CRN 30th Anniversary: Where Are They Now?12:00 PM EST Fri. May. 04, 2012
As part of CRN's 30th anniversary in 2012, we're taking a look back at some of the newsmakers we've talked to and written about. Here are five solution provider executives who have graced the cover of CRN magazine through the years and what they're doing now.
THEN: Mark Melillo graced the cover of the June 13, 2008, issue of CRN for his success in reaching midmarket customers during the recession.
"It is a bit of a perfect storm in that it is not competitive with the manufacturers, the volume of accounts is significant and there are strong financial incentives available to the channel partners [from the vendors]," Melillo said back then.
NOW: Melillo is still going strong as CEO of Melillo Consulting. Two years ago, CRN featured him as one of "10 VARs Who Stood The Test of Time" and Melillo Consulting was also named a Top 100 Health-Care VAR.
THEN: It wasn't long after Y2K that businesses stopped spending on IT, which in turn caused VARs to struggle and made it difficult to find credit. Mike Semel, then president of Chemung Computer, an Elmira Heights, N.Y.-based VAR, appeared on our Nov. 17, 2000, cover with empty pockets, symbolizing the channel's challenges to find financing.
"It's not harder to finance deals, but it is more expensive," said Semel in 2000. "What's really frustrating is the amount of fees that have been added. On paper, it looks like a good deal with the interest rate. But there are so many transaction fees that it cuts into profit."
NOW: Semel is vice president and chief security officer at Business Continuity Technologies, a Las Vegas-based VAR. Though his focus now is business continuity, Semel said credit still presents difficulties for VARs, especially for VARs that don't do big hardware deals like they did a decade ago.
"The economy is different, with real estate values and investments way down from 10 years ago, so collateral and personal guarantees are considered risky," Semel said. "When a big product deal comes along, it is a negotiation with credit departments to finance the deal. We have broken large orders down into smaller ones and spread them across several months to give distributors' credit managers the comfort they need. Many local banks have been gobbled up by larger institutions and are no longer willing to fund smaller businesses. Déjà vu all over again."
THEN: CRN's Scott Campbell visited Simon Samia (pictured) and BMB Group in 2006, shortly after Samia's hometown of Beirut was bombed by Israeli planes. Samia and other BMB executives detailed their experiences and why they remained in Lebanon, determined to help their country and their economy rebound.
NOW: Samia is still with BMB and led the VAR's expansion in 2008 into Lybia and Saudi Arabia. Samia now is COO of Saudi Arabia and Egypt operations and the solution provider is now in six countries and reported a 60 percent increase in sales last year compared to 2010.
"We expanded our portfolio of products in order to be able to provide a complete infrastructure solution. With our global presence in direct or through partners, BMB is now able to provide complete connectivity across the globe," Samia wrote to CRN.
THEN: Mark Diamond was the subject of a January 2006 cover after filing a wrongful termination suit for being fired as the CEO of SED International, the distribution company co-founded by his father.
“It’s been draining,” Diamond said at the time. “I want to get it behind me.”
NOW: Diamond did put SED behind him. He settled the lawsuit for $2.1 million in 2008 and now heads Advatange Talent, an executive placement firm that specializes in the finance, banking and accounting vertical markets, that he started in 2006.
"I've been focused on my business. I don't think about the past. I look forward," Diamond said. "I like it a lot. It's a great business. No two conversations are the same, no two searches are the same."
THEN: CRN underwent a major redesign in 2000 and Kevin Rowe, then president of New York-based Web integrator Agency.com, graced the first issue of our new look, featured in a story about the uneasy decision VARs face if the time ever comes when they need to fire a customer.
At the time, it was an almost unheard concept for a VAR to walk away from a customer. "One of them we resigned because we couldn't steer them back on course," said Rowe at the time. "We weren't threatening, but we said, 'We don't think this is good for both of us. Here's why.' "
NOW: Rowe has been a principal at Lake Capital, a Chicago-based private equity firm, for eight years and is chairman of Whitney, Bradley & Brown, a management consulting firm focused on the federal market, after it merged with Netstar-1, where he was CEO.
Rowe said those comments 12 years ago caused him grief with customers, which was difficult to deal with around the time of the dot-com crash. "I have never gone around firing clients willy-nilly," Rowe said last month. "In terms of 'firing a customer,' I was trying to get across the point that a healthy long-term business relationship needs to provide value to both parties. When it doesn't, for profitability reasons, strategic direction reasons, cultural reasons, sometimes you are better off cutting ties sooner rather than later. If both parties aren't getting what they need/want out of the relationship, it likely won't end well so you are better off acknowledging it and cutting ties."