With many solution providers struggling to grow or even stay in business these days, who better to talk about the secrets to success than the No. 1 solution provider on CRN's Fast Growth list?
This year XIOSS, a data storage solution provider, earned the top spot, growing more than 3,000 percent during 2009-2011. The numbers are indeed impressive, but the journey has been wrought with uncertainty and lots of hard work.
In late 2008, Mark and Susie Galyardt were at a crossroads in their careers. Mark was director of the Telco Services Business Unit for Datalink, and Susie had just left a job at Delta.
Mark had worked with large corporate customers and saw the challenges around data storage and the need for someone to come in and offer effective solutions. The Galyardts decided to take the leap and start a business to offer deep technical expertise and consulting services to Fortune 100 organizations.
Their timing could not have been worse. Credit markets had dried up, and venture capitalists were not interested in a reseller model.
"We hired a bank consultant to help us with working capital," explained Mark Galyardt, executive vice president. "But it was fruitless. There wasn't any help out there. It was very rough [in the beginning]. CIOs were pulling money back. We lost multiple projects that we thought were done deals."
Fast-forward two years: The company was on track to reach $10 million in revenue and the Galyardts were able to round out their executive team by recruiting Scott Robinson, chief technology officer for Datalink, as president of XIOSS. Robinson had experience building a company from the ground up and was impressed with how XIOSS was differentiated.
"I joined the company because I saw what XIOSS was doing. Large companies had rapidly growing environments, their capital expenditures were restricted and they were looking for expertise. XIOSS had been building a team and had a philosophy in these enterprise accounts," said Robinson.
Here are a few lessons XIOSS learned along the way:
Lesson 1: Differentiate and really understand your customers' pain points. The founders were in the field, servicing Fortune 100 companies for many years, so they understood their customers' problems on the ground. They were able to build a company based on their vision of where the technology was headed and what their customers truly needed. "It is really important when you start a new company to have a core vision and philosophy that you believe in and work hard on executing on that vision. And it has to be differentiated. You can't enter the market doing what everyone else is doing," said Mark Galyardt.
Lesson 2: Invest in your field team. XIOSS believed in lean corporate overhead. It felt the people in the field were the ones closest to the customer and could help solve business problems.
Lesson 3: Be vendor-agnostic. XIOSS works with all the major storage vendors, but it doesn't put all its eggs in one basket. By being vendor-agnostic, it can find the best solution. "The customer comes first," said Susie Galyardt, CEO. XIOSS also believes in looking at smaller emerging vendors because they can help meet a particular need or differentiate their offering.
Lesson 4: Don't get discouraged. "Stay on the path and slowly climb the mountain. It takes a lot of time. We are growing the business incrementally brick by brick. This approach is making it easier and easier each step of the way," she said.
BACKTALK: Kelley Damore is VP, Editorial Director for UBM Channel. You can reach her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.