Michigan Solution Provider Avalon Technologies Scoops Up Former Dell VP Horan As CEO

A longtime Dell sales executive has been hired as CEO of 100 percent Dell solution provider Avalon Technologies with a mandate to drive data center growth as the industry consolidates.

Avalon, a Dell Premier partner based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., told CRN it hired Mark Horan as CEO to boost the company's growth. The company intends to expand geographically and hire aggressively with Horan at the helm, said Brian Flynn, the company's founder.

Horan takes over for Flynn as CEO. Flynn said he intends to stay on after Horan takes the reins.

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Flynn told CRN that Avalon -- a 20-person solution provider working primarily around data center -- has seen double-digit revenue growth with Dell in recent years. The solution provider needs a CEO like Horan, Flynn said, to navigate that growth amid sweeping IT industry changes, including the ascendance of cloud and widespread consolidation.

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"You look at the industry consolidation that's happening at the manufacturer level, and it's no secret they are trying to pick go-to partners," Flynn said. To get noticed, solution providers have to demonstrate their ability to grow and their loyalty to their vendors, as well as their commitment to customers, he said.

Flynn said the growth strategy Horan is tasked with executing revolves around taking on the product lines Dell is set to gain in its more-than $60 billion acquisition of EMC, hiring people across the Avalon business and expanding geographically.

"If they do it right, the opportunity for solution providers like Avalon is huge," Horan told CRN. "They're small, but they're very capable. They have a great tech team that's very focused on the data center, and that's always been a recipe for success for channel partners, that singular focus. When you add EMC, it's a great opportunity."

Horan said Avalon, which has accounts in health care, education, state and local government and SMBs, has been successful in its home state of Michigan, as well as in Tennessee. He said he sees great opportunity for the company in the Texas market, as well as on the eastern seaboard.

Horan said Avalon will continue to concentrate on data center business, and will remain exclusively a Dell partner, but may expand into end-user compute opportunities as it hires people with expertise in that area.

He made it clear, though, that he intends to be careful not to move more quickly than a company of Avalon's size should.

"There are so many different opportunities that you have to make sure you don't do it too quickly," Horan said. "We have to stick to our knitting with our capabilities in data center, bringing cloud services around it, and there's opportunity to grow with Dell and EMC. There are huge opportunities in anything in the data center."

Flynn said Avalon, which he founded in 2002, has embraced the transition to doing business as a service provider, rather than just a hardware reseller.

"It's all about customer service, and being a value-added service provider," Flynn said. "Customers want value-added services, and service drives bottom-line revenue, but there are other opportunities where there's no revenue for you, because the customer is in a jam and you just have to solve the problem -- and that goes a long way toward adding to the top-line revenue down the road."

Horan was vice president of sales inside Dell's preferred accounts division for commercial and public sector business until about four months ago, when Dell rejiggered its sales organization around a geographic model.

"It was a good time to step out and reassess what I wanted to do," said Horan, a Texas native who had been with Round Rock, Texas-based Dell for about 20 years.