Gateway Puts On Its Game Face

CEO Ted Waitt offers his take on Gateway's SMB focus, among other subjects.

Gateway Inc. is in reinvention mode—still. The fact is, it hasnt been out of that mode for the past three years. Thats when the companys founder, Ted Waitt, jumped out of semiretirement to rescue the Poway, Calif., company from the tech crash that saw its stock free-fall and profits evaporate. Since then, Waitt, who started Gateway in North Sioux City, S.D., 18 years ago, has been on a tear to revitalize the companys offerings and attract new classes of users. He sat down with Executive Editor/News Michael R. Zimmerman last week in New York to discuss Gateways SMB focus, among other things.

The SMB [small- and midsize-business] market is a big focus for Gateway. But what does Gateway offer the SMB that the SMB customer cant already get from the local VAR, where they tend to turn?

A lot of them go through local VARs, white box people, etcetera, etcetera. It depends if the local VAR is selling somebody elses product or a combination of white boxes, plus everything else. We can offer a more innovative product. We have product innovation across our Profile 5 [all-in-one PC]. … We announced that were going to announce [this] week a serial ATA device, a NAS device—Gateway-branded rather than a partnership with somebody else—and kind of change the value equation particularly on the pure storage market. So were bringing enterprise capabilities to the small and midsized business customer. So its innovation. Its accessibility. Accessibility both to our people as well as to, we can bring in vendors, we can partner with VARs. We can bring a whole new level of technological sophistication to the SMB customers.

I was told by the manager of the New York City Gateway store that many of the SMB customers coming in are not starting from scratch, but rather refurbishing or updating their systems or networks.

No theyre not starting from scratch. They usually have a bunch, a hodge-podge of things, and they want to clean-slate it.

At that point, is Gateway doing much in the way of consulting?

Not as much at the stores. What we can do in the stores is in a lot of cases some stores will have the capability to do more consulting to configure the whole solution. A [Gateway] person in a store, if they have an opportunity they cant deal with themselves, patches him right into a centralized person, who can then bring in a whole variety of resources, be it server technical specialist or more of an engineering salesperson.

All within Gateway?

All within Gateway, yes.

Is there an effort to include that as part of the Gateway experience?

Well do more, rather than one to one. Just stop in, were a one-to-many in the stores. Well be able to talk intelligently with that person. Im talking a consistent experience across all of our stores. Because weve had business salespeople in the store. We struggled finding the best model for what the maximum efficiency to have a business expert in each store versus kind of a generalist, that is somebody who is more of an expert who they can point to and say this is our business person that could help you and not necessarily the person who would fully manage that account over time.

So, its really a teamwork fashion where those people in the store can call on every resource within Gateway to basically give that customer everything they need to custom design a solution for them.

Next page: Building a relationship with SMB customers.