Detour to success

By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Print this article Print

The paths to growth may vary, but growth is a must for solution providers with any hope of success.

Sometimes there is a detour on the path to success, and Touchbase is a case in point.

"Touchbase was started in 1992 by me, my father and a friend of mine in a bedroom in Wapping, London," said CEO Riordan Maynard. "From a personal perspective, I wanted to start a business to try and build something different from the norm—simply, one which focused on its people and clients as it grew, rather than just obsessing about the numbers."

While that path proved somewhat successful, Touchbase experienced its most explosive growth only recently, as a result of a shift in direction. "We decided in 2006 to change significantly, and moved the entire organization from what we considered to be legacy technology, to focus 100 percent on emerging collaboration and customer contact technologies," such as Cisco’s Unified Communications products, he said. "Having made the huge gamble to shift wholesale to a new set of technologies, the results have been amazing. Our growth last  year was in excess of 300 percent, and last quarter was 300 percent up quarter- on-quarter."

While Neudesic, Artech and Touchbase could be considered superstars in the solution provider world, there are some smaller solution providers also on the path to success  whose experiences can offer insight into the problems of managing growth.

Raj Mehta founded the precursor to Infosys International in 1986, following a path familiar to most solution providers. "I worked on my own from my home, trying to sell my consulting services," Mehta recalled. "I began building and selling PCs and helping any business that would let me work with their technology systems. I had such a desire to start my own successful business that no job was too small. I was trying to make a name for myself."

His quest paid off when Infosys was recognized by the Long Island Software Awards in 1998 as the "Fastest Growing Software Company on Long Island." Inc. Magazine has also named Infosys as one of the 500 fastest growing companies in the country. The company now employs 55 out of its 14,000-square-foot headquarters.

Sometimes success takes a tortuous path, as evidenced by the story of David Dadian, CEO of Powersolution.com. Dadian worked in the industry for several years before founding his first business, partnering with a startup, and then building what eventually
became Powersolution.com in 1998.

Recently, Dadian reignited growth by combining traditional solution-provider services with managed services to achieve greater efficiencies and boost customer satisfaction. The company expects revenue of more than $1.3 million for 2008, a 30 percent increase
from the previous year, proving that change can be beneficial.

"The initial plan/model should always be in a state of constant evolution," Dadian said. "If it is not, it is not being vetted for what works and what doesn’t. Flexibility is a key to success."

It’s not the technology!
While these success stories have followed different paths, each of the solution providers agrees that technology is not necessarily the driver for success.

"Artech was founded with core technology skills, and this was important upon entry into the IT market," said Poddar. "Our sales skills at that time were nominal. The aggressive pursuit of new accounts was critical to our initial growth, but our interpretation of salesmanship was more about developing a business dialogue and making a business case for our services than just pushing discrete solutions."

Frank Ohlhorst Frank J. Ohlhorst is the Executive Technology Editor for eWeek Channel Insider and brings with him over 20 years of experience in the Information Technology field.He began his career as a network administrator and applications program in the private sector for two years before joining a computer consulting firm as a programmer analyst. In 1988 Frank founded a computer consulting company, which specialized in network design, implementation, and support, along with custom accounting applications developed in a variety of programming languages.In 1991, Frank took a position with the United States Department of Energy as a Network Manager for multiple DOE Area Offices with locations at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL), Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), FermiLAB and the Ames Area Office (AMESAO). Frank's duties included managing the site networks, associated staff and the inter-network links between the area offices. He also served at the Computer Security Officer (CSO) for multiple DOE sites. Frank joined CMP Technology's Channel group in 1999 as a Technical Editor assigned to the CRN Test Center, within a year, Frank became the Senior Technical Editor, and was responsible for designing product testing methodologies, assigning product reviews, roundups and bakeoffs to the CRN Test Center staff.In 2003, Frank was named Technology Editor of CRN. In that capacity, he ensured that CRN maintained a clearer focus on technology and increased the integration of the Test Center's review content into both CRN's print and web properties. He also contributed to Netseminar's, hosted sessions at CMP's Xchange Channel trade shows and helped to develop new methods of content delivery, Such as CRN-TV.In September of 2004, Frank became the Director of the CRN Test Center and was charged with increasing the Test Center's contributions to CMP's Channel Web online presence and CMP's latest monthly publication, Digital Connect, a magazine geared towards the home integrator. He also continued to contribute to CMP's Netseminar series, Xchange events, industry conferences and CRN-TV.In January of 2007, CMP Launched CRNtech, a monthly publication focused on technology for the channel, with a mailed audience of 70,000 qualified readers. Frank was instrumental in the development and design of CRNTech and was the editorial director of the publication as well as its primary contributor. He also maintained the edit calendar, and hosted quarterly CRNTech Live events.In June 2007, Frank was named Senior Technology Analyst and became responsible for the technical focus and edit calendars of all the Channel Group's publications, including CRN, CRNTech, and VARBusiness, along with the Channel Group's specialized publications Solutions Inc., Government VAR, TechBuilder and various custom publications. Frank joined Ziff Davis Enterprise in September of 2007 and focuses on creating editorial content geared towards the purveyors of Information Technology products and services. Frank writes comparative reviews, channel analysis pieces and participates in many of Ziff Davis Enterprise's tradeshows and webinars. He has received several awards for his writing and editing, including back to back best review of the year awards, and a president's award for CRN-TV. Frank speaks at many industry conferences, is a contributor to several IT Books, holds several records for online hits and has several industry certifications, including Novell's CNE, Microsoft's MCP.Frank can be reached at frank.ohlhorst@ziffdavisenterprise.com