NCP talk with Laurent – VP of Sales and Operations in Florida

Tell us a bit about your-self:

I think my story describes my personality best. I was born in France, grew up in Belgium, studied Mathematics and Computing in England, worked as a Software Engineer and Support Engineer in Germany, and now in Sales in the US. I’ve always been curious about learning something new. Whether it’s a new task, a new culture, or meeting new people.

Can you give us a brief overview of your previous stations at NCP?

I was hired by NCP in Germany in 2011 to work in the then California office. My task was to focus on acquiring new Enterprise businesses. My technical knowledge was useful for this, and my business sense is what I learnt doing it.

In 2015, we signed a new partnership with a distributor in Florida and I was tasked to manage this partnership, such as training some of their staff on our products. This was a great experience in learning how channel sales operate, which was a whole new different world from the direct Enterprise sales business.

As such I opened the NCP office in Florida, which is now our official US Headquarters since January.

What are your tasks at NCP and what does a normal working day look like for you?

One of the things I like the most about my job is that there is no normal day. In a subsidiary office like ours, you have to do everything you need done because no one else will do it for you.

My primary task remains to be sales, but I can’t do this without keeping the lights on and the wheels turning. What I mean by this is, my job includes making sure the bills are paid, the phones are working, new projects are coming in, existing projects are moving along, and that existing customers and partners remain satisfied. I enjoy working closely with our support team, maybe because of my past, but I believe they are key to our success. I also work with our marketing team on campaigns specific to the US, I represent the company at conferences, and I also travel back to Germany to synchronize with everyone on a regular basis.

Some days, I could be working with a customer with a single license, and then follow that up with a project of thousands of licenses, then I could end up buying a missing cable and then looking for a new banking operation for the company, like I said there really is no normal day. I’ve also been involved in legal calls to draw partnership agreements, looked at new health insurance plans for company employees, and the list goes on. My to-do lists have an incredible variety of things and I love it, as I get to see all facets of running a business.

One big task that I finished early this year was to completely model our new office, choose furniture, order appliances and connect everything. All the while remembering that every dollar spent was a dollar I needed to make back! It’s definitely something I never expected I would do, but it was nerve-wrecking fun and I’m proud of the result.

My new task now is to hire more local support that I will be managing, and that’s something I’m really excited about.

How does the communication between USA and Germany work within NCP?

In such a setup, trust is the number one requirement. And working with my colleagues and management in Germany has been great.

Once a week, we meet (virtually) in a technical meeting in which we discuss projects and new/open tickets to make sure we’re all on the same page. We also discuss new features, product management and where NCP products are going. We can also give our feedback based on what our customers/partners are requesting here.

We also meet once a week with marketing, with whom we discuss specific campaigns, our website, general advertisement, conferences, etc… Our partnerships are global, but different markets have different requirements and interests, so some of the things that we see here need to be relayed to our marketing team so they know how to work globally.

And once a week we also meet with management to discuss strategy, day to day operations, key accounts, new ideas and how to overcome obstacles.

The rest can usually be done by email, calls, or when I’m in Germany.

Being in Florida with a 6-hour time difference is sometimes a challenge but moving from California (9 hour time difference) has greatly facilitated communication.

What is the strategic role of NCP Inc. for NCP? What are the main goals of NCP Inc.?

From NCP Inc., we cover the territory of the Americas. So basically what’s between the Pacific and the Atlantic, from the top of Canada to the bottom of Chile. It’s just what makes sense time wise.

From a strategic point of view, this also allows us to work closely with a lot of American partners. Our VPN clients and more generally our solutions work with other vendors or cloud providers, so there’s a great potential there to work with these companies and to learn a lot from them as well.

The main goals for NCP Inc. is to continue to grow on the solid foundations we have built. It’s a challenge to find a right balance between independence and reliance in order to be the most effective possible. But it’s often times a fascinating challenge.

If someday the name NCP can be as well known in the industry in the US as in Germany, that would be a fulfilling accomplishment. When I look back at when I started in 2011, and what we’ve done since, it doesn’t feel like an impossible dream anymore.

Are there differences between Germany and the USA in terms of IT security? If so, what are they?

To be honest, I’m almost ashamed to say that I don’t know a whole lot about Germany. Even before I left Germany for the US, I worked only with international customers, mostly in the US.

In many cases, it feels like trends start in the US. They adopt things much faster here.

It has some good and some bad. Things move slower in Germany perhaps, but they are well studied and tried before they are adopted, so it can make them more robust.

I think it’s a constant question in business, but especially in IT where things move so fast. If you’re not fast enough you can be left behind (or worse, unable to defend your-self against a modern attacker) but adopting technology before due diligence can also make you vulnerable.

But I think the biggest differences are more cultural. For example, I’ve noticed Americans tend to meet first to decide on how to act, while Germans tend to prefer to get answers first and then meet to share their findings. Part of my job is to oil the wheels and find constructive compromises.

From what I heard from my colleagues, American customers are also more hands-off than German ones. For example, Americans prefer to pay a vendor who will maintain the solution for them, while Germans prefer to be in control of their solution them-selves. So a German customer will need more support, or training, before production, while Americans want a working solution quicker and then will require more support.

And if you look deeper, this makes sense. That could be because there are a lot of SMBs in the US, so they have to be more pragmatic. In larger companies, their jobs are often more compartmentalized, so the mentality is often to find 1 solution for 1 problem. Perhaps Germans try to look at a bigger picture, which can be better in the long run but can make things move slower.

That’s been my experience. I’m sure some would disagree, but that would just make for really interesting conversations over a glass of (French) wine!

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