SonicWall stresses continuity despite announcement of Steve Pataky leaving the company

Bob VanKirk becomes CRO, which will strengthen SonicWall’s push to become a more significant enterprise player, but the company is emphasizing this won’t impact their commitment to the SMB market and their partners who serve that space.

Bill Conner, SonicWall CEO

Security vendor SonicWall has announced some high-profile management changes. Steve Pataky, who has run the channels organization since the last year of SonicWall’s Dell era, will be leaving the company in the spring. His replacement as Chief Revenue Officer will be Bob VanKirk, who has been SVP of Strategic Sales, and who has played a key role in developing SonicWall’s enterprise strategy, focusing on key verticals, the US Federal Government and strategic partners, and the Direct Touch Strategy SonicWall began to implement last year. In addition, HoJin Kim, who had been Vice President of North America Channel Sales, becomes VP of Global Channel Sales. Kate McIntyre also joins the company as the Vice President of Inside Sales.

“This is Steve’s third anniversary with SonicWall,” said Bill Conner, SonicWall’s CEO. “He was brought in under Dell to set the channels up for the new SonicWall, and two years ago combined with me to launch the new company. It has been a herculean job, and we have done a lot of successful things.”

Those things involved an increased emphasis by SonicWall to expand their presence beyond their traditional SMB space into the enterprise.

“A year ago we made a decision to focus on strategic and vertical accounts and to build up the enterprise business,” Conner said. “This began under Steve at the beginning of last year, and we then increased its focus by bringing in Bob. Since then Steve has focused mainly on the SMB, while Bob built up the enterprise. We are now at the stage where we consider how we can best scale the enterprise and government with the SMB business.”

Conner said this coincided with Pataky’s desire to leave the company, for his own reasons.

“Steve was at a point where he wanted a break,” he said. “It seemed this was the right time to announce this, before the new fiscal year starts in February. It seemed like an easy transition, right for partners, right for employees, and right for Steve, Bob and myself. Steve will stay until April while we get a get new set of products launched.”

Bob VanKirk, SonicWall’s incoming CRO, who had been Senior Vice President of Strategic Sales

While the fundamental strategy won’t change, Vankirk said that the company does need to do a better job at making sure partners are well aware of their newer technologies, particularly those that scale beyond the SMB space with which most partners know best.

“Over the past six months, I have done countless sessions with customers and partners, and we found in them that many customers and partners were not aware of the latest and greatest things we were bringing to the market,” he indicated. “We need to scale the business across a much broader swath, and my top priority to enable this is getting our team up to speed from an innovation standpoint.”

Pataky’s departure is potentially significant because while he had only been at the company for three years, that extends back into the Dell period, and precedes Conner’s arrival at SonicWall by a year. Pataky, much more than anyone else, has been identified with the building of the new SonicWall coming out of Dell, and the foundation of the key pillars of their channel strategy, including SonicWall University, their deal registration system, and the building out of the channel to approximately 17,600 partners today. Conner stressed however, that partners should not anticipate any changes.

“I don’t anticipate concern because Steve and Bob worked so well together,” he said. “Nothing is changing except Steve leaving. I would never have been able to do with we did in the last two years except with Steve’s help. I will miss that and am disappointed that he believed he needed the break. But he is leaving with a very solid foundation. I don’t think partners will see a big transition issue at all.”

The task going forward, Conner emphasized, is to further develop that foundation, particularly in the enterprise space.

“We now just have to build a higher building on the foundation,” he said. “SonicWall isn’t just SMB, and isn’t enterprise – it’s both. But while we are the SMB leader, we are number five in enterprise. We want to move up there, and we think we have the portfolio and the TCO to be able to do that.”

That increased focus on enterprise isn’t something that SonicWall partners should be concerned about, even after he leaves, Pataky said.

Steve Pataky, SonicWall’s outgoing CRO

“We have said this everywhere we go, and in every partner forum,” he stated. “It’s the last thing partners need to be concerned about. We are emphasizing that our partners need to understand all opportunities – not just traditional ones in the SMB, but newer ones such as in the distributed enterprise. This next wave of growth will really open up those opportunities for partners in ways SonicWall hasn’t done in the past.”

SonicWall developed the Direct Touch model to support the channel, not compete with it, and Pataky said it will be critical in supporting that next wave of growth moving forward.

“We really didn’t know when we spun the company out just how fast it would take off,” he indicated. “Direct Touch is a way to better supporting partners in more ways as the business expands. Our partner feedback told us we should increase skillsets in direct touch selling, because they rely on us to help them with those sorts of opportunities, in the midmarket and the enterprise.”

With Pataky’s departure, the management flow chart changes slightly, although Conner said that the differences in practice won’t be significant. Pataky, in addition to being the CRO, was also Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales and Channel, leveraging his experience in that area. VanKirk as CRO will continue to have a major emphasis on Direct Touch and the enterprise space, and HoJin Kim, who had been the Vice President of North America Channel Sales, now becomes VP of Global Channel Sales, a position that did not exist previously

“HoJin came to us from Samsung last April because he had worked with Steve previously, but he didn’t want to do all the global travel, although he has a lot of experience in EMEA and Asia,” Conner said. “With Steve’s transition, he will still own North America, but can help with the global distribution strategy because of that experience, and he picks up the resources that we have built up with Direct Touch globally to partner with SMB partners.”

In addition to what Conner said would be an exciting series of new product announcements over the next several months, SonicWall will also be stepping up its marketing activities with Increased investment in marketing programs. That means more money, and more programs, and more emphasis on reaching larger buyers.

“Stay tuned on the specifics here,” he said. “We are 100 per cent known in SMB, but are not well known in governments or in enterprises. We have a lot of new capabilities we think are leading edge for those areas, so we will double down on that with some significant marketing – and not just digital marketing.”