rewarding in itself. And the partner success is really a part of the team's success. And to be able to share on that, that's a great gift.
Joanna: I think your sentiment reflects how a lot of us feel at Inductive. I certainly don't get to interact one-on-one with the Ignition community as often as you do, obviously, but when I do have those opportunities, it's always a really wonderful thing to see how excited they get about the success that they're having, and it's wonderful that you get to play such a key role in that. Alright, let's go ahead and get into the benefits of working with a distributor, what are those benefits?
Annie: The value our distributors bring is localization. The ability to do business in the country's language, time zone and currency is a great benefit. So customers are receiving pre- and post-sales support more timely, training has become more accessible, and one of the biggest benefits of having a distributor in a region is they take on the business development responsibilities for marketing Ignition. So integrators have more business opportunities, more leads, and they don't have to contribute as many resources towards this area.
Joanna: And what territories are currently covered by distributors?
Annie: So as I mentioned earlier, we of course started with Italy, we have our partner EFA, and then we added iControls in Australia. We have AXONE-iO in France, NV Tecnologías in Central America, Element8 in Sub-Saharan Africa, MPI in Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. We have Autic in Norway, and our newest distributor, FG Automação in Brazil.
Joanna: It's been pretty amazing to watch the growth internally, and for those of you listening, we do have each of these distributors, Annie just mentioned listed on our website at inductiveautomation.com/distributors. We also include their websites and contact information for international customers. Of course, we will continue adding names and regions to this list. Annie, is there anything else that you wanted to say as far as what listeners can do to connect with distributors or learn more about the program?
Annie: There's also general information about the program, but if you are a distributor interested in our program, there's also an application on that same partner page to fill out to submit as well.
Joanna: Awesome, thanks, Annie. And in addition to the program page, if the community wants to learn more about our distributors, we do have a brand-new international track at the Ignition Community Conference this year, so could you speak to what that content is going to look like this year?
Annie: So I am incredibly excited about this year's Ignition Community Conference. Yes, it is virtual and online, but we're gonna have a wealth of resources provided by our distributors. All of them will present pre-recorded and live sessions in their respective languages and time zones, they will also be available for contact through our conference platform.
Joanna: It's a really exciting new addition to the conference, for sure, and for those who don't already know, the ICC will be held September 21st and 22nd. It is a free virtual conference, and we encourage every listener to sign up and attend to connect with us and with the community. All the conference details are available at icc.inductiveautomation.com. And now that I got some marketing out of the way, Annie, is there anything else that you would like to say about our Distributor Program or any final thoughts in general that you have to wrap up our conversation today.
Annie: I would like to recognize the phenomenal work of our international community over the past year. We have faced many new challenges with the pandemic, and I'm grateful to work with a community that is hopeful, resilient and continues to operate with a dedication to service. It's a testament of the community we've built and the community that we continue to grow.
Joanna: Annie, I think that is a lovely thought to close out our conversation today, we couldn't do what we do without our community. So, Annie, thank you again so much for joining me today to talk more about the Distributor Program and your role within it. Thank you again to the listeners who keep tuning in for our podcast. And from everyone here at Inductive Automation, we look forward to seeing you in September for a live virtual Ignition Community Conference. Thank you.