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SADA CEO Tony Safoian On Rebranding To Build A ‘Forever Company’

The innovative Google partner, approaching the milestone of $1 billion in revenue, is refreshing its look and customer messaging to lay the groundwork for a potential IPO in three years.

A new look and messaging will usher SADA Systems, Google’s largest cloud reseller, into the next phase of its 20-year history, one that lays the groundwork for a “forever company,” founder and CEO Tony Safoian told CRN.

The Los Angeles-based born-in-the-cloud consultancy has been on a tear since it refocused its practice entirely on Google Cloud last year—one that’s only accelerated through the coronavirus pandemic.

In light of becoming Google’s first partner to reach $1 billion in annual revenue, Safoian decided it was a good moment to step back, examine his company’s value to customers and social responsibility posture, and then refresh the brand to align with a potential public offering within three years.

“When you grow organically year after year, you almost don’t realize how much the company has changed,” Safoian said. “It’s like watching your child get taller.”

[Related: SADA Systems Sets Sights On $500 Million In Google MSP Revenue]

While a decision to aim for an IPO hasn’t been made, it’s important, either way, to take on the characteristics of a publicly traded company, Safoian said.

“Becoming IPO-ready is the highest standard of discipline, diligence, financial controls, board control, growth. An IPO would create a forever company, way past my ability to be the CEO,” Safoian said.

While going public isn’t the only possible outcome, he said, “we like to use that as a rallying cry for our executive team because we know that’s the highest standard.”

Whether SADA, started two decades ago as a tiny IT shop by Safoian and his father, stays in the Safoian family’s control, or opens to investors, one route that’s not under consideration is an acquisition of the kind that’s swallowed up many of his former peers.

Safoian would rather play the infinite game.

“We’ve seen many competitors exit the game by selling themselves. We don’t want the value to disappear in the midst of some huge acquisition that ends up happening,” he told CRN.

The latest re-evaluation process involved looking at how the company is different from the systems integration giants of the world and other prominent cloud services resellers.

One significant differentiator is SADA’s decision to buck a trend of solution providers expanding their offerings across clouds by divesting last year from its Microsoft practice to become a pure-play Google partner.

Selling a thriving Microsoft Cloud practice to Core BTS was a plan widely second-guessed throughout an industry increasingly trending toward multi-cloud environments.

But Safoian’s vision was of an opinionated consultancy, powered by what he believes is the industry’s most capable cloud, and not trying to be all things to all customers.

“We had notions and ambitions around how much better we could execute by being a key player in one ecosystem,” he said. “That is a different way of going to market versus the GSIs that have to be agnostic.”

The bet paid off, outperforming expectations both on the financial side and in the ability to attract talent.

“The types of people we would be able to hire, like Miles Ward, would not have come to SADA if we were some multi-cloud player,” Safoian said, referring to his CTO, formerly Google Cloud’s solutions director.

That halo effect has enabled SADA to recruit highly respected experts in the Google ecosystem as its workforce expands; SADA started the year at 200 employees and will end it with 320.

As SADA has scaled and matured, its customers have gotten bigger, as have their expectations, Safoian said.

“A lot of our customers are making the biggest financial commitment they’ll ever make to us and Google Cloud,” Safoian said. “They’re betting their whole company and their journey of success on us and Google Cloud to make that a reality for them.

Safoian recognizes going public is a rare event for an systems integrator or MSP.

As such, the SADA leadership team has been studying early channel powerhouses like Presidio and World Wide Technology that made big bets on Cisco early on—decisions that propelled public offerings.

The yearlong process of rethinking its branding not only generated new logos, web design and customer messaging, but also an approach to using technology to drive societal change, including support for programs focused on diversity, inclusion and development of the next generation of cloud engineers.

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