'What Can I Do To Help?'2:44 PM EST Fri. Sep. 21, 2001
One customer needed 30 servers. Most needed systems. A handful had to replace flat-panel monitors. All of them ordered notebooks.
Jim Garrity's phone hasn't stopped ringing all week. As vice president of sales at More Direct, an e-procurement and service provider in Boca Raton, Fla., Garrity has eight large clients in lower Manhattan, two of those in the World Trade Center. His customers and their employees escaped the attacks unharmed. Now they're scrambling to replace lost equipment and stock temporary offices.
In the wake of the attacks, the channel united to help rebuild the systems and infrastructure that employees rely on to make a living.
"You know, I have to mention that the strength of the channel has really come to bear in the course of the last week," said Garrity, whose company has two sales reps who managed to escape from the World Trade Center after the first plane slammed into Tower One. "We would not have been able to respond to all our customers without the help of our distributors, Ingram Micro and Tech Data, and our manufacturers. Everybody became customer-focused."
In the wake of the attacks, the channel united to help rebuild the systems and infrastructure that employees rely on to make a living and government agencies require to serve citizens.
"No one company can solve the problems created here. It's going to take the capacity of the industry, from a solutions and services standpoint," said Robert Anastasi, senior managing director at Raymond James & Associates, a St. Petersburg, Fla.-based investment advisory firm. "The channel has much of that capacity, and it will be critical, especially in this case."
For once, there were no competitive squabbles, as profit became an afterthought. Manufacturers that couldn't service direct accounts reached out to solution providers for help. Rigid credit bent with unheard-of flexibility. Precious office space became a gift. "What can I do to help?" became the week's mantra.
Big Apple Technologies, a solution provider based at Park Avenue South and East 20th Street in Manhattan, less than two miles from the disaster site, had about 25 employees working in and around the World Trade Center when the planes hit. John Burke, Big Apple's CEO, said 10 customers were affected and that all his employees escaped the area safely.
Like many other solution providers, Burke is showing his thanks, appreciation and support by offering his affected clients free services. Big Apple has assembled special teams in four areas,infrastructure design and deployment, desktop deployment, data center design and relocation, and disaster recovery,to help customers emerge from the chaos and find some normalcy.
"It's a good opportunity to strengthen relationships with clients and show that we're concerned and there for them," Burke said.
At Array Technologies, a solution provider based on West 25th Street in New York, President Peter Sattin's advice to one of his clients, law firm Serko & Simon, paid off.
Companies whose businesses were directly impacted by the World Trade Center attacks are scrambling to replace lost equipment and restock temporary offices.
"Whatever you can do to protect data is great," Sattin said. "But for small offices, the simplest procedure,like bringing the backup tape to another location each night,is all that's needed."
Sattin said he was surprised how easy it was to locate two Compaq servers for his clients, since he usually has to wait several weeks. But for Array Technologies and most other New York-based solution providers, all major manufacturers and distributors have made customers around the disaster area a priority.
Tech Data and Ingram Micro, for example, opened their respective warehouses in Swedesboro, N.J., and Harrisburg, Pa., for around-the-clock service and have allocated equipment earmarked for ground zero. Sattin was especially pleased when Gavel & Gown Software, Toronto, donated a $3,000 law office management solution to help Serko & Simon restart its business.
"The inspiration from all the people volunteering is truly astonishing," he said. "It doesn't matter where they are, people still try to help."
When e-services firm Plural was evacuated from its offices at 115 Broadway, about two blocks from the World Trade Center, employees managed to save all backup files, data and applications. But there was one problem: They no longer had the hardware for it. So Michael Becker and Paul O'Connell, employees at Plural's Washington office, loaded Becker's wife's van with $1 million in hardware and drove it six hours to Plural's temporary headquarters in Stamford, Conn. They drove back at 7 p.m. that night. "These guys didn't have to do it, but that's the kind of thing we've been seeing," Plural CEO Neil Isford said.
Christine DiGiacomo, director of business development at Bit by Bit, a solution provider on Manhattan's Lower West Side, said the company's CTI division is offering affected businesses free inward dialing with auto attendant and is discounting as much product as it can, including 170 IBM ThinkPads that went to investment firm Lehman Brothers.
"It's a strange feeling. We understand there's a lot of rebuilding that needs to be done, but it's difficult to conduct business at this time," DiGiacomo said. "You feel bad about selling equipment, but you have to do it."
Others share DiGiacomo's feelings. Already forced to cope with a battered economy, solution providers realize they must heed a cold, hard fact of commerce: Business must go on. Still, a tinge of guilt accompanies each sale, they said.
"Business has to rebuild, but it's a personal situation as well. I don't know which way to go," said Randall Truesdale, senior alliance specialist at Thaumaturgix, a solution provider based on West 44th Street. "I know a lot of people affected by this. How do you call an old boss that lost a senior technician and say, 'My condolences. By the way, I've got networking services I can offer you.' "
Barry Goldstein, president of CT Networks, a Northport, N.Y.-based solution provider, said many companies in lower Manhattan need solutions but don't know where to turn. He said he recently obtained a list of business contacts in the area and now plans to get in touch with them. "As cold and as calculated as this sounds, there's a gigantic opportunity. There are thousands of businesses in that area that no longer have offices," Goldstein said. "But I'm struggling to find that balance, too. I can't tell you how I'm going to approach them yet. If they're not interested, we'll get off the phone very quickly."
In searching for emergency products, many companies called the manufacturers they usually deal with directly. But some of those manufacturers were unable to handle procurement, logistical and integration duties and consequently referred those companies to solution providers.
"I got a call from Cisco, and the rep told me they had a lot of direct clients who needed product and asked if I could help," said Sam Ruggeri, vice president of corporate solutions at Total Computer Systems in Melville, N.Y. "A lot of manufacturers just don't have the logistical capabilities."
Meanwhile, Cisco arranged for a military airlift to transport critical networking hardware from the West Coast to distributor warehouses on the East Coast.
Ruggeri said he certainly didn't mind helping the direct arm of a vendor. Too many people need too much help, and help is what the channel does best, he said.
"We will stand up to help anyone we can help," he said. "I want to go in there, roll up my sleeves and start moving cement with these guys, but I know I can't. Instead, we'll jump through hoops to do whatever needs to be done."
SCOTT CAMPBELL, JENNIFER HAGENDORF FOLLETT, MARIE LINGBLOM, LARRY HOOPER & MIKE CRUZ contributed to this story.