ITWeb Africa speaks to Tidiane Lo, Director of Westcon for Sub Saharan Africa, about what it takes to be an effective leader in an increasingly diverse IT distribution landscape.
Hailing from Senegal, Lo joined Westcon in 2011 at its Dakar offices where he held the position of Regional Sales Manager for French Africa including Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
In his new role as Director of Westcon Lo has full oversight of the distributor's business in the region.
ITWeb Africa: How do you define leadership?
Tidiane Lo: To me leadership is about mapping out where you need to go and what you need to do to "win" as a team or an organisation. Ultimately it is about setting a direction and building a vision – without which it simply isn't leadership.
ITWeb Africa: In your role at Westcon-Comstor what do you define as your greatest asset?
Tidiane Lo: This is not an easy question as it can be viewed from so many levels. Personally, if I was speaking to what my assets as a manager are, I would have to say my knowledge of the IT distribution industry in Sub-Saharan Africa, based on my extensive years of experience in the industry.
ITWeb Africa: Africa as a continent is unique in so many ways, what do you believe sets the business environment in Africa apart?
Tidiane Lo: While some territories and geographies are very predictable, Africa remains that part of the world where doing business is very unique. Yes sure, short-medium-and long-term plans are set, but you should always be ready to face unpredictable events that can shake things up. It forces you to think out-of-the-box, and to be creative when it comes to resolving issues.
The other exciting aspect of Africa as continent to do business in, is its diversity. There are over 2000 languages, many different cultures, histories and traditions that are constantly influencing the way we do business. You have to stay on your toes and lead on the ground - you can't properly service clients in Africa at an arm's length.
ITWeb Africa: How important is partnering with leading brands to your line of business?
Tidiane Lo: What people are looking for can be summed up in one word: reliability. This is what end users are looking for, and it's what we as distributors need to offer our partners and resellers. The only way to do that is to partner with leaders in the industry, they offer the reliability and quality, through proven brands that end-users crave. The days of dumping sub-standard tech in the continent are long gone - you need to lead with quality.
ITWeb Africa: What aspects of your business do you think would qualify it as a leader in distribution?
Tidiane Lo: The value-add we provide to the channel, and the constant investments we make to support our partners puts us at the forefront. When I speak to "value" I mean the additional services we provide, outside of just the box. As a distributor you have to differentiate yourself or you will just drop boxes. We add pre- and post-sales support, technical competencies, logistics facilities and capabilities as well as training. It's your differentiators that make you a leader – not just your products.
ITWeb Africa: What type of business legacy do you want to leave on your business?
Tidiane Lo: I would like to create both internal and external satisfaction amongst my staff and with my customers and partners. I want our employees to be happy to work for the organisation and our customers to enjoy working with us and to be loyal to the Westcon brand. I can help influence this by driving this culture and ethos throughout the business.
ITWeb Africa:: Any advice you can impart on a young learner hoping to be one of Africa's next leaders?
Tidiane Lo: If you want to leave a mark and make a name for yourself you need to develop a philosophy of integrity, commitment, hard work and planning. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail. You have to put in the effort to make things happen – nothing just comes naturally.
On the personal side
What do you do on your time off? I go to the gym and enjoy designing clothes
What technology device can you not live without? My iPhone
What daredevil activity would you like to still do? Bungee Jumping
Favourite music? Retro 90's and French and US rap
Favourite food? Tiebou Diene from Saint Louis (Local Senegalese rice)
Favourite country? Brazil
Favourite quote? Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship