Rival distributors were largely complementary last week about the job Tanny Price, outgoing managing director of Avenir UK, has done in distribution since taking charge of the French-owned distributor four years ago.
There was grudging respect from rival firms, who wished to remain anonymous, for Price’s drive to set Avenir apart from the distribution market as a mobile/IT house, and a note of cynicism at her appeal to both the dealer market and the new business mindsets of network operators.
“Avenir is probably top of the pile. Most people think that,” said one senior source at a rival.
“I was a little surprised to see she is going, but if I had to guess one airtime distributor boss to quit for a network, I would have said her. To her credit, she is the one within this space who feels as at home in the corporate world of networks as in sparky dealer/distributor land.”
Another leading airtime distributor said: “Avenir has done well by becoming more corporate. That is the perception of it, anyway – it has hired this consultant [former Phones 4U and Carphone advisor Alasdair Jeffrey] and got rid of a lot of the old timers, the guys like [former head of sales] Anthony Serlin who had been around for years.”
He added: “It mirrors what is happening in the networks – the MBA graduates are coming in and the likes of [former Vodafone dealer manager, now Mobile News podcast host] Iain Graham and [former Yes Telecom managing director] Keith Curran have been forced out.”
Avenir, one of only two UK distributors to retain all five big network distribution contracts, has this year set up close partnerships with manufacturer HP and IT distributors Westcoast and SCC, essential Price initiatives.
One source said: “I really don’t understand Avenir’s stuff around the IT space. It is not clear.
“What does the dealer get from it, who has connected mobile all his life? We are picking up on confusion in the traditional dealer market about what Avenir is up to.”
Still the sense, even from her fiercest competitors, is Price has made Avenir unique among airtime distributors, struggling to redefine themselves in a vastly changed market place – to expand their portfolios for long-time customers and to break into new markets.
The team Price has built at Avenir for its rush into new markets is also considered to be an elite operation within the sector, and one capable of seeing through her initiatives.
One leading B2B dealer said: “She has driven Avenir down the complete comms route. Distributors all play in the same pond, and she has looked to differentiate Avenir.
“There are a lot of good people within Avenir, capable of a lot of good things. In a sense she has made herself redundant by putting together such a team.
“It’s a good move by Vodafone, and a good move by Tanny.”
Price takes a senior indirect channel role at Vodafone in January, working with head of corporate sales Amanda Baker within Vodafone’s enterprise team – headed up by new Vodafone enterprise chief and former Nortel EMEA boss Peter Kelly.
There was speculation Vodafone will use her experience of O2’s new dealer revenue share scheme to introduce its own next year; and appreciation among rivals at the fact she is in the position to inform Vodafone of concerns around the O2
system and its implementation.
Another source reasoned: “She has knowledge of the IT space now that any network would welcome, and she is the prime candidate to bring that knowledge and skill set to Vodafone now.”
Price was at Avenir for 11 years, since its days as CMC, and managed the UK operation for four.
Avenir Telecom group chairman Jean-Daniel Beurnier said: “As well as dominating the B2B market, Tanny has driven Avenir to seize the opportunities in the IT sector. Her vision in identifying the benefits of this diversification and expanding the business, despite the industry’s continued consolidation, is testament to her commercial ability.
“This is combined with her passion to create a defining culture within the company, which has both inspired and empowered all employees to embrace personal development and to work collaboratively in line with the vision and objectives of the business.”