Park Place President Adams Talks Acquisition Spree, Benefits Of Centralized Sales Force

Park Place Technologies has been on an acquisition spree over the past two years, purchasing six companies during that time, and the third-party maintenance provider has no intention of slowing its growth streak.

The Cleveland-based company, No. 208 on the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500, has acquired Com-Com, Ardent Support Technologies, Prestige Data Center Solutions, Performance Data, Allen Myland and NCE Group in the months Park Place itself was purchased by private equity firm GTCR in November 2015.

"We tended not to do much in the acquisition realm in the last two years. What changed? A lot of it is size," President and COO Chris Adams told CRN. "We've gotten to the size now where we can consume these acquisitions and integrate them into our culture very efficiently. It became very appealing at that point."

[Related: Park Place CMO Deutsch On Expanding Her Marketing Team, Improving Company Communication ]

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Since 2010, Adams said Park Place has experienced a compound annual growth rate of 27 percent. During the early stages of that ascent, the company was wary that dipping its toes into the M&A waters would add risk and possibly dilute its corporate culture. With GTCR's guidance and more financial muscle under its belt, however, the timing was right for a concerted expansion effort.

The acquisitions all involved some combination of top-line, geographic and technical benefits, Adams said. The Allen Myland deal completed in August, for example, was done to boost Park Place's high-end enterprise storage support. The Ardent acquisition fell into the same category.

NCE, the largest purchase of the bunch, expanded the solution provider's global presence – particularly in Europe, which has become the company's fastest-growing market, according to Adams. Park Place has gone from having three U.K.-based employees to 80 to 100 within the past two years, he said.

"We're seeing great results over there," Adams said.

Another recently acquired company, Singapore-based Performance Data, was done with Asia-Pacific expansion in mind. The growth hasn't been as rapid as what Park Place is enjoying in Europe due to local hiring and relocation restrictions, Adams noted. Ultimately, however, he said he wants to see Park Place employees on every continent so that it can service all of its customers' equipment with in-house employees.

Park Place's acquisition push comes during a time of widespread consolidation in the third-party maintenance space. Earlier this year, Curvature and SMS merged to create a $500 million company. CXtec purchased Atlantix Global Systems in August in a move that combined two more members of the 2017 CRN Solution Provider 500.

The top four players in the industry have all traded hands within the last two years, Adams noted, which has some of the market's smaller and midsize players keen to join the fray. But as far as Park Place's buying strategy is concerned, he said it has been more strategic than forced.

"We don't have to do acquisitions; we want to do them. I'm not sure that's true with all the consolidation," Adams said. "In some cases, there's probably more pressure to grow through acquisition. It's a key objective [for us], but not the primary one. There's probably a lot of pressure to grow. … We have the luxury of making smart acquisitions. We're certainly the most active buyer out there, but what we've closed is a fraction of what we look at. We've got a pipeline of opportunity."

As the Park Place staff has grown, Adams emphasized the need to maintain a centralized, global sales team that's largely concentrated in the Cleveland area to enable consistent training and to allow the company to effectively adapt to technology changes. Park Place has more than 100 account executives in Cleveland, he said, with another 20 in Denver and 25 to 30 in Europe.

That setup naturally involves heavy travel. But the Park Place team feels that the rapid evolution of IT services has made it less of a "steak dinner" industry, as Adams put it, as customers become more concerned with ensuring their data centers are taken care than being wined and dined. Centralizing the sales force has also eased some of the burden placed upon Park Place's four-person integration team.

"With a distributed sales force, it's very difficult to keep those people up to speed, whatever that change may be. Even if it's policy and strategy," Adams said. "We can put people in a room on any given day and have a discussion with them. We can train them, teach them and adapt to the market quickly. We feel like the competition generally is outside sales orgs, distributed, and they don't have that luxury. I think you see it in our success with our organic growth rate being so strong."

Park Place, like some other large third-party maintenance providers, has strategic relationships with several other solution providers that range from small shops to massive outfits like CDW. The NCE acquisition has increased the total number of those partnerships to 100-plus.

The recent growth, however, hasn't affected how Park Place does business with its own channel partners, according to Adams, who once again pointed to the company's centralized sales force as a key factor in mitigating channel conflict.

"It's not an easy place in our industry to thrive. Sales organizations that are distributed, they're often willing to compete with that channel partner in a way they'd perceive it as inappropriate," he said. "If they brought a lead, you've got to manage the conflict. We would never tolerate that and we can effectively police it from [Cleveland]. We don't see strain around our channel relationships because of our growth; we primarily see opportunity."