When Mark Melillo founded the company that carries his name, he was a superstar technologist known for delivering breakthrough solutions for demanding Fortune 100 companies.
At the time, Melillo -- a technical consultant for Hewlett Packard – had become a prominent technology brand unto himself as a result of his growing reputation as the best of the best at application design, complex systems and even early work on artificial intelligence-based systems. In addition to his technology smarts, Melillo was highly regarded for his ability to develop customer relationships in pressure-packed IT scenarios.
That undisputed technology prowess – now delivered by a corps of world-class engineers -- along with a maniacal focus on nurturing and developing long-lasting customer relationships is still the heartbeat of Melillo Consulting, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.
"We go the extra mile for our customers," said Melillo of the company's rise to become one of the most respected solution providers in the country with a growing cloud consulting and software footprint. "That's just what we do. Sometimes we do a consulting project and we don't make any money on it. Sometimes we lose money on it. I always think long term with our customers. We develop good relationships because we do a good job of doing what we say we are going to do."
Doing what you say you are going to do requires the top talent in the business, said Melillo. "The secret is we have really good people," he said. "We are pretty selective about who we hire, and we have a tremendous culture of teamwork. That isn't just smart people. That is people that are willing to work with each other. It is a very strong team environment."
That strong team environment with a focus on going the extra mile for customers has become one of the hallmarks of Melillo Consulting. The trademark Melillo Consulting team work ethic has its roots in Melillo's upbringing in a blue-collar family in which athletic achievement and competitive fire were highly prized. Melillo's father -- a union fire prevention sprinkler system fitter -- was a fiery athlete who tried out as a pitcher for the New York Yankees. Melillo and his three brothers all played baseball, football, basketball and golf. "We were all good at sports," said Melillo, who played on the golf team at the University of Delaware, graduating with a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering/computer science.
After getting his degree, Melillo -- only the second member of his family to graduate from college -- went to work for Hewlett Packard, where he was a standout in presales support before becoming a powerhouse technology consultant. Melillo's breakthrough project was a challenging AT&T job to port critical applications from Digital Equipment Corp. VAXes to HP/UX. "I spent a year doing it and we won both parts of the business," he recalled. "That launched my career. The stuff I did was well beyond what most technical guys could do. I learned a ton and built myself a name."
That name became a big door-opener when the then-28-year-old officially formed Melillo Consulting on Feb. 22, 1988. The company was an instant hit as a result of Melillo's technology muscle, relationship-building and sterling reputation. "I was hoping to keep busy half of the time in the first year, but I billed out six days a week from the day I left HP," he said. "As soon as I left I got phone calls and started landing projects, and it just kept going."
Each year, the company added more highly skilled technology talent and consultants, once again in no small part due to Melillo and his growing team's ability to deliver on tough technology projects. "Every person I hired initially was very good and then other people would see the talent we were acquiring and then they wanted to come," said Melillo. "We had good momentum. We kept hiring good people. That gave us more customers and it just had momentum."
Melillo's wife, Karen, a former senior systems engineer at HP, joined the company as vice president of administration in 1990. His brother Gary, a highly regarded HP regional sales manager, came on board in 1995. Gary helped kick sales into the stratosphere, moving the consulting company into the channel with a reselling relationship with HP.
"HP had just started this thing called the channel, which we all know and love now," said Melillo. "That was in the early '90s. Up until that point the only way you could sell an HP product was if you were an OEM. I had the consulting business cranking and Gary started building the product business. When Gary came in, the business went meteoric. You can only grow consulting so fast. When Gary came in we started selling multimillion-dollar resale projects and the business took off."
Even as the HP business skyrocketed, Melillo Consulting adopted a multivendor solution provider business in the 2001 time frame -- reselling EMC boxes under the HP OEM umbrella. Even though the company was building out an EMC installed base, EMC's sales team looked at it as HP-centric. That changed with some major channel changes at EMC, the hiring of some top EMC channel talent by Melillo, and an all-out move to the channel by Dell. "That's a huge business for us now," Melillo said. "One reason is Dell hired John Byrne to build a channel program and, frankly, he went out and built a really good channel program."
Gary, nine years older than Mark, decided to step back from the business in 2008. Mark bought his share, but Gary still works as a part-time consultant. The buyout came just before the economic meltdown in 2009. Not the best timing.
Mark said what sustained him during that period was the Rock of Gibraltar-like relationships he had built with both his vendor partners and customers. "I didn't really have the option to get out because it was so important to me, both mentally because I created it and financially because I had put so much into it," he said. "I remember telling my wife, 'I really have no choice but to make this work.' Failure was not an option."
Melillo said he buckled down and doubled down on his vendor and customer relationships even as scores of other solution providers were going out of business. "Everybody's business was suffering based on the recession," he said. "All of your financial services customers stopped buying. I had $10 million deals that were supposed to be signed and went away. It was a disaster. We had 22 years of just great business and then we were staring down a gun barrel."
It was Melillo's strong relationships and strong team that sustained the company. "I had great relationships with HP on the vendor side and Avnet on the distribution side, and I worked with them," he said. "Then I made some really good investments in people. Good people become available when companies are struggling. I already had good people and then I found more good people I wanted to add to the mix. We made a bunch of good moves."
Those good moves took Melillo Consulting from the 2009 downturn into sales growth mode again. As the company came out of the downturn, Melillo began rearchitecting the company for a new era of sales growth – once again building on its basic tenets of technology prowess, rock-solid relationships and top-of-the-pyramid talent.
In January 2015, Melillo brought on board sales superstar Joe Staiber – a 15-year EMC veteran who was overseeing all of the North America channel business for the storage giant. Staiber rearchitected the sales offensive and helped drive significant across-the-board sales gains.
Then in July 2016, Melillo brought on board Dan Sytsma -- a 30-year-plus industry veteran who was heading up sales for services behemoth Logicalis – as vice president and general manager. Sytsma has provided a steady chief operating officer hand and been key in driving new services.
With CFO Bob Shoyhet – a 17-year Melillo veteran, the trio has taken on the day-to-day responsibility for the company, giving Melillo more time to focus on long-term strategy, including acquisitions.
That focus on building the company for the future is paying off. Thirteen months ago, Melillo acquired Quadrix Solutions, widely recognized as one of the top Splunk partners in the country.
That deal has put Melillo at the intersection of the hottest digital transformation markets – big data analytics, security and business intelligence. It also gave Melillo more top-notch technical talent and leadership including Tom Palmieri -- a leading technologist who was a key member of Cloudmeter, which was acquired by Splunk five years ago, and BeatBox Technologies, which was acquired by Mercury Interactive and then by HP.
"We knew those guys well from working with them in the HP IT operations management," said Melillo of Quadrix. "They had built a really nice Splunk business. We were paying attention to where the market was going and they have become a real strategic business for us."
Hiring The Best: Giving People The Freedom To Be Successful
Shoyhet, a former auditor for PWC who has an accounting degree and an MBA, said Melillo's genius lies in his ability to "hire the best and bring out the best in people." Most businesses the size of Melillo Consulting would balk at the kind of talent and overhead that Mark has brought on board, said Shoyhet.
"Mark doesn't look at it that way," he said. "He knows that good people will bring value and will make money. We invest a lot in our people. In most businesses, the average make or break for a sales rep is six to eight months. Here we invest in the long term with a focus on what is the plan and what are the strategies to succeed. There is an investment of more time and money, but the return is unquestionably stronger."
The average tenure for a Melillo Consulting employee is 10 years, said Shoyhet. "The spotlight is on every person in the company from the administrative assistant to the owner," he said. "We are not 10,000 people. Every person must shine. We can't afford not to have every person perform at 110 percent. In return, you get a ton of flexibility. You don't have someone standing over your shoulder. You are trusted to do the right thing. It's almost like each person is running their own miniature business, whether you are a sales rep, consultant or an operations person. It is a whole chain that is unbroken. That is the secret sauce. We hire the best people. They are professionals. They know what to do and they are trusted to do their job. That speaks to the Melillo culture."
Shoyhet said Melillo has fostered more of a "family" culture built on teamwork than a traditional by-the-numbers business. "If I was going to a write book it would be based on how Mark has built a culture around how to treat people as people -- not purely as employees," he said. "A lot of companies overlook the human side of the business. We're all concerned about the bottom line but as Mark famously said to me when I started here: 'It's not all about the numbers.' That has stayed with me ever since. If it is only about the numbers, you will not be successful. It is just that simple. People do more when you treat them right. They'll bring you the numbers and then some. That is the culture."
Shoyhet said the company's ability to thrive for over 30 years in a market moving at lightning speed is a testament to Melillo's "sixth sense" on the next big technology shift that will benefit customers. "Mark sits in his war room, puts on his thinking cap and comes out with a strategy to move the company one way or another," he said. "The Quadrix investment is one of those strategic decisions. We have outperformed the first year projection. Long term, it feels like a big winner. A big part of this industry is knowing what's going to get hot and investing in that business. You have to have the resources, certification and training to make that commitment."
Best-In-Class Technical Capabilities In Infrastructure, Applications And Software Integration
Staiber, who during his tenure at EMC worked with 4,600 partners in the U.S. EMC business, said it is Melillo Consulting's ability to act as a true solutions company with expertise in technology infrastructure, software and applications integration that separates it from competitors.
"We can go up against the biggest and baddest integrators on the planet and we'll beat them because of our skill set," he said. "There are so many companies out there that say they are a solutions company or an integrator. But at the end of the day, they are an infrastructure company that knows server and storage or are a consulting company or just a software integrator. I am so proud that I can send my team into an account and they can look at business process, applications, software integration, testing, infrastructure, cloud. They can do it all. That is the most exciting part of being here. My confidence level with this team is the highest it can get. If we get our resources in front of a customer, we won't lose."
That full solutions capability was front and center last year when a large national bank was looking to fix a hard-to-solve software integration issue. HPE had brought Melillo Consulting o the table after several solution providers came up short. It was the red-hot software engineering talent from Splunk that helped solve the problem. "We got into that account solving a pretty tough QA [quality assurance] software testing problem with our insanely smart Splunk consultants that were digging into the customer's IT environment," Staiber said. "These are the guys that Splunk hires to install Splunk. How cool is that? The customer was was so impressed that it just opened up more and more opportunities including a Splunk opportunity, HPE Synergy, and a deal for 400 new HPE servers to replace every single branch office computing system."
A Mid-Atlantic health-care provider that has become one of Melillo Consulting's top customers is another company that was won over by its technology prowess. The company started doing one-off small projects with Melillo Consulting and now uses it for 100 percent of its infrastructure services and integration. "The confidence level of the customer goes through the roof once they see the technical people we bring into the account," said Staiber. "A hardware sale is easy once you have convinced the customer you will take care of them on the implementation and integration side."
Staiber said one of the hallmarks of the company's culture is its steadfast commitment to customers. "We are not trying to ring every bell on the planet," he said. "We want to continue to do what we are doing, which is take care of our customers. If we take care of our customers, we will be able to grow at a nice, healthy pace. There is a humbleness to how Melillo operates. There is a lot to be said for that in today's market."
A 30-Year Legacy: Stability And Credibility
Sytsma, who has known Mark Melillo for most of the 30 years that the company has been in business, said what attracted him to the company was the "stability and credibility" of Melillo as a consulting and product powerhouse for three decades.
Mark, in fact, has a chart that includes the sales and profit records of every quarter over the last 30 years. "A lot of solution providers just don’t have that long-term perspective," said Sytsma. "A lot of companies in this business have either been acquired or they fail and reinvent themselves somewhere else. The fact that we have this long-term perspective on the business – the highs and the lows – says volumes about who we are as a company and what we mean to customers, vendor partners and employees."
One of the keys to the company's success over those three decades is that it has remained true to its "roots" as a consulting company "truly focused around consultative selling and sales – solving real-world problems for customers," said Sytsma ."Most solution providers are very product-centric and have tried to figure out how to get into services. Melillo has always sold in a consultative manner with consulting services. That is how Mark started the company."
That trusted adviser/consultative approach with a heavy investment in technology-savvy sales and presales reps is a big differentiator in driving strategic vendor relationships, said Sytsma. "Our vendor partners appreciate the value we bring to their technologies and solutions. They know when they work with Melillo that we have their back with the sales and technical expertise to define the requirements and position their products effectively and then successfully implement the solutions.They like working with Melillo because we execute."
Sytsma sees Melillo as the ultimate entrepreneur with strong technical, business and people skills. "I have worked with a lot of executives in this industry and it's a very unique blend that you just don't see that often," he said. "He is a true entrepreneur. Mark is not afraid to invest in new areas."
In fact, Melillo Consulting – which counts HPE, Dell EMC, Micro Focus, Splunk and ServiceNow as key strategic partners -- is now investing in a new class of emerging vendors like Nexthink and New Relic as it builds out a comprehensive services architecture to help customers get more out of their IT investments. "We see ourselves as the glue for our customers, coming in as an integrator with a true solution based on our technical skills with software, hardware and infrastructure," said Sytsma. "That is really resonating with customers."
Resonating indeed. Melillo Consulting is coming off two years of record sales with plans for even bigger sales growth in the years ahead. Melillo himself is looking at future acquisitions aimed at helping customers make the digital transformation. "I'm looking at the next thing we should do to set ourselves up for the next five years," he said.
That means not getting complacent or focusing on the past, said Melillo – who has seen far too many technology companies get arrogant and then get knocked down. "The analogy I use is Mike Tyson never knew he could get knocked down until he was knocked down," said Melillo. "When you dominate a market, it builds arrogance and arrogance will always expose your underbelly. One of the things I have learned in this industry is not to be arrogant."
Even as competitors he has battled over the years have sold their companies, closed up shop or lost their competitive fire, Melillo remains squarely focused on what has gotten him to the top of the business -- great talent, great technology solutions and long-lasting customer relationships. "We know if we don't make the right technology investments and do the right thing by customers, it can turn," he said. "You grow when you pay attention and put energy into it. I still have a passion for the business. That has not changed."
That passion will be on display as the company celebrates its 30th anniversary as part of its annual sales kickoff meeting on Feb. 6 in Atlantic City. As for how Melillo himself is responding to the 30-year milestone, he said he is taking to the heart the advice he has given as a football coach to his young players, including his own three sons. "I don't like guys spending too much time celebrating a touchdown," he said. "I like to celebrate when the game is over and you win."
For Melillo, the game is far from over. He sees many touchdowns ahead with the strong team he has assembled to drive digital transformation gains for customers. "What I really feel good about is the team I have," he said. "If you have a lot of talent on your team, you will win your share of games. Some coaches win more than they should and some less than they should. But if you have a good group of talent, you will win your share of games. We have great talent and good leadership. We are going to win our share of games."