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Best IT Solutions for Canadian SMEs. Exclusive interview with Cisco’s Pietro Pasqualino

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Pietro has over 12 years of experience at Cisco across multiple disciplines – from Finance, Sales Operations, Strategy and Sales Acceleration.

In his current role, he leads a national team of territory business managers with a responsibility of driving demand creation and sales acceleration across Canada, with a specific focus on SMEs.

Pietro is a passionate sales leader who has seen first-hand how Cisco’s SME solutions help businesses grow, scale and overcome their challenges through technology.

Can you share details about yourself with our readers?

I come from a family of small business owners. I have lived and breathed the daily struggles and immense amounts of joy and benefit that comes with running a small business. It is no coincidence that after 12 years at Cisco, working across multiple functions, I gravitated towards a role that is entirely focused on helping small businesses prosper in the digital age. Whether it’s establishing the brand, growing and customer base, competing with larger, more established peer technology – technology is the foundation. I wake up every morning committed and determined to make a difference for these businesses across Canada.

 

You recently became the director of business development and sales acceleration at Cisco Canada in October, what are some of your goals in your new role?

There more than 1 million small and mid-sized businesses operating in Canada, making up 98% of all businesses in our country. My number one goal is to help these businesses grow faster by leveraging digital tools and technologies that transform their business. At Cisco, we know that a strong technology foundation is a key driver of growth, and that’s why we’ve created an easy-to-use; easy-to-manage IT portfolio focused on the needs of our SMB customers. With these solutions, our focus is to reduce IT complexity, make technology accessible for these businesses, and remove the roadblocks to our customers’ success.

If we do all of this well, across our entire organization and with our network of trusted partners, we will establish Cisco as the number one technology provider to SMBs across Canada.

 

How do you believe your 12-year tenure at Cisco has shaped your business leadership skills?

Cisco has offered me a ton of opportunities through my career not only to learn and understand the business but to study under different leaders and different leadership styles. I try to take the best traits from all those leaders to build my unique leadership style. What I’ve found is the most successful team has two things at the core of their success: teamwork and collaboration. These are the things I focus on within my team today.

The other thing great teams have is they encompass diversity, opportunity, and growth. Everybody wants to grow in their career, and my focus as a leader is to help people prosper. It’s essential you realize change is a constant and comfort and growth do not coexist. Getting comfortable being uncomfortable is key.

 

Can you talk about an accomplishment you have had with Cisco from your early beginnings as marketing operations support to the director of business development and sales acceleration?

Helping people succeed is the absolute key. Helping people grow their careers, opening doors for them, and allowing them to go in whatever direction their career takes is essential. That is my biggest achievement: being a mentor to others and helping people early in my career. I take great pride in that and that gives me energy every single day. One thing I’m most proud of as a personal accomplishment is leading our annual planning cycle in Canada. I help our leaders across the business develop their go-to-market strategy and make Canada a growth engine for Cisco as a whole. We focus on digitizing our own business. Also, I’ve seen many initiatives and been part of many initiatives that have helped us become more efficient and create productivity through digitization.

 

What kind of impact has Cisco had on its small and medium-sized businesses since you joined?

 We are helping small and mid-sized businesses across Canada to reach more customers, be more profitable, and improve productivity. We are able to do this through the strength of our industry-leading product portfolio. Companies can enjoy the reliability, security, and quality of our networking, collaboration, and security solutions while reaping the benefits of using cloud-based technologies – they are simple to manage, easy to deploy, and put time back in an employee’s day. What gets me excited is that this lets business owners and executives focus on what counts: their customers.

 

What sets Cisco apart from other IT companies in Canada? Why should business owners work with Cisco to meet business tech solutions rather than your competitors?

What sets us apart from other IT companies is our focus on making our customers successful.  We are the only vendor that can provide an end-to-end solution across all platforms and the entire network, which puts us in a unique position to support our customers no matter their technology need. We talk to our small business customers, understand their needs and what is most pertinent in their business. We focus on simple, reliable, secure, and affordable solutions that work.

We are a global technology leader. And we’re focused on providing enterprise-grade solutions for our SMB customers. We always focus and don’t compromise on quality services and support – our solutions are more reliable, last longer, and are better than our competitors. We provide our customers with a better ROI and a lower cost of ownership. Lastly, we understand that technology is the fuel to the business, and getting the technology right, that works, should be what everybody strives for.

We’ve made significant investments in research and development in Canada. We have a partnership with CAMH and Deloitte around mental health initiatives, and our Connected North initiative, which connects remote and under-served communities with education and mental health services, is transforming lives. Impacting our communities is vital for us, not just the technology we use.

 

What are your thoughts for helping the small and medium-sized business grow in Canada? How can Cisco help these companies boost their productivity and gain an edge on the competition?

Our goal is to be the bridge that connects Canadian SMBs to their possible. Small and medium businesses are leveraging cloud-enabled technology to help them be more productive and competitive. Our cloud-based security, networking, and collaboration solutions are easy to deploy, manage and use. This helps time-pressed business owners and IT managers ramp up productivity with limited resources.

 

The small business owners will face many challenges when it comes to managing their business. What are the main problems that SMBs or those SMB owners have in managing their business technology and how can Cisco help them overcome them?

Small business owners face an increasingly complex IT environment with multiple vendors, over-complicated IT solutions, limited manpower, and limited financial resources. Cisco offers a single-vendor solution for networking, security, and collaboration that saves business owners’ time from managing multiple vendors and points of contact. Our solutions are easy to deploy, use and manage, simplifying the lives of business owners and enabling employees to do more with less. Finally, we help owners affordably access our technology with 0% financing through Cisco Easy Pay, enabling owners to bundle together hardware, software, and services into a single, fixed monthly payment.

 

Cisco offers a variety of tech services to small business owners, including security solutions. What type of security offerings does Cisco provide for small business owners looking to protect their business?

In a world with more data, more users, and more services, there’s more to protect. Small businesses are big business for hackers and are the target of 62 percent of all cyber attacks. That means about 4,000 small businesses are attacked every day at an average cost of $86,500 to the business. Cisco has the most comprehensive cybersecurity portfolio in the world, protecting small businesses from threats at the network, internet, device, and application level. We enable small business owners to get enterprise-grade security that is super simple to deploy and manage.

 

Cisco also offers project collaborations offered through WebEx meetings. Can you give us further information on how this service works and how it can benefit SMB owners?

Small business teams need a workplace that’s focused on innovation and speed. They now expect a flexible work-from-wherever experience. They expect to not let little things like hemispheres and time zones get in the way of good ideas. Employees’ need to collaborate in real-time and in virtual workspaces is more important than ever. Cisco Webex meetings deliver a complete set of tools for small business teams to connect anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

 

How do you predict the feature of technology within businesses in Canada? How can business owners take advantage of new technology to gain a position in the market?

We see the pace of innovation continuously accelerating, and we don’t think that’s going to change. Customer experience will be at the forefront of technology adoption, cloud-based solutions will continue to dominate, and artificial intelligence will become key to becoming productive. We have found that digitization is key and essential for the success of businesses in Canada. According to IDC, 2020 will fully digitize 75% of businesses, and Gartner and Forrester are both predicting that by 2020, over 85% of the buying process will be done without human interaction. Therefore, investing in the technology that not only allows you to grow today but remains flexible is a key business driver to any company’s success.

 

What is Cisco’s primary goal? Where do you see Cisco 10 years from now?

The pace of innovation will continue to accelerate. We see right now that 88% of customers do not have the right technology in place to execute against their digitization strategy. Cisco’s main goal, together with our partners, is to be a trusted advisor for these customers and help them move quickly and securely to the next level. Also, over the past three years, Cisco has undertaken a journey to transform from a pure hardware company to a leader in the delivery of software, subscription and hardware products and services. We are committed to driving innovation that will be simple, intelligent, automated, and secure.

 

 

 

 

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