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Secrets of VAR Success

VARBusiness 500 executives share their winning business strategies

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Thirteen VARBusiness 500 executives share their winning business strategies in this quick click-through package. Without further ado...

LEAD GENERATION
Don Richie, CEO, Sequel Data Systems, No. 444

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"Throughout the years, we've tried most types of lead generation--i.e., telemarketing, mailings, conferences, training, etc.--but these haven't proven very successful for us. Last year, we put together a mobile lab/demo room that we built on a Freightliner truck. This has been the most successful thing we've done by far. It's on the road almost every week. We take it to customer sites and let them play with the equipment instead of asking them to travel [to us]. This allows us to reach deeper into the companies because [their employees] don't have to travel, and more people see [our solutions] firsthand.

We do training in the truck as well. It allows us to touch more customers who are in remote areas and [are] neglected by most firms. You would be surprised at how many calls we get from people who see the truck on the road and ask us about it."

GROWTH THROUGH ACQUISITION
Michael Cox, president and CEO, Logicalis, No. 83

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"Anyone or any company with enough money can make an acquisition. But we make smart acquisitions, combined with a strong methodology for integrating those acquisitions. We're lucky enough to be owned by an investment holding company with tremendous M&A assets and experience to help us match our strategy to available companies. We then run an excellent M&A process from Letter of Intent through due diligence to closing. Acquiring the right company is only the first step. It's imperative that we work very hard in the integration phase, post-close, to integrate the most important asset of any of our acquisitions--the people--into Logicalis."

SMB FOCUS
Harry Hollines, VP of channel and business development, Verio, No. 140

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"We've found the SMB market can benefit from both a cost and business perspective from integrating managed services into operations. This creates greater efficiencies and allows companies to use their core business resources in a much more strategic way. Verio has a new, singular focus on serving the online business needs of small and midsize customers and partners. Our offerings were designed specifically for this audience--they're not scaled-down, pricey versions initially intended for enterprise customers--with easy-to-use functionality at affordable prices. We've also looked at key industries within the SMB segment and the right combination of business solutions and services to meet their needs."

ACT LOCAL, THINK GLOBAL
Jim Budkie, managing VP of marketing, Hitachi Consulting, No. 159

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"Our clients really appreciate the fact that we focus on providing very strong local talent that can meet all of their needs. The people doing the work don't fly in on Sunday night and fly home on Thursday night. For the most part, the people from Hitachi Consulting who are working with the client live in the same community; they live in the same neighborhoods [in which they work]."

SPANNING THE GLOBE
Raviv Zoller, president and CEO, Ness Technologies, No. 102

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"This is a combination of the global-capabilities expertise areas of Ness Technologies—both business and technological capabilities—reflecting the best of each region in which Ness Technologies is operating. [We have] high-tech capabilities that originate from Israel and the United States. We have operations in both countries, the emerging growing markets in which we're active, with a focus on the Eastern European market. Ness has operations in the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia, and [with] the unique high-value, offshore capabilities of India, we have three offshore centers [there]."

HIRING FOR SUCCESS
Mike Houghton, VP of marketing, Direct Alliance, No. 264

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"Finding good people is a constant battle. At every staff meeting, there is a critical and lengthy discussion around recruiting. From sales and marketing to IT, it's all challenging. We use all dimensions: recruiters, word-of-mouth, advertising. The best luck we've had over the last five years is from word-of-mouth affiliation. We have a tool called a predicative index, which is a behavioral index. We use that as a hiring technique to get a 360-degree view of candidates when they come in the door."

SPENDING MARKETING DOLLARS WISELY
Karen Walker, VP of marketing, Hewlett-Packard Services, No. 4

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"Within HP Services, we try to be smart [about] how we market to customers. We believe that one of the most important drivers that causes customers to choose HP Services is talking to colleagues and other customers. We make sure we market to capture really strong customer references, because that speaks loudly in the marketplace. We find it's very important to get on a one-to-one level with major customers. We have corporate customers with which we have long-standing relationships, and we market to those on a one-to-one level."

ATTACKING ATTACHED SALES
Larry Levenberg, VP of channel sales, NEC Unified Solutions, No. 76

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"We started off primarily by providing very direct PBX and core communications platforms, coupled with carrier services connecting multiple locations. As we evolved into a converged marketplace--where data networks and infrastructures have been married with communication systems--the challenge has been to provide solutions that are manageable. One of the factors in the company's penetration of key markets (health care, higher education, government, financial services) has been our wide variety of product offerings. We can reach many more institutions on a prospective basis because we have many ways to come into a facility and engage with them. We can engage them as a pure communications vendor. We can engage them as a data provider and network-engineering company. We can come in as an applications provider. Or we can enter on the carrier side, providing network and connectivity in the wide area."

KEEPING IT SIMPLE
Sean Burke, president, Govplace, No. 449

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"We play in a niche, only working with the public sector, and that allows us to understand grant programs, be part of community groups and understand the applications—because all of our customers have the same needs and concerns. Our slogan is, 'We can do anything but can't do everything.' You have to make investments and commitments and try things out, and [then] decide what not to do. We decided not to do VoIP. It's a hot technology, but as a business, you have to make critical decisions and not go after every hot area. To put resources into it would have [had] a negative effect in the long run."

SERVICES SYNERGIES
Derrell James, SVP, Technology Solutions, EMC Services, No. 44

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"I had the advantage of building a start-up [while] leveraging a huge customer base with needs. We looked at our probability of success and went after our existing customer base first. We were able to do new things for our customers. [About] a year ago, we [started using] services as a go-to-market tool--acquiring first-time customers for EMC through services."

SHARING COMMON VALUES
Jim Kavanaugh, CEO, World Wide Technology, No. 43

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"At this stage of the game, with over 1,000 employees, we bring people in who understand the importance of our core values and culture. Individuals can be A-players in their areas, but if they don't have the core values that are mandatory to succeed in this company, we won't hire them. That level of rigor and discipline relative to employee culture and core values is absolutely critical. I've spent a lot of time with human resources and our executive team coming up with what our core values are—and we've integrated those into our employee-assessment process."

VENDOR LOYALTY VS. OPEN RELATIONSHIPS
Tom Willson, CEO, Akibia, No. 245

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"Relationships with vendors are incredibly important--they provide the technology and innovations our clients need. For Akibia to succeed, we need to understand vendors' business objectives and help them achieve their goals, while also helping them understand customer demands. However, the relationship with the client is most important for the success of our business, and for the success of the vendors. It's our duty to provide the best possible solution for a client's particular need, and you can't always do that if you have an exclusive vendor relationship. The key is partnering with best-of-breed vendors and always presenting the best solution to the customer."

MAKING PERSONAL CONNECTIONS
Lief Morin, president, Key Information Systems, No. 300

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"When we go out and talk to a client, I insist that conversations take place personally, face-to-face, as much as possible. We sit down and listen to the challenges, and inevitably there are things they're working on that we've seen before. Our experience helps give us a competitive edge. We make sure we're continuously and effectively communicating with them. They almost always respond well to that kind of attention. We make sure they are aware of the latest and most relevant information and help them make a decision."

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