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FusionStorm Parlays Innovation Drive, Perennial Partner Of Year Honors Into Prestigious Dell EMC Titanium Black Membership

The honor puts the $700 million company, which has its sights set on the $1 billion sales mark, in the same league as a select group of much larger competitors.

FusionStorm, which has captured more than a dozen Partner of the Year vendor awards over the past six years, has been handpicked as one of just a handful of elite partners to join the ultra-exclusive Dell EMC Titanium Black program.

The San Francisco-based company, which has been widely recognized for driving innovative solution offerings in the fast-growing hyper-converged, software-defined and cloud markets, also sits on the advisory boards of Dell, EMC and VMware.

The "invitation-only" Titanium Black honor gives FusionStorm access to a wide range of exclusive benefits aimed at driving sales growth. The honor puts the $700 million company, which has its sights set on the $1 billion sales mark, in the same league as a select group of much larger competitors including $14 billion behemoth CDW, $9 billion powerhouse World Wide Technology and $5.4 billion Insight Enterprises.

[Related: 6 Key Details Of The New Dell EMC Partner Program]

"Only the most innovative, most successful and most visionary companies are Titanium Black," said Dell EMC channel chief John Byrne in a congratulatory letter to FusionStorm. "You have achieved extraordinary things, and now, with the power of Dell EMC, our opportunity to go big and win big together is greater than ever."

The Titanium Black honor, which provides FusionStorm exclusive access to briefings with Dell's top technologists and Dell EMC CEO Michael Dell, represents a watershed moment for FusionStorm, which has transformed into an agile, next-generation services power under CEO Dan Serpico.

Serpico, who was recognized by CRN in 2016 as one of the top 25 innovators in the industry, took the helm five years ago and has made broad and deep investments aimed at transforming the company into a strategic services power.

Serpico, who was previously CFO of FusionStorm, attributes the company's success to an ability to form, grow and maintain valuable relationships with vendors and customers, as well as a commitment to leading the industry through the rapid, widespread shift to the cloud and software-defined technology.

"It's a challenge, but it's a challenge that we have to meet," Serpico said. "Companies that don't make that shift, both in terms of how they reach customers and the solutions they offer, as well as management of their internal support mechanisms and the costs around that, are not going to be as relevant."

Among the Partner of the Year honors besides the multiple awards from Dell EMC, including Enterprise Solution Provider Partner of the Year, are a Juniper Innovation Partner of the Year award, a Cisco Territory Partner of the Year award and a Channel Customer Satisfaction Excellence award.

Byrne has said the Titanium Black designation will handsomely reward partners that double down on selling a wide portfolio of Dell EMC solutions and create "tier envy" among other Dell EMC partners.

Among the senior leaders on Byrne's team, Jim DeFoe, who heads distribution operations, has perhaps known Serpico the longest and has worked with FusionStorm most closely. Over the years, DeFoe has been impressed by Serpico's ability to be both an analytical, dollars-and-cents CFO and a skilled sales executive.

"The first time we spoke to him, he took us through what his strategy was and where he wanted to focus resources," DeFoe said. "He's always committed to what he sets as an expectation. It's very powerful. I've seen him in action at large customers, and I've been struck by his ability to articulate strategy around technology and how FusionStorm and Dell EMC can implement those, but also the financial impact as well. They're a great partner that can do very large transactions and deliver profitability."

"Dan will tell you he's a CFO, but you see Dan out on sales calls. He's very engaged, not just with end users, but within Dell," DeFoe said. "He's cultivated a lot of relationships with sales leaders across Dell, and he's very respected among sales leaders within Dell. He understands where the industry is going, where customers are going. He's engineered creative financial solutions with Dell Financial Services. They're very adaptive, very nimble. They're not top-heavy at all. It's a very lean operation."

Serpico said the company benefits from a focus on both transactional volume business and strategic next-generation technology offerings. "The strength of the volume of business we do with our vendors is important to them, and that ultimately means that we have relationships with some of the more senior people at our vendors," he said. "Our approach is to be very direct and very sincere. I pride myself on being candid. I make mistakes. We all make mistakes, but I think the approach I try to take in all my relationships is to be direct, and that sometimes means you tell people the things you can't do."

Serpico credits his technical team and sales force for the widespread recognition from its vendor partners. "This is a great company to do business with – the sales force, the technical team – and the combination of all those things causes people to say we can try to work through this with you together as long as you deliver on the things you say you're going to do," he said.

FusionStorm's ability to deliver is built upon an entrepreneurial sales culture, as well as deep technical expertise. The 370-employee company has about 30 engineers supporting more than 400 individual certifications, about 150 of them with Dell EMC and VMware. One of the company's fastest-growing lines is a result of a partnership with software-defined networking superstar Arista Networks.

"It all comes from the employees," said Serpico of the company's ability to transform into a strategic service provider powerhouse. "Our employees have great ideas. The culture is to listen and pay attention."

FusionStorm, which was founded as an Oracle reseller, has weathered more than 20 years of market turmoil from the dot-com crash to the Great Recession to the rise of cloud technology and even an $11 million judgment in 2010 against the company for illegal hiring practices involving SP 500 competitor Technology Integration Group.

Now, changes in the market seem only to be accelerating, and Serpico said the company is pushing hard to stay ahead of them.

"We made our mark by being a really broad portfolio company, and I think we're going to continue to offer a variety of alternatives, but we're sharpening our pencil," he said. "You can't afford to be everything to everybody, especially if you want to invest in leading technologies that require time to grow organically."

FusionStorm also has been fortunate to have what Serpico calls a "deep technical bench." In the company's early days, those folks were focused primarily on pre-sales, architecture and design tasks, he said. But that world has changed, according to Serpico.

"The world of software-defined has taken not all of that out of the picture, but a lot of it. How do we shift our engineering focus, augment that pre-sales capability we still have today with a deeper bench that supports services and services delivery?"

Serpico and his team seem to have struck a balance, and its services business has grown to 20 percent of its total profit, up from about 12 percent a year ago. "We're making the transition nicely," he said.

Recently, FusionStorm has been emphasizing its integration center as a key component of its go-to-market strategy. The center builds fully integrated custom racks for enterprise, hyper-scale and web-scale customers that deploy globally. "That business has really taken off," Serpico said. "It produces literally hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue."

Serpico also approaches leadership of the company analytically, which is a departure from the sales-driven culture that drove the company for its first 20 years. As a result, FusionStorm pays much closer attention to the future of the market, and its place in it, than it ever has.

"There's a lot of talk about things we're going to do for next year, as well as things we're going to do two years and three years from now," Serpico said. "That's something we do a whole lot more of today than we used to. How does the decision we make today affect us two and three years from now? Where is the market going to go two or three years from now?"

For now, though, FusionStorm is basking in the spotlight from the ultra-exclusive Titanium Black honor.

"Thank you for your commitment to our vision and strategy as we've successfully combined Dell, EMC and VMware to create Dell Technologies," said Michael Dell in a letter to FusionStorm. "It's been an absolutely momentous year for our company and more importantly for our relationship with you."

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