Small Biz VAR Aims High With Services

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A small solution provider has teamed up with an experienced services professional to help provide professional and outsourced services to other small businesses that normally would not have access to them.

That solution provider is also looking to partner with peers whose customer base needs the same help.

Eryck Bredy, founder and CTO of BNMC, a small Andover, Mass.-based solution provider, has brought on a new partner with services experience in the banking industry, and is positioning his company away from a hardware focus to helping small businesses with their infrastructure.

BNMC, which until recently was known as Bredy Network Management Corp., is a small, five-person company, but wants to grow, Bredy said. "We want to focus on bringing IT outsourcing to small business owners," he said. "We want to offer customers a portal to technologies they were unable to use before."

The way to do that, Bredy said, is to be an outsourced IT department for small businesses that have no IT staff.

To that end, Bredy this year invited Roger Michelson, a 17-year veteran of the banking industry with experience offering a variety of service to banks, to join as vice president and COO. Michelson also invested an undisclosed amount in BNMC, and so is also an equity partner.

Michelson's previous company provided outsourced services including software development to a variety of financial institutions, and worked with Bredy as an IT supplier, Michelson said.

Together, the two of them developed a new program for BNMC called NetPartner, an outsourced services offering for small businesses, including desktop support, security, backup, e-mail infrastructure, VPN, and storage. "These are all the things a small company needs to act like a larger business," Michelson said.

NetPartner works with small businesses that have their own IT teams to provide partial outsourcing of those services. For the more typical small business with no IT personnel, NetPartner can act as their IT department, Michelson said.

"When a company grows to about five people, it starts thinking that it wants to buy a server," he said. "Then it has to buy new software. And then it starts running into issues. We want to help those companies with services."

The key is to get into the door with some part of a small business' IT needs, and then be available as other needs either develop or become apparent, Michelson said.

"NetPartner is a lead in for our customers," he said. "Then we can add consulting and other outsourced services on top. For instance, some customers don't need network support. But they may need help with executives' VPNs, or in choosing the right BlackBerry."

Bredy said it's all about transforming the way small businesses think about outsourcing. "A large company has a CIO who can figure it all out," he said. "Small business can't afford a CIO. They feel IT is a cost center, they think of it as a black hole. But after 9-11, they're seeing IT more in terms of risk management."

Part of NetPartner's purpose is to act as a virtual CIO for small businesses, Michelson said. "We help them look at their business, and see how to grow it," he said.

Take such regulations as HIPAA and SAS-70, Bredy said. "Often times, the small business gets questions from its partners about its disaster recovery plan," he said. "It's important that the disaster recovery plan is a living document. Small businesses can fill out a form, and say they have one. But year after year, the document has to be maintained."

Those plans also have to be audited, Bredy said. "They need to leave a paper trail that also has to be maintained and trusted," he said. "This adds complexity, and becomes very expensive, especially for smaller companies."

Another service BNMC offers is a portal to on-line document repositories, Bredy said. "If a CEO is sitting in a boardroom, and someone asks him about his disaster recovery plans, he can pull them up through the portal," he said. "Or is a technician needs a trouble ticket, he can pull it from online."

BNMC is also looking to partner with other small business solution providers whose customers need outsourced services, Michelson said.

"We've already made strategic relations with other resellers," he said. "They sell servers or SANs or VPNs, but don't have the services. If customers ask for help in running their IT infrastructure, the resellers can pass it to us."

Bredy said working with partners is important for BNMC because the company only has a single salesperson. "I can't sell everything myself," he said. "This is an entry point for small solution providers to get into IT services. They can either get a discount off our services for recurring revenue, or on one-time deals they can get a finder's fee.

One such partner is CPU Sales and Service, a Waltham, Mass.-based solution provider.

Todd Barrett, director of sales for CPU's security and networking division, said he has been working with Bredy for about eight years, using that company for on-site services with 40 customers and over 75 installations.

CPU leverages BNMC because it recognizes the value of BNMC's outsourced services, and because customers have been satisfied, Barrett said.

CPU, BNMC, Cerdant, a Dublin, Ohio-based managed services provider, have also teamed up to offer services related to SonicWall, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based security vendor, Barrett said.

CPU has the sales expertise, BNMC the services experience, and Cerdant the perimeter experience, Barrett said. "Putting the three of us together for our customers has created an alliance of synergy where we all do the things we do well, but combined can provide a comprehensive, affordable program for customers looking at outsourcing their needs," he said.

BNMC in the past also provided services to customers of Amherst Technologies, which in late 2005 was acquired by PC Connection, Merrimack, N.H.

"When it was Amherst, 20 percent of our sales was through them," he said. "When it was acquired by PC Connection, that business dropped. Now, with the ProConnection business of PC Connection, our services business with their small business customers is starting to grow again."

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