Jenne's Growth Comes From VAD Depth, Not Breadth

With many distributors rushing to evolve their business models, Jenne posted 30 percent year-over-year growth from this year to last, and is projecting same for this year, all behind what it's termed the right investments for its core solution provider partners.

That, said its top executive, and pushing a personal touch that it's been honing for 25 years as a family-owned VAD have been the keys to Jenne's success.

"We are growing our SMB business, and we made these investments in data, videoconferencing and large enterprise," said David Johnson, president and CEO of Jenne, based in Avon, Ohio. "We grew more than 30 percent organically in a period where we know our competitors were down, and we're a national player at this point."

Jenne, which this year celebrates its silver anniversary, was for years known as a specialist in SMB telephony. But with Johnson's ascent, the distributor has aggressively expanded into adjacent categories with hot growth potential like video and also into large enterprise-centric technologies.

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Johnson, well-known to the networking channel as senior vice president of global alliances and channel development at Avaya, was tabbed for the top job at Jenne in May 2008.

What he hears from VARs most consistently, he said, is a need to drive incremental growth opportunity for areas in which they can logically expand. Video, for many solution providers weaned on the telephony and unified communications spaces, is one natural path, and why Jenne established a key relationship with LifeSize, whose video and infrastructure products cater to many of Jenne's VARs' customer sets.

"If you look at video, it was always a bit of a niche play," Johnson said. "But now you have midsize companies deploying video, and using video every week to communicate with vendors and do field sales reviews. Prices have changed, and it's become intuitive and easy to use."

Behind the incremental sales push, Johnson said, some of Jenne's biggest investments have been training tools.

In mid-July, for example, Jenne went live with an online training system called the Jenne Design Center, which is targeted at Avaya enterprise-focused VARs who want a Web-based tool for designing Avaya solutions with customized product and pricing criteria. In essence, VARs get a central repository of Avaya documentation, including design notes and customer data, and a virtual "design center" for creating, configuring testing Avaya and multi-vendor customer solutions.

The combined Avaya-Nortel portfolio is a pronounced specialty within Jenne, which offers a full training curriculum called "Design to Win" focused specifically on Avaya products in the enterprise.

That level of focus has given Johnson and his team a front-row seat to the Avaya-Nortel integration, which has seen its share of challenges, Johnson said, but also a lot of opportunity for Jenne's reseller customers.

"We're seeing a lot of the legacy Avaya resellers looking to pick up a lot of the [former Nortel] products," he said. "And we're pleased to see Avaya's focus in data networking because so many end users want to buy their IP telephony and their data from a single vendor."

In addition to its training investments, Jenne has also been hiring, and among the veteran channel names that have joined its stable are Ken Fabozzi, formerly a 17-year Ingram Micro executive, and now Jenne's vice president, U.S. sales.

Look for Jenne to maintain its level of focus, Johnson said, and go deep rather than wide.

"For the forseeable future, we're going to stay focused in the broad categories we're in, and they're large categories like SMB and video," he said. "What we're doing is adding complementary vendors that hit the spaces we do. Getting into a completely new space, we have such good traction and and I don't want to spread the company thin. We provide a personal touch and I'm careful to not have us take on more than we should."