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Group 403

Laurence Friedman

GM Retail Sales

In the book “Only the Paranoid Survive,” former Intel CEO Andrew Grove warned against the 'inertia of success' and encouraged readers to expose themselves to the winds of change, and to do so constantly. As a firm believer in never resting on your laurels, it’s one of Laurence Friedman’s favourite reads.

Laurence’s first job, in 1987, was in internal sales with computer importer Thrughput OAS. He left the company to join Business Land, the only true computer retailer in South Africa at the time. He was based at its single store, in Rosebank, and was part of the team that grew it into the biggest notebook player in the country in the early 1990s.

Laurence was then approached by Software Connection, the leading software retailer at the time, to introduce computers into the business and to devise a strategy for growth of its new hardware line. It had become clear that laptops were an unstoppable trend and the company wanted to move into portable technology and other computing hardware.

He was part of the team involved in the design and opening in 1995 of the country’s first computer megastore, Incredible Connection, in Woodmead, Johannesburg and was the first branch manager when opened. The store was modelled on America’s big box retailers and was an instant success with consumers.

Software Connection rebranded as Incredible Connection and Laurence went on to spend 21 years with the company, in a number of distinct roles including buying, selling, merchandising, and sales staff training, at store and head office level. Along with the team, he helped to grow Incredible Connection into the largest consumer electronics and IT retailer in South Africa and on the African continent.

With a steady focus on computers, technology retail and the mobile market, Laurence’s team has won several awards for outstanding performance. He joined Tarsus Distribution to oversee its retail division and has been part of the growth into an even more profitable part of the business. Laurence works hard to impart his extensive industry knowledge to his team and build relationships with vendors to strengthen the retail arm.

The most important lesson he has learnt over time is the power of relationships and how putting people over revenue can change your mindset, for greater business success and profits.

He and his team have built solid partnerships with Tarsus Distribution’s top customers, devising different strategies for each one, according to their unique needs. He believes in listening, not dictating, and he finds ways of collaborating with customers to help them to overcome their challenges.

It’s an approach that has worked well for the company’s retail distribution division. When times are tough, he says, his team stand by their customers and vice versa. He says that no-one wins when it’s only about product and price.

A fan of author and speaker Simon Sinek, Laurence is fascinated by leaders who have the capacity to inspire others and help people feel fulfilled by the work that they do.