When Gerry Smith told his former colleagues at Dell back in 2006 that he was leaving to join a much smaller company, Lenovo, many of them laughed.
“What are you doing?” they asked him incredulously. “These guys aren’t even on the map.”
But it turned out to be an astute move for Smith, whose contributions to Lenovo triggered his recent promotion to president of North American operations. At the same time, Lenovo has vaulted ahead of Dell and is on the verge of becoming the undisputed No. 1 PC maker worldwide. Depending on which research firm is doing the counting, Lenovo is either No. 2 or No. 1 PC maker, up from No. 7 four years ago.
Now Smith is using the reaction of his former colleagues at Dell as a motivational tool for his Lenovo team.
Why do you need motivation if you can call yourself No.1 in the world? Because in the U.S. market, Lenovo is still just No. 4.
“Absolutely, the goal is to become the leader in the market,” said Smith. “We’re not going to give times, but our target is to chase down No. 3, then chase down No. 2, then chase down No. 1.”
Smith believes all the pieces are in place to make that happen.
“I think we have the right strategy, the right people, the right innovative products,” he said, adding that a lot of that innovation “is driven right here in North Carolina.” Lenovo is based in China but has an executive headquarters in Morrisville that employs about 2,000 workers.
Lenovo has been the fastest-growing major producer of PCs for 12 consecutive quarters, grabbing market share from competitors with attractive products and aggressive pricing, supplemented by strategic acquisitions.
Smith said that holiday-driven sales in North America got off to a good start.
“Lenovo saw some good strength in retail over the Thanksgiving period,” he said. “Now the question is, are we taking market share or is the market growing? That is something that is hard for us to determine.”
Smith joined Lenovo as senior vice president of global supply chain, and in that role he was credited with significantly reducing costs and improving delivery times while still maintaining quality. His promotion to head of North American operations came a little more than a month after he was promoted to senior vice president of global operations, which encompassed the supply chain, including manufacturing, plus services such as technical support and warranties.
Smith, 49, said he was expecting the first promotion but was blindsided by the second.
Smith was leading a staff meeting last month in Morrisville when he was called into the office of CEO Yuanqing Yang, who told him that he was being tapped for the North America job vacated by David Schmoock, who departed the company to take a position at – you guessed it – Dell.
Smith’s first reaction: “five seconds of stunned silence.”
Smith previously was based in Singapore but now is planning to move to the Triangle.
“I spent all day Saturday looking at houses,” he said. “I quickly decided I need my wife here, because if I try to make the decision myself I’ll get myself in trouble.”