CRN Interview: SADA Systems CEO Says Only Agile Solution Providers Will Survive

Cashing In With Cloud

SADA Systems has come a long way from its roots as a family-owned solution provider organization. Today, the Los Angeles-based cloud-focused managed service provider is as a Google Cloud Premier Partner, a Microsoft Cloud Solutions Provider, and a Facebook Workplace Service Partner.

At The Channel Company's NexGen 2017 Conference and Technology Expo, SADA Systems' CEO Tony Safoian shared how his company is investing millions in cloud, where partners should place their bets, and how aspiring cloud partners can get in with the world's largest cloud providers.

Here's what Safioan had to say.

How did you become a high-ranking channel partner to three very different types of IT companies?

The way you become valuable to your [suppliers] is you reverse the way you usually think about doing business. Most businesses think about maximizing revenue for themselves, which is important, but we figured out early on if we align ourselves with what our [suppliers] are trying to achieve and drive revenue to them, it elevates your status and there's a reciprocity that occurs. Next thing you know, they are recommending you first.

When you are co-selling with you [supplier] they realize they are with you, win lose or draw, and you're not just a hyper-agnostic cloud broker that will sell anything the customer wants. If they realize you're in it to the end, that builds trust.

How do you balance working with two of the big cloud gia nts -- Microsoft and Google -- that can often be direct competitors?

That's really when we got the idea of segmenting our business. We built a siloed sales and delivery organization for each [Microsoft and Google]. We have the mantra of hyper-specialization. We chose to become very deep in our expertise and knowledge on things like storage and G-Suite on the Google side, and Office 365 on the Microsoft side.

What's your advice to partners who are ready to invest in new providers or technologies?

I think part of going big with any partner is just deciding to be focused with your investments. We were both narrow and deep with both Google and Microsoft, and when we decided to [partner with both providers], we went all-in and put in the right structure and investments.

For example, we invested in Google Cloud five or six years before it became a thing that we could resell had a clear path from Google. But we knew it was going to become a relevant platform in the market. Don't give up. If you're certain about a particular investment or strategy, you may be the only one doing it, and it may be so early that there's no revenue yet.

What is SADA investing in today?

It continues to be multifaceted. Sometimes we get criticized for doing too many things, but certainly, we believe there is plenty of work left to do in migration to the cloud with basic workloads such as email, storage, collaboration. Only 20 percent of the world's email is in the cloud today, so lots of migration work left to do, and it's still anyone's game. We think our core email and collaboration migration business will grow 50 percent next year.

Where should solution providers be placing their bets?

I think we are all at the very beginning of cloud transformation journey -- it's like the second inning and there's a lot of basic work left to do. The first signal that a customer is ready to do cloud is when they talk about basic workloads. The destination to the cloud is not the end; it's a starting point. Once [customers] get there, they are interested in having [partners] help them transform certain parts of their business, how they manage information, and the tools and services they build for themselves that can help them be more competitive than their peers.

What makes SADA Systems a great partner?

At the root level, what makes us a good partner is our ability to recognize trends. As we started to have a critical mass of customers and deep relationships with vendors, you listen to where [both vendors and customers] are going and have a pulse on the market. You can drive your strategy around that, and you can continue to double-down on the things that work.

The ability to evolve is important. You don't have to be the strongest or biggest [solution provider]. It's the ones that over time are adaptable, and that requires a certain culture of speed and agility. If things don't pan out, you have to pivot and change.