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After two years, Largo’s TD Synnex makes ‘optimistic’ return to conventions

Tampa Bay’s largest public company draws hundreds of in-person vendors and partners to its first post-pandemic convention.
 
Sammy Kinlaw, TD Synnex's senior vice president for North American communities, speaks during the company's annual Varnex convention at the Greenville Convention Center in Greenville, S.C., on Monday. The event, geared toward vendors and partners, marked the first post-pandemic convention hosted by the technology distribution company, Tampa Bay's largest public corporation.
Sammy Kinlaw, TD Synnex's senior vice president for North American communities, speaks during the company's annual Varnex convention at the Greenville Convention Center in Greenville, S.C., on Monday. The event, geared toward vendors and partners, marked the first post-pandemic convention hosted by the technology distribution company, Tampa Bay's largest public corporation. [ TD Synnex ]
Published March 28, 2022|Updated March 29, 2022

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Beneath the spotlights of a South Carolina convention stage on Monday, Peter Larocque handed a trophy of appreciation to a longtime colleague.

“I’m green, so that means I get to hug you,” said Larocque, president for North American technology solutions at Largo’s TD Synnex, as he passed the award to Bob Stegner, the company’s senior vice president of marketing for North America.

Larocque was referring to the color-coded wristbands offered at the door to denote one’s level of comfort for contact: Red for “Keep your distance,” yellow for “Elbows only” and green for “Hugs and handshakes.”

The bands were a courtesy offered to attendees at Varnex, an annual gathering of vendor partners at the Greenville Convention Center — and the first post-pandemic, in-person convention hosted by Tampa Bay’s largest public company.

TD Synnex — formed from last year’s $8.3 billion merger of Largo’s Tech Data and California’s Synnex — has brought only a fraction of its employees back into the workplace, most on a volunteer basis. Gathering hundreds of outside partners under one roof for the first time in more than two years was a big deal for the technology distribution company, just like at all other large companies debating when and how to fold convention travel back into their corporate cultures.

Related: Largo's Tech Data completes $8.3 billion merger, becomes TD Synnex

“As the pandemic winds down, we’ve ramped (up), and this is kind of a coming-out party for us,” said Sammy Kinlaw, TD Synnex’s senior vice president of communities, the company’s term for its ecosystem of North American vendors and customers. “We’ve done smaller things, but this is the first big tent.”

Guests at Varnex, an annual convention hosted by Largo's TD Synnex that kicked off Monday at the Greenville Convention Center in Greenville, S.C., could choose one of three colored wristbands to indicate their level of comfort greeting one another post-pandemic. Red meant “Keep your distance,” yellow meant “Elbows only” and green meant “Hugs & handshakes.” The event, uniting the tech company's partners and smaller vendors, kicked off on Monday, marking its first in-person convention since the start of the pandemic.
Guests at Varnex, an annual convention hosted by Largo's TD Synnex that kicked off Monday at the Greenville Convention Center in Greenville, S.C., could choose one of three colored wristbands to indicate their level of comfort greeting one another post-pandemic. Red meant “Keep your distance,” yellow meant “Elbows only” and green meant “Hugs & handshakes.” The event, uniting the tech company's partners and smaller vendors, kicked off on Monday, marking its first in-person convention since the start of the pandemic. [ Jay Cridlin ]

Varnex is a brand and event founded by Synnex; this is the first year former Tech Data employees and partners have attended. Only about 10 to 15 percent of attendees were part of the Tech Data ecosystem prior to the merger. In all, about 600 people attended in person or virtually.

Still, the merger that united Synnex and Tech Data brought together major brands like Microsoft, Intel, Google and Dell, all of whom sent executives to Greenville, home to a large TD Synnex campus. The combined company is forecast to have revenues of more than $60 billion in its first year, a good chunk of it from the small and mid-sized partners who attend conventions like Varnex. It’s a sector, Kinlaw said, that constitutes about $5 billion per year in revenue in North America.

Related: Largo's TD Synnex reports $15.6 billion in first quarter as new company

“There’s some cross-pollination happening, which is what we want,” Kinlaw said. “Synnex did not have access to Dell, IBM or Apple. Now they do. Tech Data didn’t have access to a company like Palo Alto (Networks), but now they do.”

The convention and its surrounding events drew plenty of hugs and handshakes between TD Synnex partners, who in some cases hadn’t seen each other since the last in-person Varnex, well before the pandemic. And it led to some talk about how surreal it was to be back at a convention after two years of remote work.

“I about forgot to change from PJ bottoms to actual clothes to be here,” Ivonne Yeste, Dell’s regional sales director for North American distribution for TD Synnex, said to laughter from the stage.

Kinlaw called the event “a little surreal,” but said his anxiety coming in quickly dissipated once he got there and saw clients and partners catching up and talking shop.

“What surprised me the most is how optimistic they are, and excited,” he said of attendees. “The mood is super-elevated. It’s like people wanted to forget that it happened. Hugs, high fives and kisses. It’s not that anybody was being disrespectful of protocol. You could tell the humanistic side of being together and being reacquainted, it was palpable. You could feel it.”