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Computex Looks To Grow, Acquire During COVID-19 Crisis

‘Our capabilities as well as our team that assists customers is going to grow quite a bit. And a couple of acquisitions will give us synergy. Fuel to the fire today, but I think it's going to add another floor to the building that we've built already,’ Faisal Bhutto, Computex's president of cloud and cybersecurity tells CRN.

Computex is moving quickly to capitalize on its new status as part of a publicly-listed company to expand its business and prepare for future acquisitions of fellow solution providers.

Computex, officially part of publicly-listed American Virtual Cloud Technologies for three months, has charged out of the gate with a move to reorient its business operations to developing services that will fuel the growth of remote business operations which took off because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic but which are expected to become the new normal for business, said Faisal Bhutto, president of cloud and cybersecurity for the Houston-based solution provider.

The company is also on the prowl for new acquisition opportunities as a way to increase its professional and managed services expertise and geographical reach, Bhutto told CRN.

[Related: Computex CEO Sam Haffar Steps Down; EVP Faisal Bhutto, CTO Worth Davis Both Promoted]

"Times are tough," he said. "Only well-run, efficient solution providers are the ones that are going to be able to sustain growth or frankly sometime to survive, even though they're in a very hot industry."

The new Computex was born in July of 2019 when the company, which was founded in 1987, agreed to be acquired by Pensare Acquisition for about $65 million in cash, stock, and assumed debt.

The deal closed in early April, at which time Pensare changed its name to American Virtual Cloud Technologies and became a public company under the symbol "AVCT."

That was just as the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic was ramping. Bhutto said that validated Computex's strategy of investing heavily in developing new and expanded professional and managed services and related solutions, an investment he said will pay off as the pandemic forces businesses to expand remote operations and adjust to new business normals even after the crisis passes.

This includes building a new sales force focused on cloud and cybersecurity and managed services, he said.

"There's a lot of focus on managed services and cloud services," he said. "So we are actually building a team of sales folks and solutions architects that will be focused on selling new solutions that are launching under the AVCT brand."

Those include new solutions focused on SD-WAN, enhanced productivity solutions for remote home workers, cybersecurity solutions for remote workforces, and UCaaS as video, video-over-IP, and collaboration solutions become critical for businesses, he said.

These are aimed at enhancing the productivity and security of businesses whose people and intellectual capital is becoming increasingly distributed, Bhutto said. "We don't see them coming back and becoming centralized again," he said.

Computex, like most solution providers, is expecting the move to remote operations to impact product and services development even after the COVID-19 crisis passes, Bhutto said.

"Before, we used to target branches and customer locations and who's in the office," he said. "The whole approach is now changing to, knowing the fact that half the workforce is likely going to work remotely, how do we target them and how do we help those clients. Half of that is refinement of the solution set that we have, and the rest of it will be new launches."

The new services focus is being complemented with the hiring by year-end of an expected 40 new salespeople, system architects, and delivery people with expertise on those solutions and services, Bhutto said.

"We're very keen on training and educating specialized sellers to go after the recurring revenue subscription play," he said.

Recruitment for the new sales team has started. The first round of interviews is starting this week. This week will also see new demand generation activities which will feed leads to Computex's new focused sales team later this month, Bhutto said.

During the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, WebEx and other video meetings have become standard interviewing tools, and virtual field tours have been designed to help new employees become acquainted with Computex, Bhutto said.

However, he said, challenges remain with bringing in new employees during the pandemic, particularly the challenge of maintaining corporate culture.

"How do you maintain the cultural identity that organizations have built that have been the core reason for their growth and success?" he said. "How do you do that when you don't have the opportunity to do as much team building as in the past, or when there's no cooler talk or hallway meetings or lunches that get formed in groups? Organizations have to actively work on that. And frankly that can be challenging as you incorporate new people into the organization."

This challenge requires new ways of interacting with employees, Bhutto said.

"There's virtual happy hours," he said. "There's team events. The good news is, a lot of time people are working from home. So families are beginning to see what their spouses are doing. In the past, you could only see the families at the Christmas party. But now in the video meetings, sometimes there are kids in the background, and that's OK. That's one way of inclusion and making sure people feel like part of one big family. They've got one family at home, and now another that's virtual."

The second part of Computex's growth strategy is a focus on inorganic growth via acquisitions.

AVC Technologies was founded to do an acquisition, and Computex was its first purchase. However, the company plans to acquire other solution providers, Bhutto said.

"As time progresses and we see opportunities for M&A activity come up, we will absolutely entertain them," he said "In this market where not everybody may survive, we definitely expect to acquire some value plays in the market and grow the business. This is the right time as well as people start adjusting to operating in this new environment."

Prior to becoming part of AVC Technologies, Computex had made four acquisitions, and along the way became the Houston, Texas metropolitan area's top cloud and managed services provider and the top cybersecurity player with its own dedicated 24-by-7-by-365 network operations center, Bhutto said.

"So we're fairly used to inorganic growth, acquiring companies, integrating them, enhancing their portfolios, and cross-selling into their customer bases," he said. "The muscle we get with AVCT at the public level with some of the most amazing names in the industry in our executive list ... brings a different level of expertise to our capabilities. And frankly, the growth target through acquisitions is a big focus for us."

ACV Technologies is looking at acquiring companies that have a loyal customer base and lead with value creation for customers through professional and managed services, and have transformed their business and are not waiting for the next purchase order, Bhutto said.

"Frankly, our initial target is companies that have built a good mix of traditional solution provider business, OEM sales backed by services, and managed services," he said. "That means that they have either evolved or have started to evolve."

Other potential acquisition targets could include solution providers who have struggled from the loss of a single customer which impacted the health of the entire company, Bhutto said. "We would love to talk to them to see how we could bring them to the family and help them retain the talent and the customers they have acquired and fuel their growth."

Like for most companies, the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is having a big impact on Computex.

Despite the recent re-opening of Texas after the lockdowns of the past few months, Computex is not encouraging its people to get out and visit customers face-to-face, Bhutto said.

"We're very sensitive to what's going on in all the states in which we operate," he said. "We understand there's a new norm, and we all have to learn to live it, which means learning new ways of selling, and new ways of delivering while keeping customer satisfaction high."

By year-end, Computex expects its biggest change will be the expansion of its solution portfolio thanks to the investment that came with the acquisition by AVC Technologies.

"Our solution portfolio is going to expand," he said. "Our capabilities as well as our team that assists customers is going to grow quite a bit. And a couple of acquisitions will give us synergy. Fuel to the fire today, but I think it's going to add another floor to the building that we've built already."

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