APC: A 20-Year Channel Champ

Lou Giovanetti has seen a lot of flip-flops from vendors in his 22 years of selling technology solutions to businesses. For his money, there is no one that has been able to match the consistent performance of power protection/management provider APC by Schneider Electric. "APC has paid for my daughter's education and a few other things over the last 22 years," said Giovanetti, one of the co-founders of CPU Sales & Service, an SMB-focused solution provider based in Woburn, Mass. "They have been a very good partner for us."

Giovanetti said 2012 represented his most successful year yet in terms of the profitability of his APC relationship. And he expects even better results in 2013.

It's that kind of performance with grass-roots solution provider partners such as CPU Sales & Service that has allowed APC to win the CRN Channel Champions Award for power protection and management for an unprecedented 20th consecutive year.

Giovanetti compared the 20-year APC streak to the equivalent of baseball great Joe DiMaggio's 56-consecutive-game hitting streak, a record that has stood for 72 years. "I can't imagine anyone even coming close to breaking this Channel Champions record," he said.

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The APC partnering ethos extends to its commitment to working in a multivendor environment beyond its own product line. That's an important distinction between APC and other vendors, said Giovanetti. "These guys are interested in solving customer problems, not just selling product," he said.

"It's very gratifying and exciting," said Rob McKernan, senior vice president Americas for Schneider Electric's IT Business, which totals about $5 billion, referring to the streak. "It shows our commitment to partners. It shows that we put partners first.

"It hasn't always been easy," added McKernan, who started at APC 19 years ago as a customer service representative just out of college and now heads a business with 2,600 employees. "We have had to change and our partners have had to change. The market has changed. But through it all we have maintained that partner focus, making sure we are working with good partners and expanding our business together."

Wendy Maurer-Linsky, vice president of peripherals product marketing at Tech Data, who has been working with APC since she started at the distributor in 1997, credits APC's success to its ability to build relationships "based on trust and openness."

"It's about people and consistency," said Maurer-Linsky, recalling a number of key Tech Data-APC initiatives that resulted in significant improvements in logistics, operations and supply chain for APC. "When there is a trust factor it is easier to improve profitability and efficiency. It's a relationship that has always been one of mutual respect, admiration, support and collaboration."

The next inflection point in the APC partner relationship, said McKernan, is moving partners from solutions to services. "As we go forward, it's about how can we with our partners not just sell pieces of hardware, but how do we live with the customers and help the end users manage and operate their data centers and really drive a full life-cycle approach through better tools, software and automation," he said.

Giovanetti said he has seen more than a few vendors take a sharp turn away from established channel partnerships to direct sales only to later come back. Once that is done, he said, the trust has been broken. That trust is at the heart of APC's partnership with CPU Sales & Service, said Giovanetti, comparing the relationship to a successful marriage. "Till death do us part," he said.