Game Changer: Marc Bouvrette, President of Gap Wireless

Here at Vanguard, we are excited to announce that we have selected the Game Changers for the August/September 2017 issue.

The first Game Changer for this issue is Marc Bouvrette, President of Gap Wireless.  In his role, Bouvrette is responsible for supporting and managing the sales team, manage vendor relationships and contracts, and he also serves on the Board of Directors that sets the direction for the company.

“Given I enjoy staying close to the technology and the sales process, I still carry a quota and am responsible for two of our major customers,” Bouvrette said.

Gap Wireless is changing the game in the industry through Bouvrette’s leadership. They’ve recently opened new warehouses in the U.S. and in Calgary so as to bring as much product as possible closer to their customers to meet their needs quickly.

Here is his full interview with Vanguard.

How did you start out in this industry, and how has it brought you to where you are today?

My first real job out of university was as a Sales Engineer at a distribution company called MMWave Technologies where I was responsible for sales of wireless Test and Measurement equipment. I was initially in a ‘hunting’ role, looking for near-term sales opportunities at wireless equipment manufacturers and academic customers. My role changed over time to Senior Account Manager focused more on long-term relationships with wireless network operators — so more of a ‘farming’ role cultivating business relationships and longer term design wins that repeated multiple times over the course of a project. Later as Director of Sales, I was responsible for all the employees who were selling wireless and broadband equipment. Overall my experience at that distribution company enabled me to learn about building customer and vendor relationships, identifying sales opportunities, and providing customer support – the full lifecycle of the sales process. I’ve brought that to my current role at Gap Wireless which is the company I founded with my partner Glenn Poulos to distribute products and services for the mobile broadband and wireless markets.

What was your worst moment?

That had to be when my first and now former employer went out of business, leaving behind many unfulfilled orders and frustrated customers and vendors. As a front-line sales person, a big part of the burden resolving those customer issues fell on me. My first child was two months old and I didn’t know what was in store for me, so that was the most stressful time in my career.

What was your aha moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our readers; tell us that story?

Ironically it was the same moment when the company I worked for went out of business, and I realized that people valued what I did. It was an aha moment of self-valuation when customers, vendors, competitors, and new partners approached me to continue the business because of what I could contribute, based on my prior work. When my current operating partner and I explored the possibility of setting up our own distribution business to close the gap, we pitched investors on the idea. Response was positive and we were able to launch our current distribution company, fittingly named Gap Wireless. That was ten years ago and based on that critical point in time and self-realization, we’ve never looked back.

Step back and analyze your journey; what is the takeaway you want to give to our audience?

I have always been a fan of the technical side of show business: sound, lighting, set design, and more. In my high school and college years I participated in many theatre projects and one year the director convinced me to get out of the backstage and have a role in one of the productions. Even though one of my biggest fears was forgetting or messing up a line, I realized that nobody in the audience knew what the next line was supposed to be and it is all about my attitude and assurance that dictated if the audience would buy what I was selling. Over time it became a running gag with some of my colleagues that to be successful, you just need to ‘act as if’. Looking at what happened in my career, even in my worst moment, there was a great opportunity. The best advice I can give is that things do happen for a reason, and you have to accept what’s happening and make the most of it. You can’t be afraid and don’t procrastinate. You know what you have to do and what’s right for yourself and other people who depend on your actions, so time to hunker down and own it!

What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

I’m inspired by technology in general but especially technology that’s not in the mainstream yet, talk of new technology that’s not out yet and anticipating what it’s going to become. Things like IoT (the Internet of Things), Big Data and 5G are technologies that I find exciting and are being shaped and establishing standards as we speak. I get a great deal of satisfaction knowing I can contribute to defining a standard or even just being an early adopter.

What is the best advice you received?

In both my personal and professional life, I apply the advice given to me by a mentor that is: “Live like a poor man; invest like a rich man”. In the near-term, be conscious of your budget and how you spend your money and what value you get for it. For capital expenditures, make sure the way you invest is well planned out, useful, and contributes to efficiency.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

Dedication and determination are qualities I bring to my work so that when I commit to doing something I’m highly motivated and see things through. If something is worth doing, it is worth doing right. Without getting too lost in the details, I am the kind of person that cares a lot about the small things. For example, while the content of your response to an RFP may be the most important part to the person doing the evaluation, details such as presentation, appropriate vocabulary, on-time submission, and overall thoroughness of your research can make the difference between a win for you or your competitor.

What people or organizations do you believe best embody the innovation mindset?

Industry Standards bodies that come together to give direction to tens if not hundreds of companies are really contributing to innovation. A good example is 3GPP, the standards body that’s defining specifications for 5G, GSM, LTE networks and more. Working towards interoperability across technologies and companies is important work that very much impresses me. Any time you can get multinational companies like Ericsson, Nokia or Huawei to agree to a common standard when they are all trying to gain an edge on one another is a feat in itself!

How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?

How Gap Wireless is changing the game within the wireless mobility industry is really two things: one is how we operate as a company and the other is the types of technologies that we support. For the first part, while other companies are focussed on running ‘lean’ in terms of what they warehouse or stock as a distributor, we choose to do the opposite by stocking as much as we can. We’ve recently opened new warehouses in the U.S. and in Calgary to bring as much product as possible closer to our customers to meet their needs quickly. We recognize that our customers’ profits and even individual bonuses are tied to their ability to meet their commitments, so being responsive is important.

As to the products and solutions we stock, we’re always assessing and adding new vendors to the portfolio, most recently Unmanned Aerial Vehicle aircraft, sensors, software, defence and support. Our competitors are about a year behind us in doing that, so I would say we definitely have had a game-changing impact. Your readers who are involved in Search and Rescue or Defence are likely already using or considering using drones and we believe this is a critical new area for support.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your organization or industry sector?

The speed at which technology is evolving is in itself an impediment. A customer can ask us to stock a particular component for example, and then within a short timeframe tell us there’s a new and better equivalent they would prefer we carry. Managing inventory in the face of such rapid change is challenging.

What are the biggest impediments to innovation in today’s enterprise?

Interoperability of Business Software across an enterprise accounting system – everything from Customer Relationship Management to quotes, to inventory management, accounting and more – has seemed slower progressing than evolution of technology as a whole. The software and processes are so varied and there doesn’t seem to be a common standard for them to all work together. That’s one of the hardest challenges within an enterprise.

How has innovation become ingrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?

As a relatively small company, everyone learns a bit of everything, so that everyone understands operations cross-functionally. It’s a priority at Gap Wireless for everyone to ‘get it’, to understand what something means to them as an employee, to their department and to the company as a whole – why decisions are being made. That way when we introduce innovative ideas or new technologies to our portfolio, everyone is on board. This goes back to putting yourself in someone else’s shoes; until someone understands the reasons behind a decision, I can’t accept if that person disagrees with the decision. If I don’t want disagreement, then it’s up to me to explain the rationale behind things. Knowledge truly is power.

What technologies, business models, and trends will drive the biggest changes in your industry over the next two years?

In the wireless industry and even more so in the mobile wireless industry, we’ve seen things evolve from voice communication, to texting, to Internet on devices, to primarily data, and now voice transmitted as data. The real game-changer will be IoT – the Internet of Things that I mentioned earlier – because now devices aren’t limited to one device to one person, but rather the number of devices connecting even machine to machine is almost unlimited. This is being driven by Big Data and demand from new types of customers will be emerging. I’ve personally experienced some of this at my cottage in the Laurentians north of Montreal, where I’m using smart technologies to integrate the electronics and manage things remotely. Devices such as lights, water pump, water cooler, thermostats, locks and more are controllable from one device on-site or from an app on my smart phone anywhere I find myself in the world. Combine that with sensors measuring light, temperature, humidity, movement or moisture and I can, in essence, create a robot that detects temperature rise indoors in the summer and triggers motorized shutters to close, preventing the sun from heating up a room. This has a direct effect on our personal comfort and on our energy use, and that’s the impact of IoT that society as a whole has yet to fully experience.

What is your parting piece of advice?

Realizing what you can and can’t commit to and then living up to your commitments is critical to success. Setting yourself appropriate goals that are achievable but not too easy to complete is a fine balance that is required for personal and professional growth. Lastly, I would add consideration, as in consideration of what the other party or person wants or thinks. It’s OK to be demanding sometimes in a negotiation, but you have to accept and respect that the other party will be tough too. I always try to put myself in the other person’s shoes anytime I must make a decision that affects more than me, and weigh all the consequences.

Author: Marcello Sukhdeo

Marcello is the managing editor of Vanguard, IT in Canada and Canadian Government Executive and the host of Vanguard Radio and WRLWND Radio podcasts. He is an avid technology and security enthusiast, who has worked on content leadership strategies for a number of industries including the public sector, life science, technology and defence.

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