Denali’s New EVP Sales Is Second Exec Hired Outside Founding Family

‘I’ve seen personally his ability to manage a kind of a multibillion-dollar business. It’s nice to bring people on board that have helped scale to larger-size businesses. [And] not too many people have a background of having been in a VAR and being part of two of our largest OEM partnerships and also operated on a global level,’ says Denali CEO Robert Vrij.


Robert Vrij (left) and Phil Castillo

Denali Advanced Integration, a $1.5-billion IT solution provider that until last month was run by the three brothers who 30 years ago founded the company, has hired its second high-level executive from outside the founding family.

Phil Castillo — a former Oracle, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Cisco executive — late last month joined Denali as the company’s first-ever executive vice president of sales with a mandate to unite the company’s different sales regions into a single organization as a way to build for future growth.

The hiring of Castillo as Denali’s first executive vice president of sales comes just weeks after Denali appointed Robert Vrij as CEO. Vrij, Denali’s second CEO in 30 years, took over that role from Majdi Daher, one of the three brothers who founded Denali. At the same time, Daher, along with brothers Mitch and Alex, formed the company first-ever formal board of directors.

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[Related: Denali CEO Majdi Daher: Family Business Looks Outside For Future Growth]

Denali Advanced Integration is ranked No. 37 on CRN’s 2022 Solution Provider 500.

Castillo and Vrij have known each other for years, with Castillo reporting to Vrij for a few years while at HPE, Vrij told CRN.

“I’ve seen personally his ability to manage a kind of a multi-billion-dollar business,” he said. “It’s nice to bring people on board that have helped scale to larger size businesses. [And] not too many people have a background of having been in a VAR and being part of two of our largest OEM partnerships and also operated on a global level.”

Castillo steps into a new role at Redmond, Wash.-based Denali, Vrij said.

“Denali historically has had a lot of our sales function in areas where they’re fragmented,” he said. “We’re bringing all of the sales capacity and capability under Phil so that we can orchestrate our interfaces to our customers a little bit more in line with the real value and the assets that we have in people and bring those to bear so that we can really help our customers get to the better business outcomes that they‘re looking for.”

Denali was looking to bring someone into the role with extensive sales experience as well as the ability to work closely with customers at the executive level, Vrij said.

“Phil has spent a over decade interfacing at the C-suite,” he said. “And the business outcomes there are very different than what you might find in lower parts of the organization, even at the VP level, for instance. So bringing this level of experience to bear is great. We‘re always looking to take the direction of the company where our customers are saying they’re having or needing the most help, such as cloud migration, other sophisticated services, security software, as-a-service, as a for instance, machine learning. These things are all within his wheelhouse.”

Castillo told CRN that he has known Denali since 1999 or 2000 when he was helping Cisco build its original channel organization. At the time, he moved to the Pacific Northwest where he had the chance to meet the company and build a long-time relationship. He also worked with Denali as part of his role as vice president of sales for the western U.S. at HPE.

Watching Denali grow while remaining private really made the solution provider stand apart from its peers, Castillo said.

“A lot of the other VARs were running towards some type of an event,” he said. “And I think [Majdi Daher’s] event was customer success and customer value. And I always respected that. I was involved with his philanthropy. I was involved in a number of his charity golf tournaments and other things and happily participated. And then I got engaged and saw how he runs his business.”

Seeing Vrij join Denali, combined with how Daher has build the company, made Castillo bullish on Denali’s prospects, Castillo said.

“And more than anything, what they are going to try and do is to add onto the existing value they bring to their clients to move up the value pyramid with those clients,” he said. “That‘s something I’m very comfortable with, and I feel like my acumen and my network can deliver on that.”

The idea of bringing someone like Castillo into what has been a family-run business for 30 years started almost as soon as Vrij joined Denali initially as an advisor a year ago this month, Vrij said.

Through that process of working together with Majdi, we looked at where can we put additional emphasis around that whole concept I bought into relative to putting customers first and also looking at those assets that are just so phenomenal in this business,” he said. “My Rolodex had several people that I looked at as potential people that could help us move from a fragmented to a consolidated situation. And Phil just stood out.”

Castillo said he currently is in listening mode, spending time with the existing sales team, and doesn’t have a timeline for making major changes.

“I don‘t think this team, the entire sales team, has ever been brought together as one team,” he said. “So I think the first thing is to bring the team together and get them centered around the vision Robert and Majdi put together for the company around talent, technology, and scale. And so that’s number one. At the same time, I‘ll be looking for areas where we can we can potentially add incremental value through talent or through customer relationships.”

The hiring of Castillo fits with Vrij’s concept of how important a company’s sales organization is to driving the company’s profit while working closely with customers, Vrij said.

“The emphasis for me will be to drive to the empowerment of our sales organization in front of our customers and make sure we have folks that have a greater ability to build relationships as well,” he said. “So sales in this new structure is independent of whatever strategy or new investments that we seek to make. It’s going to be the empowerment of the sales organization as the key driver for all of us.”

Vrij said that Denali for now is done making additions to the company’s C-level executive team.

“We‘ll stay focused on making sure that we take an incrementalist approach to the foundation that’s already here,” he said. “Phil’s role is the key position for us as we go forward, one that we know we can scale with. … So this is the addition that I‘m focusing on now. [I] never say never, but I feel like the foundation relative to good people and leadership is here. But my job is to make sure that if there’s a new position to be carved out that we bring people like Phil into the business.”