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Tech Data CEO Dutkowsky tries to keep hot streak alive

CLEARWATER — Tech Data CEO Bob Dutkowsky readily acknowledges running a $22 billion, 7,600-employee company can be a "fun but grueling" job. Still, he was in fine form Friday during an interview about his company's just-released performance in the first quarter.

The giant computer parts distribution business, No. 1 by far in size based on revenue among area public corporations, grew twice as fast as expected in the quarter and enjoyed the highest earnings per share in any first quarter ever. To be honest, the interview focused as much on the stunning season performance so far of the Tampa Bay Rays.

Dutkowsky, a season ticket holder, played college ball and once harbored big-league pitching dreams. Leave it to this executive to draw parallels between running a company well and managing a winning ball club. Here are some highlights of the interview:

So, quite a first quarter for the company.

It was a good quarter. Revenues grew 13 percent year over year, which signifies the economy is coming back. We thought we would grow in the mid single digits — 5 or 6 or 7 percent. … And there was more opportunity out there, so when that environment presents itself, we are able to have a good year. When we spend a little and sell a lot? That's when we do well.

You do a lot of business in Europe, which has been thrown for a loop because of Greece. Are you concerned?

The problems in Greece are spilling into Portugal. The Southern European environment is unstable, and it has an impact on the overall business mentality in Europe, though it did not seem to have an impact on our performance in the last quarter.

We are not in Greece, so those problems do not touch us directly. We do business in Italy, Spain and Portugal, though Portugal is the smallest country we have in all of our European business. So these problems may impact us, but they won't be dramatic.

Coming off such a strong quarter, what is your biggest concern looking ahead?

This is not a very sexy answer. But when you come off a quarter like we just had, it gets easy to overspend — to say "My gosh, let's spend lots of money on things we did not spend on last year." So it takes management discipline to keep the same approach as when things were not going so well.

You don't want to miss opportunities or stop investing smartly. But you don't want to get intoxicated with success. … Having said that, we did buy two companies a couple weeks ago and are buying a third one to position us for the long term.

We've talked about baseball and the great season thus far for the Rays. Is there common ground between a well-run company and a well-run team?

It's about knowing when to be aggressive and when to be conservative. I think that is one of the secrets of being a successful executive, and one of being a successful baseball manager. When do you change pitchers or closers?

Life is a combination of aggression and conservatism, and you have to find that sweet spot. It's a never-ending process but can be the difference between success and failure.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at trigaux@sptimes.com.

Tech Data CEO Dutkowsky tries to keep hot streak alive 05/21/10 [Last modified: Friday, May 21, 2010 10:31pm]
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