Carousel-Atrion Launches Cisco Offensive; '1-Plus-1 Equals $1 Billion'

Carousel Industries is striving to become a $1 billion solution provider by rapidly scaling up its brand new Cisco practice through its recent acquisition of fellow Rhode Island solution provider Atrion.

For the first time, $400 million solution provider powerhouse Carousel – a top Avaya and Juniper Networks channel partner -- is now partnering with networking leader Cisco as both companies shift their sales focus from selling hardware to software and services. To give its new Cisco business a shot in the arm, Carousel acquired Cisco-focused Atrion.

Leaders from Carousel, Atrion and Cisco gathered Wednesday at the Boston Harbor Hotel in Boston to talk about their bullish growth projections. In front of about 200 employees and customers, Atrion CEO Tim Hebert said, "One plus one equals 11 – you got to think big."

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Cisco's Eric Strauss, manager of partner operations in the Northeast region, took it a step further saying, "In our eyes, one-plus-one equals [$1] billion."

Jeff Gardner, CEO and co-founder of Carousel, said his company has been pondering the idea of becoming a Cisco channel partner for five or six years. After talking to Hebert in late 2015 about a potential acquisition of Atrion, Carousel pulled the trigger as the three companies now share the same vision of no longer simply selling products, but business outcome solutions.

"Back in the day, it was great selling upgrades and those types of things, but we went about 18 months ago and focused on changing the conversation and we're really bringing these business outcomes to or clients base," said James Marsh, chief revenue offer at Exeter, R.I.-based Carousel, No. 64 on the CRN's Solution Provider 500 list.

"Atrion is going down that same path and I know Cisco is as well," said Marsh. "The alignment on what we're trying to bring to our client base and the real value is really exciting to us."

Last year, for the first time in Carousel's 24-year history, service revenue outpaced product sales – 51 percent to 49 percent. Gardner said that gap will widen next year, projecting that 53 percent of Carousel's revenue will be derived from services, with 47 percent coming from products.

About 75 percent of Carousel's 5,000 clients are using Cisco, according to Marsh, which will boost its services arm to help reach the $1 billion mark in the near future.

Atrion, which has been working with Cisco for more than 20 years, derives roughly half of its $140 million in annual sales from the San Jose, Calif.-based networking giant and owns a large portfolio and services practices around Cisco.

"This represents the ability to continue to grow our companies at a very high rate and that growth allows us to create opportunities for our clients and employees to help transform their organizations," said Hebert, who will stay on board for at least three years. "Combined, I think we can do a lot of great things for the years to come."

The combined company will have more than 1,300 employees across the country and deliver upwards of $550 million in annual revenues.

Gardner stressed that its new Cisco business will be incremental sales, but also expects its "bread-and-butter" Avaya business to remain strong.

"Avaya is still super important for us. Avaya our fast-ball," said Gardner. "We're all about growing out our Avaya business."

Carousel also hinted that Atrion is just the first acquisition in its path. "This has probably been the most exciting opportunity of acquisition-merger that we're doing," said Marsh.