Corporate Mentors and Competitors
Joe's long tenure with D-Link has been a good ride, to be sure. "I have had five mentors in the company in my 18 years," he says. "The most recent was Roger Kao, who is now mostly in China now and one of the founders of the company. He taught me a lot, including business ethics, how to handle the cultural issues, how to deal with new products. He has given me lots of honest advice that you can believe in, and just isn't telling you what to do so you can learn from your mistakes. He made me realize that we are just one player in a very big world."
He has a very expansive view of his competitors. "The Linksys acquisition by Cisco has actually helped us," said Joe. "They are not as fast and flexible as we are, they have more bureaucracy, they have to cater to Cisco, but on the other hand they have done very well."
Joe mentions that he worries more about what is on the horizon and the next series of projects at D-Link. "I don't stay awake because of the competition. It is good to have competitors. We admire Cisco because of their size and capability. They do quite a few things well. We surpassed 3Com in global revenue last year. We were surprised, as we admired them as Bob Metcalfe's company for many years."
Joe spoke about the differences between China mainland and Taiwanese quality control. "For our higher-end products, or when we need more demanding quality, and for more complicated products, we are more comfortable doing that in Taiwan." Still about 40 % of the products are made in mainland China. "The products with huge volume and commodity pricing, like network cards, are made there. Not to offend anyone, but I wouldn't drive a Chinese car, for example, they don't last that long." (He drives a German car, by the way.)
Joe has been very happy with their partnerships in the consumer VoIP (Voice over IP) space and promised that "We will be entering the business VoIP marketplace next month. I think we will surprise some people. We went with Primus/Lingo because of their international presence, not just US Canada like Vonage, but they go globally. That is the real value of VoIP and why we partnered with them. They also cover 911 emergency calls from day one, and I feel more comfortable with that especially as a parent of young children." He hopes that other VoIP players will enhance their 911 support because he is a home user of VoIP and feels this support is crucial.
The SMB VAR
D-Link has been a force in the SMB marketplace, and one of the reasons for that is the care and feeding of their channel partners, including retailers, system builders and networking consultants. But it also helps to have the right mix of products and services too. "The timing of the market has allowed us to move forward with the convergence of switching and wireless." He says that is an attractive package for SMB VARs. "They trust us for wireless and many of our IT managers use us at home. Plus we have an advantage because we have been doing Ethernet for so many years, it is one of our core capabilities."
"Our Web smart managed switches will allow people to have a little more functionality without the higher cost of enterprise products and is a perfect product for SMB," he mentioned. "We want to give people more for their money, especially the SMB business user. We hope to continue to expand on products in that category."
"We also have partnered with NCR to offer a four hour on-site service, better value proposition" than Cisco, he says. "VARs get the advantage of selling the service, and end users get the advantage of having a reliable product in their racks. It is a win-win situation for everyone, for us as a manufacturer, and for the end-user."
Joe seems thrilled to still be coming to work. He still has plenty of challenges left and isn't about to slow down. And just as he begun his tenure 18 years wearing many hats, he still isn't just sitting behind a desk. "We are very hands on company, I try to go into the lab and spend some time and see what is going on there. It is work, but I enjoy what I do."