A Modern Solution Provider's Metrics For Success In The Cloud Era

If you want to know what the right metrics are for success for solution providers in the cloud era, you would be wise to look closely at TekLinks, one of the most respected solution providers in the country.

TekLinks, which was founded with a few engineers some 14 years ago in Birmingham, Ala., has thrived because of its ability to deliver ever-more-compelling IT solutions to its customers year after year in a technology market that is moving at an ever-accelerating pace.

In 2006, TekLinks was well ahead of the MSP market shift when it began offering co-location and hosting services. The company was providing a full suite of hosted and managed services, including data center, mobile and VoIP, long before it was fashionable. TekLinks also was ahead of the cloud computing curve with its own virtual web-hosting offerings, including database support and disaster recovery services. Now the company is moving even faster to ensure it has the cloud services muscle to power customers into the future.

[Related: TekLinks CEO On Claris Acquisition And How To Succeed In A Fast-Moving Cloud Market]

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In May, TekLinks acquired Claris Networks, Knoxville, Tenn. The deal provides TekLinks, No. 187 on the 2015 CRN Solution Provider 500 with $100 million in annual sales, with a cloud services superstar that was No. 138 on CRN's 2014 Fast Growth 150 list. The Claris Total Cloud offering, a complete, outsourced cloud service, increases in one fell swoop TekLinks' recurring revenue services by a whopping 60 percent, from about $25 million to $40 million, said TekLinks CEO Jim Akerhielm.

Akerhielm has a crystal-clear view of how to succeed in this business: Stay close to your customers and deliver the technology solutions they need to be successful. TekLinks' core competency, in fact, is its deep knowledge of its customers' business that has come, in large part, from its regional (Southeast) and vertical (health care) focus.

TekLinks delivers a full panoply of on-premise and off-premise solutions. That said, its recurring revenue business is soaring because the customer demand for those IT services is growing at an exponential rate. In fact, TekLinks' recurring revenue business is growing twice as fast as its product and professional services business.

That does not mean that TekLinks is turning its back on the product or professional services business, said Akerhielm. "If the right solution is a resale model, we love that business," he said. The metric for success is growth for all of its businesses, said Akerhielm. The point is TekLinks' trusted advisers are not going into customers with cloud blinders on. "We have hardware-software resale, professional services, hosting [and] managed services," said Akerhielm. "We bring those tools to the table. Our challenge is harnessing those tools and building the customer relationships."

The model is constantly changing in a market that is twisting through the IT landscape like a tornado. "My view is we want to have tremendous relationships with decision-makers at our customers so that we can engage them on their technology road map and support them on that road map over the next five to 10 years," he said.

The TekLinks metric for success, then, is staying close to its customers and acting as a strategic solution provider for all things IT—whatever is going to drive value for those customers in the increasingly complex cloud-hybrid IT era.

BACKTALK: What are your metrics for success in the cloud era? Contact Steven Burke at [email protected].