Channel Icon Vitagliano Set To Take Helm At SP 500 Powerhouse Computex Technology Solutions

Frank Vitagliano, a channel legend who has developed successful vendor channel programs and partnerships for more than three decades, is moving to the other side of the fence as the president and CEO of CRN Solution Provider 500 powerhouse Computex Technology Solutions.

Vitagliano, who has been lauded for his ability to build long-lasting relationships in the intensely competitive technology services business, is replacing co-founder and CEO Jason Haffar, who will remain on the board and continue to serve as a strategic adviser to Computex, No. 124 on the CRN SP500.

Haffar had taken over the CEO role from his brother and co-founder, Sam, who moved to become board executive chairman last June.

[RELATED: The Haffar Computex Legacy – 'Customers For Life, Employees For Life']

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Vitagliano's appointment comes with Computex set to embark on an aggressive plan to accelerate sales growth by doubling down on the company's already highly regarded services offerings.

"We felt it was important to bring in a seasoned industry veteran like Frank to take the business to the next level," said Jason Haffar in an interview with CRN. "Frank has run very large P&Ls and is very well respected in the IT community on the vendor and distribution side and in all of the channel. This is going to elevate the customer experience and give us a big competitive advantage going forward. "

Vitagliano brings a unique set of skills to Computex from an obsessive knowledge of solution provider balance sheets garnered from helping build thousands of partner business plans to an insider's view on how to best leverage vendor and distributor offerings and even enterprise customer sales skills – working hand in hand with partners to ensure the success of complex technology solutions.

Vitagliano officially takes the helm of Computex with the company celebrating its 30th anniversary. Haffar and his brother, Sam, who will remain executive chairman, have built the Houston-based company from a small family business assembling high-performance white-box PCs into an award-winning national technology services power widely recognized as one of the best in the business. Today, Computex is one of the premier holdings of Navigation Capital Partners, a highly respected Atlanta-based private equity firm.

Vitagliano, who stepped down just last month as vice president of channel sales for Dell after four years helping to establish the company as a channel power, said he was "humbled" by the opportunity to build on the Haffar legacy with an eye toward "continuing to grow the business and satisfy customers."

"Sam and Jason have built a company with an underlying infrastructure to provide customers with a full suite of outstanding managed services offerings that are second to none," said Vitagliano, who has also held top channel positions with Juniper Networks and IBM. "The platform is in place to grow this business dramatically over the next several years. My vision is for Computex to continue to be a significant pre-eminent player in the industry for a long time to come."

Vitagliano, who has known the Haffar brothers for more than a decade working with Computex from the vendor side of the fence as a channel chief, said the "cultural fit" made moving into the role a natural for him.

"The cultural fit is tremendous," he said. "That is why this thing came together as quickly as it did. When you go into a new opportunity what takes the longest is to know whether it is a cultural fit. That was not an issue here. Philosophically and culturally, Sam and Jason and I are on the same page: Your word is your bond. You look people in the eye and shake their hand. We think about things similarly. That is going to make the transition natural for employees and customers."

Vitagliano shares an "old-school" focus with the two brothers on building strong personal business relationships with customers, employees and vendors. "I learned that coming up through the ranks in the business," he said. "Sam and Jason have used that same formula to delight customers and employees. When you hire really good people, good things happen. I want to continue that."

Part of Vitagliano's charter, in fact, is to build on Computex's "Customer For Life, Employees For Life" credo by keeping the needs of "customers and associates at the forefront of all business decisions."

Sam Haffar, for his part, characterized Vitagliano's appointment as a "defining moment" that marks the beginning of a new era of accelerated sales growth with even stronger relationships with customers and business partners.

"Frank is an original," said Haffar. "His industry knowledge, working relationships and leadership experience are unmatched. Frank has been in the channel for a long time. He knows what works and what doesn't work. He understands solution providers and the value we bring to customers and, at the same time, he knows the ins and outs of the vendor and distributor worlds. He's a people person – a salt of the earth kind of guy. We look forward to him leading the charge for future growth and inspiring our team to even greater success."

Vitagliano acknowledged that he has a "lot to learn" about what it takes to run a solution provider business, but felt fortified by the presence of Sam and Jason on the Computex board of directors. "I feel a little bit like the new kid at the table," he said. "While I will be responsible and accountable for the business, I have the ability to bounce things off these guys that have built the business over the last 30 years. I am extraordinarily happy about that."

The move to the solution provider side of the IT business by Vitagliano is a vote of confidence of sorts in the future growth opportunity for Computex and the channel overall in the midst of the massive shift to cloud services.

Vitagliano, in fact, called the partner opportunity in the rough-and-tumble cloud era – based on the maxim that "where there is mystery, there is margin" -- as rich as he has ever seen it.

"There is no shortage of complexity in terms of the business problems customers are trying to solve and the technology they can use," he said. "The transition to cloud is happening in a big way, and customers are worried about things like security as they make that transition. The solution providers are the trusted advisers – the IT department for companies. I don't see that changing. If anything, solution providers are becoming more critical. The opportunity is huge, particularly for solution providers like Computex that have moved from a product-price approach to solving customer problems with a full suite of services. That is why I joined Computex. They figured that out a long time ago."

Vitagliano will have an arsenal of technology services weapons at his disposal as he moves to accelerate sales growth at Computex, including two multimillion-dollar state-of-the-art network operations centers in Houston and Minneapolis, a solutions lab for testing complex technology solutions, and three integration centers.

Computex has built out a full suite of 24/7 recurring revenue cloud services, including its own cloud service and security and disaster recovery offerings with the aim of delivering an end-to-end customer experience backed up by top-notch technical talent.

Vitagliano said he has no "pre-conceived ideas" about how to grow the business, but "organic" growth is a good place to start given the services platform that Computex already has in place. That services platform sets Computex apart from many solution providers that have attempted to grow without a scalable services foundation, said Vitagliano.

"I give Sam and Jason a ton of credit," he said. "They have pulled together this business with a full integrated set of systems and services. They are clearly doing something right. Our potential is unlimited given the infrastructure that has been built here."

Besides organic growth, Vitagliano acknowledged there may well be acquisition opportunities in the market given the stepped-up pace of consolidation in the solution provider market. "If the right opportunity comes along we would certainly consider it as a way to continue to evolve and capitalize on what the team has already built here," he said.
The key to success in the channel, Vitagliano said, will be, as it always has been, to focus sharply on "understanding and figuring out" how to satisfy your customers and then building an organization to capitalize on those opportunities.

"It all starts with the customer and then putting in place excellent people to support your customers," he said. "That is what excited me about joining Computex. That is the philosophy that Computex has had for a very long time. To me, it was very important to work with an organization that really gets it in terms of solving customer problems with an outstanding reputation in the marketplace."

Vitagliano has watched fortunes won and lost by solution provider entrepreneurs in the midst of multiple paradigm shifts in the technology services business over the past three decades. Now it is his turn to "lay it on the line" and take on what he calls the "role of a lifetime."

"I have always admired solution providers for many reasons – not the least of which is they put everything on the line to create these businesses," said Vitagliano. "I admire their entrepreneurial drive and business acumen and the importance they play in the overall industry – accounting for 70 percent of all IT solutions delivered globally. I always wanted to be part of that at the appropriate time."

The time is now. Vitagliano officially takes over as CEO of Computex Jan. 9 and he says he is ready to jump in with both feet – ready to put his "heart and soul" into running Computex.

"The fact that Sam and Jason are comfortable with me running the business is a nice compliment," he said. "I love this industry and this is one of the few roles that I've always wanted to take on. I couldn't be happier and more excited about the opportunity ahead."