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Kirk Robinson’s Journey to Ingram Micro U.S. Chief Country Executive

Ingram Micro’s Kirk Robinson
Ingram Micro's Kirk Robinson

Kirk Robinson has spent his career building indirect channels -- assisting thousands of MSPs, IT service providers and entrepreneurs with their businesses along the way. So what's his secret to success in the indirect channel? Perhaps it involves a direct personality.

You never have to wonder what's on Robinson's mind. All you have to do is ask. His response typically features a direct, concise answer. In the channel, that personality is all about empowering partners. In terms of his personal life, the direct personality has helped Robinson to navigate and ascend Ingram Micro's corporate structure for 25 years.

The latest step unfolded today, when Ingram announced Robinson's promotion to Chief Country Executive for the U.S. He now leads Ingram Micro’s U.S. strategy, operations and business execution. He continues to report to Paul Bay, Ingram Micro's executive VP and group president of the Americas.

Playing Every Instrument in the Band

Many Fortune 500 executives are one-hit wonders -- focused on a specific discipline like sales or marketing or operations. But Robinson stole a page from the Nokia executive playbook -- realizing that his career and his management style would be better served if he rotated from one discipline to another.

Robinson joined Ingram Micro in 1993. Over his quarter-century career at the distributor, his roles have involved sales, marketing, business intelligence and vendor management. Among the key milestones: He moved from sales to marketing in 2003, earning the title of VP, customer and solutions marketing, U.S. "I often stepped out of my comfort zone, went off and learned a new side of the business," Robinson tells ChannelE2E. "When I leaned into marketing I had been in sales my whole life." But that marketing experience, he adds, gave him new insights as he took on more and more responsibilities at the company.

Around 2006, he was promoted to VP, channel marketing for the U.S. and Canada. In May 2010, Robinson expanded his VP role to include VAR sales, market development and business intelligence. Shortly thereafter, he became the VP of Ingram Micro’s U.S. commercial markets business and most recently served as senior VP, go to market for the U.S.

Communicating Personal Goals

Paul Bay, CEO, Ingram Micro
IngramCEO Alain Monie

Each step of the journey aligned Ingram's customer needs with Robinson's personal aspirations. Among the secrets to his success: Robinson was always direct with the Ingram executive team. Paul Bay and CEO Alain Monie have long known Robinson's specific career goals and personal aspirations at the company -- because he personally communicated his goals to the executives.

It reminds me of the advice I got from a friend while working at Ziff Davis Media in the 1990s: If you want to move up in the world, you need to manage upward. Or in Robinson's case, clearly communicate with everyone around you -- including those in the proverbial corner office.

The Big Theme: One Ingram

So what's next? Ingram has the ability to "get deeper with customers than ever before," he asserts -- while reinforcing a "One Ingram" theme to further boost partner performance. "We're a big company and when we show up as One Ingram nobody can touch us."

Robinson's new role emerges roughly one week after Ingram held its annual sales kickoff rally in Buffalo. It also comes after false rumors that the company could be up for sale. Without getting bogged down in that rumor mill, Robinson simply points to the facts -- 2017 was a strong year in terms of revenue growth and dollars that flowed to Ingram's bottom line, he asserts. "We can't be more pleased," he adds.

Like I said. Ask Robinson a question and the answer is typically direct and concise.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.