The Right Connection: Carousel's Acquisition Of Atrion Has Created Unified Telecom Powerhouse

Despite hailing from the smallest state in the U.S., Carousel Industries and Atrion Networking are grabbing big wins in the telecom space following Carousel's acquisition of Atrion in 2016.

The two Rhode Island-based solution providers each had their own carrier services divisions but have taken the best of both practices to create a unified telecom powerhouse with a nationwide reach.

In an interview with CRN, Carousel’s Tim Kennedy, vice president of carrier services, and Darryl Senese, director of carrier services business, said the combination of the two telecom practices has led to explosive growth. At the same time, Carousel is helping its hardware VAR partners get into carrier services and evolve their business to include recurring revenue.

[Related: Solution Provider Carousel Industries Launches First-Ever Partner Program, Expects It To Be 'Major Growth Engine']

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Promoting carrier services must start at the top. Atrion's leadership always supported and promoted the telecom division, and Carousel has "doubled down" on telecom following the acquisition of Atrion, Kennedy said.

"By being able to provide that broader, holistic solution, we're acting more as the customer's champion and trusted partner because we're not just looking at their hardware, we are looking at things like cloud and video but the connectivity these solutions need, too," he said.

To create a carrier services division that included the best of what both companies were offering, Carousel and Atrion had to build one unified sales team. Carousel's telecom business today includes 13 carrier solution architects that work directly with end customers. One former Atrion-now-Carousel employee, Adam Sugarman, is serving as a solution area manager of telecom services for the company. Sugarman is working with Carousel's 144 solution architects that are selling the company’s traditional VAR products and services to help them promote carrier services within those opportunities.

"[Sugarman] is helping to educate [solution architects] and is connecting a lot of dots within the organization to promote carrier services," Senese said. "It's a very unique role that was successful for Atrion and will hopefully be for Carousel as well."

Carousel's acquisition of Atrion has allowed the solution provider to reach out to partners in a way it never has via the new Carousel National Agent Partner Program. Since Kennedy joined Carousel in 2013 to kick-start the telecom practice, Carousel had been focused on serving its own end customers. The new program, which was unveiled last week, builds on Atrion's legacy partner program that Carousel was a part of until the acquisition.

"We always knew a partner program would be an opportunity, but we never took that step," Kennedy said. "Now was the time. It was really with the merger that we were able to take what [Senese] built on a smaller scale."

Carousel has dedicated two solution architects to its new channel program. The program gives solution providers that don't have a carrier practice and telecom agent partners access to Carousel's back office, project management team, and marketing and educational resources across its 27 nationwide offices.

Perhaps most importantly, the program is focused on helping partners work with Carousel and Atrion's strategic partners. Atrion is a longstanding Verizon partner and has worked with Cisco for about 20 years. Carousel, meanwhile, partners with many vendors and is a top Avaya and Juniper Networks partner.

For one thing, Carousel will now be able to "go deeper" with Verizon, and service more Verizon customers in more locations, Senese said. Carousel also will be able to deliver Verizon managed services.

The connection between Carousel and Atrion demonstrates how the channel is taking action and making investments to become full-fledged solution providers for their customers, said Janet Schijns, executive vice president of solution and sales channels for Verizon Business Markets.

"Carousel is a massively large VAR that has almost been like a mini vendor, and so now with Atrion's offerings they can go back to their [customer] base and say, ’Let's make that solution we sold you work even better,'" Schjins said. "Carousel is putting their money where their mouth is."

It's that combination of the two telecom practices for agent partners -- along with managed services, security, video and data infrastructure expertise for solution providers -- that makes the new Carousel stand out in the channel, Senese said.

Along with combining telecom operations and launching a partner program, Carousel has been busy expanding its channel efforts by building out its internal team. The company hired channel veteran Anthony Cavotta in January as director of Carousel's partner program. Prior to his new role, Cavotta spent 17 years at Windstream Communications, formally Paetec, serving as senior channel manager.

Carousel also is building out its channel presence on a regional basis with more channel managers and resources for partners, Senese said.

"We've been focused on the Northeast but we want to grow that across all the regions we cover across the country," he added.

Some solution providers believe telecom services could present challenges, or even have a negative impact on their business, said Kennedy. But solution providers such as Carousel that are selling the entire IT package are adding more value to their client relationships, which ultimately helps these partner organizations land more sales and become the "trusted adviser" to their business customers, Kennedy said.

"You always have that competitive threat that if you're not talking to the customer about their carrier solutions, because someone else is bringing it to your customer. For the VARs that aren't helping their customers with carrier [services] while they offer ancillary services, you are leaving money on the table or opportunities to even pull through other hardware sales because it can free up budget dollars," he said.

Carousel sales reps that traditionally have sold hardware are now being encouraged to have conversations around telecom, Senese added.

"Within our base of 7,000 customers, it's amazing how many times telecom opportunities come up on a weekly basis because our hardware reps get it and are trained to look at the entire solution."